Kolkata, India: The UN announced Wednesday that the world has accomplished a ten-year goal of having substantial portions of land and marine habitats protected or conserved by 2020, but it emphasized the need for greater enforcement.
According to a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Earth now has at least 22.5 million square kilometers of protected land and 28.1 million square kilometers of protected oceans.
This is on track to meet the 2010 objective of having at least 17% of land and 10% of the marine environment under official protection by 2020, as agreed by states.
“Protected and conserved areas play a crucial role in tackling biodiversity loss, and great progress has been made in recent years on strengthening the global network of protected and conserved areas,” said Neville Ash, director of UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Last year, the United Nations warned that the world was on track to miss all 20 of the Aichi Targets, which were set a decade ago to minimize biodiversity and ecosystem loss.
While the study released on Wednesday showed success, with more than 50 million km2 of land and ocean protected since 2010, it also revealed a number of failures.
A third of major biodiversity sites around the world are unprotected or unconserved, and only around 8% of the land is both protected and connected.
Many of the world’s threatened species rely on the protection-connection combination to survive.
The research recommended that current protected and conserved areas be better recognized by taking into consideration the efforts of indigenous peoples and local communities, which “remain undervalued and underreported,” according to UNEP.
It also stated that environmental preservation and conservation must be effectively handled and enforced.
“Designating and accounting for more protected and conserved areas is insufficient; they need to be effectively managed and equitably managed if they are to realize their many benefits and local and global scales,” said Ash.
The IUCN’s General Congress is scheduled for September, just ahead of the COP15 biodiversity meeting in Kunming, China, therefore 2021 is set to be a pivotal year for humanity’s relationship with nature.
Delegates at the UN meeting are likely to agree on a post-2020 biodiversity framework that will expand protected area coverage and effectiveness.
According to Trevor Sandwith, Director of the IUCN’s Global Protected Places Programme, estimates of areas in need of conservation to reverse biodiversity loss range from 28 to 50% of the earth.
“In other words, to protect nature we really need to protect a lot,” he said.
“That’s scary to many governments to think we need to lock up half the planet in protected areas.”
Local communities, indigenous peoples, and commercial companies, according to Sandwith, are already protecting significantly larger areas than those formally declared as conserved.
“(If) we actually apply the concept of protection and conservation to a much larger percentage of the planet we will achieve our goals.”
With AFP inputs.