Getting to 30%
It’s not just about protecting 30 percent, it’s about protecting the right 30 percent.
Not all protected areas are created equally.
Nations, in partnership with indigenous peoples and local communities, will need to determine what conservation efforts are best suited to their land- and seascapes, and wildlife.
A global target is not necessarily a figure that all countries are capable of meeting within their national borders. But every country has a role to play in conserving and funding the conservation of nature. As countries determine what specific areas to conserve, they should consider three important variables:
Focus on conserving the areas that are the most important for biodiversity, including ecosystems that are still intact and specific areas that experts have already identified as critical on land in the ocean.
To the extent possible, ensure that conservation supports landscape connectivity, which will help nature and wildlife adapt to climate change and other stresses.
Pursue conservation in various regions, helping to ensure that the global system of protected and conserved areas is fully representative of our planet’s diverse nature and ecosystems.
How do we get there?
Protecting at least 30 percent of land and sea is an ambitious, but attainable goal. In order to achieve it, world leaders will need to work collaboratively with other governments, organizations, and indigenous populations to empower community-led conservation practices that complement formal protected areas.
There is a wide range of management designations that should mark progress towards a new protected area target, including these:
Indigenous and Community Conservation Areas.
Other Effective Conservation Measures (OECMs), which are not recognized as protected areas but deliver comparable long-term conservation outcomes. Read more about OECMs.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Protected Area Categories I - VI. Read more about these categories.
Protected area management and finance
Effective management and sufficient funding are vital to the success of protected areas.
For new protected area targets to be successful, there must be increased funding for management, scientific surveys, and other crucial conservation activities. While non-profits, philanthropy, and business have a role to play, governments around the world - and particularly those of developed nations - will need to contribute meaningful funding to ensure the effective management of current and new conserved areas.
Spending for protected areas must move away from a project-based approach. Instead, there needs to be sufficient, reliable long-term funding for protected areas.
Whether by the Convention on Biological Diversity or a third-party entity, additional analysis of the protections that countries report is needed to ensure transparency and effectiveness. Ultimately, progress toward protected area targets should reflect on-the-ground conditions and management.
Photographs by: Michael Nichols, National Geographic (top); Michael Nichols, National Geographic (How do we get there?); Michael Nichols, National Geographic (Explore our Protected Planet); Enric Sala, National Geographic (Protected Area Management and Finance); Michael Nichols, National Geographic (About the Convention on Biological Diversity).