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To keep the planet flourishing, 30% of Earth needs protection by 2030

To keep the planet flourishing, 30% of Earth needs protection by 2030

The move would safeguard biodiversity, slow extinctions, and help maintain a steady climate, a leading group of conservationists say.

This week a United Nations working group responded to a joint statement posted online in December by some of the world’s largest conservation organizations calling for 30 percent of the planet to be managed for nature by 2030—and for half the planet to be protected by 2050. But exactly what counts as “protected”—and how countries can reach those goals—is still up for debate. (direct download)

Conservationists say these high levels of protection are necessary to safeguard benefits that humans derive from nature—such as the filtration of drinking water and storage of carbon that would otherwise increase global warming. The areas are also needed to prevent massive loss of species.

Humans and their domestic animals are squeezing the rest of life on Earth to the margins. Today, only four percent of the world’s mammals, by weight, are wild. The other 96 percent are our livestock and ourselves. Since 1970, populations of wild mammals, birds, fish, and amphibians have, on average, declined by 60 percent.

Habitat loss is widely regarded as the top cause of species extinction around the world and these dramatic population declines are a red flag that many species are on thin ice—but the good news is that there is still time to save most species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species lists 872 species as extinct, but a whopping 26,500 species as threatened with extinction. To save those species, their homes and the other species with which they depend must be protected—and quickly.