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Obasanjo, other ex-leaders urge govts to support new goal to curb biodiversity loss

Governments worldwide have been called upon to support a new global goal to protect at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and ocean by 2030, shown by scientists to be the minimum amount needed to halt global biodiversity loss.

Olusegun Obasanjo
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

The call was made on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 by Campaign for Nature’s Global Steering Committee, a group composed of former heads of state, foreign ministers and diplomats from four continents, including Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former president. The Committee is led by former US Senator and former Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Russ Feingold.

In a joint statement marking its launch, the Global Steering Committee urges world leaders to invest in nature as a core element of economic recovery plans.

They argue that the benefits of protected areas, often overlooked, make them worthy of stimulus support. Among their range of benefits, protected areas stave off poverty, provide key wildlife habitat, generate jobs, fight climate change and guard against future pandemics.

They are also critical to ending the mass extinction of the plants, animals and microorganisms that keep our air clean, our water pure and our food supplies plentiful.

Their statement is rooted in the findings of a new report, also launched on Wednesday by the Campaign for Nature.  “A Key Sector Forgotten in the Stimulus Debate: the Nature-Based Economy” lays out the reasons why governments must funnel stimulus support to protected areas and the communities that both protect them and depend on them.

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Members of the Campaign for Nature’s Global Steering Committee have issued the following statements:

Russ Feingold, Former US Senator and former Special Envoy to Great Lakes Region of Africa, said: “Nature conservation should be a central element of any stimulus and recovery plan. By protecting more nature, governments around the world can simultaneously create jobs, avoid long-term costs associated with climate change and biodiversity loss, and help guard against future pandemics.”

Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland, said: “We will not reach the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement without fully embracing nature-based solutions and protecting at least 30 percent of the world’s land and ocean by 2030.”

Hailemariam Desalegn, Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, said: “Africa is perfectly positioned to show the world the importance of protected areas and the need to protect at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and ocean. When adequately funded, protected areas improve the wellbeing of local communities and serve as home to the world’s most remarkable wildlife. Nature is our greatest asset, and we must take better care of it now in order to take better care of ourselves.”

Tzipi Livni, former Foreign Minister of Israel, said: “Humanity can advance without leaving destructive footsteps on our nature. The fact that we are rapidly destroying nature around the world is not just a risk to wildlife, but to our societies and economies. Significantly increasing the amount of land and ocean that we protect and restore should be a part of any plan to help communities heal and recover from our current crisis.”

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Ernest Bai Koroma, former President of Sierra Leone, said: “Throughout the world, and certainly across Africa, local communities around protected areas are suffering and need help. Jobs have been lost, and revenue that is used to support services like health care and education is drying up. It’s obvious that Mother Earth is hurting and we’re all feeling the pain. Governments around the world should therefore step up now to support these protected areas and communities, for our own good.”

Congresswoman Deb Haaland said: “The goal of protecting 30 percent of the world’s land and ocean should also apply to the United States. Protecting more land and water across our country will create new jobs, increase access to the outdoors for underserved communities, protect Indigenous lands, and preserve the spectacular landscapes that reflect America’s character and diverse cultures.”

Yongyuth Yuthavong, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, said: “The rampant destruction of nature is increasing the risk of pandemics. We must protect more of the natural world as part of a strategy to guard against the spread of infectious diseases.”

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Zakri Abdul Hamid, Former Science Advisor to Prime Minister of Malaysia, said: “Malaysia is home to some of the world’s most spectacular biodiversity. Our government should embrace the goal of protecting at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and ocean and serve as an example of how investing in nature can help prevent future pandemics and create healthier communities.”

Susanna Malcorra, Former Foreign Minister of Argentina, said: “To help our economic recovery, we should look to nature. Investing in protected areas and restoration would create more jobs than other industries more commonly discussed in stimulus plans, including the oil and gas industry. Better prioritising nature conservation is also a key step in building a more sustainable and resilient world.”

The Steering Committee members include: Olusegun Obasanjo, Russ Feingold, Hailemariam Desalegn, Christiana Figueres (former Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC), José María Figueres (former President of Costa Rica), Olafur Ragnar Grimsson (former President of Iceland), Zakri Abdul Hamid (former Science Advisor to Prime Minister of Malaysia), Ernest Bai Koroma, Tzipi Livni, Susanna Malcorra (former Foreign Minister of Argentina), Amre Moussa (former Foreign Minister of Egypt), Mary Robinson, Emil Salim (former Environmental Minister of Indonesia), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (former President of Liberia), Yongyuth Yuthavong (former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand) and Deb Haaland (Honorary Member).

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