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23 ex-ministers call on world leaders to protect biodiversity

A group of former foreign affairs ministers from around the world who met recently to discuss the deepening global environmental crisis has made a call to world leaders to urgently act in order to address inherent challenges.

Madeleine K. Albright
Madeleine K. Albright, former United States Secretary of State

The ministers are: Madeleine K. Albright (USA), Lloyd Axworthy (Canada), Mohamed Benaissa (Morocco), Malcolm Rifkind (UK), Claudia Ruiz Massieu (Mexico), Joschka Fischer (Germany), Maria Eugenia Brizuela de Avila (El Salvador), Erik Derycke (Belgium), Lamberto Dini (Italy), Susana Malcorra (Argentina), Javier Solana (Spain) and Alexander Downer (Australia).

Others include Jaime Gama (Portugal), Ibrahim Gambari (Nigeria), Amre Moussa (Egypt), Marwan Muasher (Jordan), George Papandreou (Greece), Marina Kaljurand (Estonia), Tzipi Livni (Israel), Donald McKinnon (New Zealand), Knut Vollebæk (Norway), Jan Eliasson (Sweden) and Daniel Mitov (Bulgaria).

They said on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 in an open letter that climate change, ecosystem degradation, and the excessive exploitation of natural resources were now threatening millions of species with extinction and jeopardising the health of the planet.

They emphasised that, having devoted their careers to fostering international cooperation and stability, they were as gravely concerned about the environmental destruction as they were about any other threat to international security.

They lamented that the loss and degradation of nature jeopardises human health, livelihoods, safety and prosperity. They added that it disproportionately harms the poorest communities while undermining nations’ ability to meet a broad range of targets set by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

They called on leaders to rise above politics and ideology to unite the global community around the urgent cause of protecting the planet and way of life.

The letter reads in part:

To that end, we strongly support action to establish ambitious targets at the upcoming meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China in late 2020. Specifically, we endorse setting a global target of strongly protecting at least 30 percent of the land and 30 percent of the ocean by 2030.

The marine environment deserves special attention, as it covers 70 percent of our planet, and even people who live far inland depend on the ocean to produce half of the oxygen we breathe, to serve as the primary source of protein for over three billion people, and to help maintain a livable climate.

In addition to protecting 30% of the ocean, we also call on nations of the world to manage the entirety of their ocean territories in a manner that is sustainable, equitable, and integrated across sectors. This combination of protection and sustainable management will ensure the health and productivity of the global ocean on which we all depend.

In order to meet these targets, we also support the finalisation of a new international legally binding treaty in 2020 for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in the high seas currently being negotiated under the UN Convention on Law of the Sea.

This treaty needs to establish mechanisms that will allow us to protect at least 30 percent and assess and sustainably manage the rest of the high seas – the nearly two-thirds of the global ocean that lies beyond the legal jurisdiction of any one country.

The world has a moral imperative to collaborate on strong actions to mitigate and adapt to the current climate change and biodiversity crisis. Ambitious targets for conservation of land and ocean ecosystems are vital components of the solution.

We are proud to join with a broad coalition – including youth, the business community, and representatives from the developing world – in calling on world leaders to support an “at least 30 percent” conservation target through the Convention on Biological Diversity. Humanity sits on the precipice of irreversible loss of biodiversity and a climate crisis that imperils the future for our grandchildren and generations to come.

The world must act boldly, and it must act now. 

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