Wildlife & Biodiversity

COP15 Montreal: Asia must speed up its protected area coverage 6 times to meet 30X30 goal

Conservation measures governed by local communities can help the world meet targets on protected areas, according to a new research

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Wednesday 30 November 2022
Only 40 per cent of Asian countries achieved the target of a minimum of 17 per cent coverage for protected areas by 2020. Photo: iStock

Asia is not likely to meet the ambitious 30X30 goal proposed under the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), according to a new research released November 29, 2022. Countries have to commit to protect 30 per cent of the land and sea by 2030 under this goal.

The research, published in Communications Biology, evaluated data from the World Database on Protected Areas. It found that most Asian countries have failed to achieve even the global minimum target of protecting at least 17 per cent of land by 2020.

Only 40 per cent of Asian countries achieved the target of a minimum of 17 per cent coverage for protected areas by 2020. Asian countries managed to protect barely 13.2 per cent of land in 2020, compared with a global average of 15.2 per cent protection. 

The target of 17 per cent is part of the 20 Aichi Targets set at the 2010 UN CBD. It is set to be finalised at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the CBD in Montreal, Canada next month.

Countries in Asia also have a slower year-on-year increase in the amount of land protected for conservation, at just 0.4 per cent per year on average. Some countries showed no change while others showed decrease in protected area coverage. Countries with larger areas under agricultural land in 2015 had a lower protected area coverage in 2020.

Only 7 per cent of protected areas in Asia had any kind of assessment for their management effectiveness. 

Read ‘Indigenous people have been effective stewards of biodiversity globally’

The researchers posited that almost all Asian countries will fail to meet the 2030 target unless their rate of establishing protected areas increases by up to six times faster. Under the current trajectory, Asia as a whole would only achieve 18 per cent coverage by 2030.

Within Asia, west and south Asia are likely to achieve only 11 per cent and 10 per cent coverage respectively by 2030.

“Asia is a challenging continent for setting targets for protected areas, since areas of high biodiversity typically conflict with dense human populations and rapid economic growth,” Mohammed Farhadinia of the Department of Biology and Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, who is the lead author of the study, was quoted as saying.

The authors suggested that it was important to document other effective area-based conservation measures governed by local communities to ensure that Asian countries met the target. Restoring disturbed landscapes, such as land from abandoned farms and logged rainforests can also add on to the area.

The 30X30 target was first floated in 2019 in an article A Global Deal for Nature: Guiding principles, milestones, and targets published in Science Advances. This then became the global call of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People in 2020 and as of October 2022, more than 100 countries are part of it.

The target has been dubbed ‘the biggest land grab in history’ which will take away land and livelihood from 300 million people, many of them tribal and indigenous peoples. Human rights experts fear that if the world pushes the proposed target, indigenous communities would have lower access to the areas.

There are studies which show that indigenous people protect biodiversity better.

Researchers looked at primate diversity represented by 521 species distributed across 91 countries in a study published in the journal Science August 10, 2022. They found that indigenous peoples’ lands accounted for 30 per cent of the primate range, and 71 per cent of primate species inhabited these lands.

The researchers concluded that safeguarding indigenous peoples’ lands represented the greatest chance to prevent the extinction of the world’s primates.

Experts suggest that while putting the 30X30 target in place, negotiators should ensure that rights of communities are protected. 

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