The ‘30×30’ Conservation Goal Divides and Inspires at COP15
But others question the mentality of those trying to enforce it—even if it looks good on paper. Lakpa Nuri Sherpa, who is from Nepal, and represents the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, questioned whether the “top-down” approach associated with 30×30 would work unless those implementing it radically changed their approach to Indigenous peoples. “That’s where the problem lies because the solution comes from the top, and they don’t really know the realities on the ground, and the ‘solution’ doesn’t become a solution,” he says, adding that it is crucial IPLCs are treated with trust and respect, with a “spirit of true partnership.”
To the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, 30×30 is a crucial part of a successful agreement for protecting key ecosystems and propelling Indigenous-based conservation models, especially in large countries, such as Brazil, Russia, and China. He said his country was starting a “story of reconciliation” with Indigenous peoples.
In November 2021, a study contained maps of the ecosystems that humanity must not destroy in order to meet climate targets, which include the vast boreal forests and peatlands of Russia, China, and the US, and the tropical forests of the Amazon, Congo Basin, and Indonesia. These areas hold 139 billion metric tons of “irrecoverable” carbon, and researchers said this is where 30×30 efforts should be concentrated.
There are a growing number of coalitions around protecting these ecosystems. At COP27, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia announced a Big Three rainforest coalition and said they would coordinate at UN climate and biodiversity talks on their conservation. The incoming Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has said that he would convene a pan-Amazonian meeting on the region’s conservation early into his time in office. Indigenous groups proposed a protected area to cover the world’s largest rainforests, equivalent to the size of Mexico, be created by 2025 at the last biodiversity summit in 2018, a goal known as 80 by 25.
Campaign for Nature is pushing for conserving at least 30 percent of land and sea by 2030, seeing it as a milestone, with its director Brian O’Donnell describing it as a “floor not a ceiling.” O’Donnell says the world should be pushing toward 50 percent, an important step to achieving Harvard biologist EO Wilson’s vision of protecting half the planet for the long-term survival of humanity. When talking about the areas that need to be preserved, it has to include the most biodiverse-rich areas, with connections between them to avoid island conservation, he says.
But another point of contention within the target is whether every country has to protect 30×30, or whether it is a global target (ie the Netherlands couldn’t make it, but countries like Brazil could do much more). In this case, richer countries with less biodiversity should be paying poorer, more biodiverse countries to not destroy their nature, as they are international—as well as national—assets.
Some countries are asking developed nations how they can be expected not to chop down their forests just as rich countries did in the past. In their opening statement at COP15, the group of megadiverse countries, which includes Brazil, India, and South Africa, said the 30 percent target would require significant financial and technical support.