Rishi Sunak must lead the way on international negotiations to secure a global deal to reverse the loss of nature by 2030, conservationists have urged.
Conservation charity WWF wants countries to agree a “Paris”-style treaty – similar to the global deal struck in the French capital in 2015 to tackle climate change – to restore the natural world when they meet in Montreal next month.
The UN meeting, which has been much delayed by the pandemic, starts on December 7 in the Canadian city, and WWF is calling for countries including the UK to commit to the goal of conserving at least 30% of the world’s land, wetlands and oceans by 2030.
A failure to reverse the huge losses in wildlife and habitats will put humans at increased risk from pandemics, worsen food and water insecurity and make it impossible to prevent dangerous global warming, the conservation group warns.
The Government has pledged to be a leader in the negotiations and WWF is urging the Prime Minister to keep the promise by attending the talks to drive forward negotiations and show the UK’s support for restoring the natural world.
Up to a million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction, a greater number than ever in human history, a UN-backed scientific study found and WWF’s latest assessment showed global wildlife populations have seen average declines of nearly 70% in 50 years.
In the UK, which has been labelled one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth, more than one in seven native species face extinction and more than 40% are in decline, WWF warns.
It wants to see countries at the Montreal talks, known as “Cop15” under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, secure a deal that will drive immediate action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, so there is more nature at the end of the decade worldwide than we have now.
The charity said it is important countries agree a goal of conserving at least 30% of the planet’s land, inland waters and oceans by 2030.
It wants an approach which recognises the leadership and rights of indigenous people and local communities – who live in, rely on and protect many important habitats.
Action is also needed to ensure the remaining 70% of the planet is sustainably managed and restored, WWF argues.
The conservation group wants a commitment to halve the global environmental “footprint” of production and consumption by 2030, to lessen the impact of agriculture and food production, forestry, fisheries, mining and infrastructure.
Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF-UK, said: “Nature is our biggest ally in the fight against climate change and the source of our health, security and prosperity.
“As a major economy, the UK must deliver on its nature promises by publishing targets to restore our vital habitats at home and taking a leadership role on the world stage.
“As nature disappears, our leaders are playing for time we don’t have, risking catastrophic consequences for people, planet and the economy.
“We urge the Prime Minister to attend the summit and provide a lifeline for nature by driving forward a ‘Paris’-style global deal in Montreal – only then can we protect people and planet, and bring our world back to life.”
Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said nature was resilient and with a strong global agreement, could bounce back – but failure at the Montreal Cop15 meeting “is not an option”.
“It would place us at increased risk from pandemics, exacerbate climate change making it impossible to limit global warming at 1.5°C, and stunt economic growth – leaving the poorest people more vulnerable to food and water insecurity.
“To tackle the nature crisis, governments must agree on a nature-positive goal that unites the world in protecting more of the nature left on the planet while restoring as much as possible and transforming our productive sectors to work with nature, not against it.”
A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Government remains absolutely committed to leading international and domestic action to tackle climate change and protect nature.
“The UK will be represented at Cop15 by the Environment Secretary.”