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Now Is the Time for ASEAN Member States to Join a Global Effort to Protect 30% Of the Earth’s Land and Ocean

On the occasion of World Biodiversity Day, a growing number of elected officials, Indigenous leaders, scientists, and other experts are calling on ASEAN leaders to endorse ambitious proposals to protect biodiversity and advance Indigenous rights through the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

After a year-long delay, the official negotiations of the Convention on Biological Diversity have resumed this month and are scheduled to conclude in Kunming, China this October. As delegates from 196 countries–including all of the ASEAN member states–participate in the negotiations, eyes are on the ASEAN region. As one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet, ASEAN member states have a crucial role to play in developing a successful global strategy to safeguard biodiversity. ASEAN is a leader of the Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries that champion conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity since its inception in 2002 and harbours 70% of global biodiversity.

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While ASEAN member states have yet to finalize their positions, there is growing support around the world for a scientific proposal to conserve at least 30% of the planet’s land and ocean. This is a global target, and there is increased recognition that it must fully respect Indigenous rights and engage Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities as full partners in implementation.

The 30×30 proposal is championed by the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People (HAC)–an intergovernmental coalition of more than 60 countries co-chaired by Costa Rica, France, and the UK. Cambodia is the first HAC member from the ASEAN region. Other Asian members include Japan, Pakistan, and the Maldives. The 30×30 proposal has been included in the Convention on Biological Diversity’s draft strategy as a global target, as countries will have different opportunities for biodiversity conservation depending on the particular circumstances in their national territory. It is appropriate that how to implement such a globally agreed target be a sovereign decision made in conjunction with the best science.

While urgent action on the coronavirus pandemic could divert attention from the biodiversity and climate crises, the science tells us we cannot wait any longer. In fact, the pandemic has shown us that action to protect and conserve nature now can play an important role in preventing future health crises.

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Overwhelming scientific evidence and economic data shows that conserving at least 30% of the planet’s land and ocean is a key way to help address global biodiversity loss–in addition to storing carbon, preventing future pandemics, bolstering economic growth, increasing fisheries’ production, and advancing Indigenous rights.

The economic benefits are strong: an independent study prepared by more than 100 economists and experts found that meeting the 30% target will generate financial and ecosystem services benefits at least five times the cost.

With these benefits in mind, the following leaders make the case for why ASEAN member states should publicly support the 30×30 global target and advance Indigenous rights.

Dr. Zakri Abdul Hamid, Ambassador and Science Advisor to the Campaign for Nature said:

“To overcome the current global health crisis and mitigate those to come, science guides us. Having delivered life-saving vaccines for COVID-19 — which the IMF estimates will have cost the global economy $28 trillion by 2025 — scientists now urge us to preserve intact natural areas to prevent similar infectious disease outbreaks in future. Protecting at least 30 percent of the planet by 2030 is a timely and important action to defend and improve the health of our planet, our economies, and ourselves. I urged all Malaysians and ASEAN neighbours to support this goal.”

Tony La Viña, Former Undersecretary of Environment, Philippines, said:

“There is growing recognition that effectively responding to climate change will require greater attention to and an increased investment in nature conservation. I encourage all ASEAN countries to embrace the proposal to protect at least 30 percent of the planet as an important element of an ambitious climate strategy.”

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