A global deal for nature, Dinerstein 2019

Compendium Volume 3 Number 1 July 2019

This paper recommends protecting 30% of Earth’s surface for conservation by 2030 and 50% by 2050. It also proposes building capacity for indigenous and other local peoples to enhance ecosystem integrity and sequester carbon in non-protected lands, halting energy infrastructure projects, and reducing plastics and toxic pollution.

The authors frame a “Global Deal for Nature” (GDN) as complementary to the 2015 Paris Agreement for achieving the internationally recognized goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. While the Paris Agreement focuses on critical emissions reductions, the GDN expands the scope of measures needed to include ecosystem and biodiversity conservation. The authors explain that the Paris agreement serves as a strong starting point, but is only a half-deal. It will not alone save the diversity of life on Earth or conserve ecosystem services upon which humanity depends.

Since the crucial role of intact, diverse systems has also been demonstrated to be essential for carbon storage, the GDN will need to emphasize mechanisms for protecting intactness both inside and outside of protected areas … well before 2050 [Dinerstein 2019: 12].

Contextualizing development of the idea of a GDN as part of a greater reassessment of the role of nature in the midst of a planetary emergency, the authors explain that:

The concept of a GDN as a policy mechanism emerged from an earlier study restricted to protecting biodiversity in the terrestrial realm. We expand that perspective to the freshwater and marine realms while simultaneously lending support to an alternative pathway to remaining below 1.5°C that relies heavily on aggressive conservation of remaining habitats. This approach not only safeguards biodiversity but also is the cheapest and fastest alternative for addressing climate change and is not beholden to developing carbon removal technologies unlikely to be effective or to scale in the time-bound nature of the current twin crises [Dinerstein 2019: 1].

The authors recommend that a GDN prioritize: (1) protecting biodiversity, (2) mitigating climate change, and (3) reducing threats to ecosystem intactness and persistence of species. The strategy for the first priority – protecting biodiversity – is to expand the percentage of Earth’s surface that is conservation protected to 30% by 2030, aiming for 50% protection by 2050. Currently, less than 15% of land is protected, and only half of currently protected land is connected by ecological corridors to facilitate animal migrations, while only 2-4% of the world’s ocean area is protected. To avoid the risks of (a) prioritizing low-biodiversity sites at the expense of biodiversity hotspots, or (b) an uneven representation of ecoregion types achieving protected status, the authors organized conservation targets according to 846 terrestrial ecoregions.

For the second priority – mitigating climate change – the authors propose that land outside conservation protected areas be managed in a way that maintains ecosystem intactness, prevents emissions and sequesters carbon. This would include, for example, indigenous lands, where people often lack tenure rights. Ensuring secure land tenure to indigenous people would allow them to continue managing land in a way that supports the vitality of the ecosystems on which they depend.  

The third priority – reducing major threats – would involve scrutinizing or halting new infrastructure projects (especially agricultural land expansion, road construction and energy development) on natural lands. In addition, it would involve reducing hunting and poaching, as well as the production and use of plastics and toxins.

Dinerstein, E., et al., 2019, A Global Deal for Nature: Guiding principles, milestones, and targets, Science Advances 5, https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/4/eaaw2869.

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