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Australia not among 50 countries vowing to protect 30 per cent of land and sea by 2030

At least 50 countries committed to protecting 30 per cent of the planet, including land and sea, over the next decade to halt species extinction and address climate change issues, during a global summit aimed at protecting the world’s biodiversity.

About 30 leaders, government officials and heads of international organisations participated in the One Planet Summit, which was being held by videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Top US officials were notably absent, as were the leaders of Russia, India and Brazil.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which was launched in 2019 by Costa Rica, France and Britain to set a target of protecting at least 30 per cent of the planet by 2030, has now been joined by 50 countries.

Australia was not among the 50 countries listed by the High Ambition Coalition, which also included Japan, Italy and Ireland.

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The ABC has contacted the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment for comment.

“We know there is no pathway to tackling climate change that does not involve a massive increase in our efforts to protect and restore nature,” UK environment minister Zac Goldsmith said.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the One Planet Summit
French President Emmanuel Macron (left) says human impact on the environment is a threat to our health.(AP: Ludovic Marin)

A 2019 UN report on biodiversity showed that human activities are putting nature in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming for over 1 million species of plants and animals.

Last year, the UN singled out Australia along with Cameroon and Brazil as countries having experienced at least one extinction in the past decade.

“We know even more clearly amid the crisis we are going through that all our vulnerabilities are interrelated,” Mr Macron said.

“We can change the story if we decide to do it.”

A scuba diver moves in the ocean over a row of bleached coral
Climate change has accelerated the destruction of flora and fauna.(Supplied: The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey)

Emphasis on protecting biodiversity in light of COVID-19

The summit also launched a program called PREZODE which Mr Macron presented as an unprecedented international initiative to prevent the emergence of zoonotic diseases and pandemics, which is already mobilising over 400 researchers and experts across the world.

The move comes as scientists suspect that the coronavirus that first infected people in China last year came from an animal source, probably bats.

“Pandemic recovery is our chance to change course,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.

Mr Guterres also stressed that according to the World Economic Forum, emerging business opportunities across nature could create 191 million jobs by 2030.

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Other leaders at the summit were German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

China, represented by Vice Premier Han Zheng, agreed that “collective efforts” are needed.

The event, organized by France, the United Nations and the World Bank, took place without top US officials, as president-elect Joe Biden, a strong proponent of climate issues, does not take office until January 20.

During his campaign, Mr Biden pledged to better protect biodiversity by preserving 30 per cent of American lands and waters by 2030.

Prince Charles calls for private sector to fund nature alliance

Monday’s talks sought to prepare negotiations on biodiversity targets at a UN conference on biodiversity in China in October, after it was postponed last year due to the pandemic.

The UN’s global climate summit, the COP26, has also been rescheduled for November in the UK.

A side conference on Monday focused on investment for Africa’s Great Green Wall project, which involves gigantic efforts to stop the Sahara Desert from spreading further south.

Participants welcomed the creation of a so-called accelerator, which is expected to release $US14.3 billion ($18.5 billion) over the next five years to finance the program.

Launched in 2007, it aims to plant an arc of trees running 7,000 kilometres across Africa — from Senegal along the Atlantic all the way to Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden.

Another initiative involves a new coalition of Mediterranean countries working to better protect the sea from pollution and overfishing.

Britain’s Prince Charles launched an “urgent appeal” to private sector leaders to join a new investment alliance targeting $US10 billion ($13 billion) by 2022 to finance nature-based solutions.

AP/ABC

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