Protecting 30 Percent of the Planet by 2030 Requires Strong Country Leadership


September 6, 2019 — Last week marked a significant step for protecting biodiversity around the world. Lead negotiators from over 100 countries convened in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss a global strategy to protect nature and wildlife. Over the next 12 months it will be important to work towards an ambitious deal of protecting 30 percent of the planet by 2030 in Kunming, China.

Numerous scientific reports have recently shown what is at stake. Last year, a report showed that 60 percent of the world’s wildlife has been lost since 1970. This spring, a major report from 450 leading scientists from around the world shows that the crisis facing wildlife and nature is even worse than previously understood. Up to a million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction. Threats posed to people from the destruction of nature are just as serious as those posed by climate change. Right now, only 15 percent of the Earth’s land and 7 percent of our ocean are protected.1

Although the global scope of the challenge is enormous, the science is already telling us the steps we need to take to effectively respond to the wildlife extinction crisis. We must protect at least 50 percent of the planet by 2050, achieving the first milestone of 30 percent protection by 2030. The good news is, we still have time to act. The strength of the deal to protect 30 percent of the planet at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will depend on the leadership at the country level. 

There are several countries already leading the charge. One in particular is Uganda. Earlier this summer the Ugandan State Minister for the Environment vowed that Uganda would be a conservation leader in Africa

Uganda has some of the highest biodiversity values anywhere on the planet, ranking in the top ten most biodiverse countries globally. According to Protected Plant, currently, 16 percent of the country is protected approximately 39,059 km2 with over 712 protected areas.  

Here at the National Geographic Society we are committed to protecting the places that sustain life on Earth. From our projects around the world, we know that it is vital that large wilderness areas which contain the bulk of biodiversity on our planet, are resilient to—and help us mitigate—climate change, and continue to provide the goods and services that are essential for humanity’s survival. This includes not only preserving areas that are intact, but also restoring areas that may have suffered some human impacts.

As more individual countries continue to demonstrate their leadership and commitment to protecting 30 percent of the planet by 2030, we will be able to achieve more ambitious targets that will help us reach our ultimate goal: a planet in balance.

1UNEP-WCMC, IUCN and NGS (2019). Protected Planet Live Report 2019. UNEP-WCMC, IUCN and NGS: Cambridge UK; Gland, Switzerland; and Washington, D.C., USA.