Climate Change

Biodiversity at Sea

June 1, 2020  • Institute Staff

A combination of accelerating climate change and overexploitation of nature is ushering the planet into its sixth mass species extinction. Unlike the most recent extinction event—the dinosaurs’ demise 66 million years ago—human mismanagement of the Earth caused the current phenomenon. When a 2019 United Nations report concluded that over a million species of animals and plants are now threatened with extinction, it made headlines around the globe and prompted the Aspen High Seas Initiative and the Aspen Ministers Forum to work together. Under the leadership of Institute trustee and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and with support from the Campaign for Nature, the two initiatives organized a gathering of the Aspen Ministers Forum in Vienna, Austria, in November to address the issue. Participants discussed nuclear proliferation and the biodiversity crisis, both of which emphasize humanity’s capacity to despoil its only planet. In the case of biodiversity, experts recommended conserving 30 percent of the Earth’s lands and oceans. That’s why, following the forum, 23 former foreign ministers signed a statement in support of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which formally sets new conservation targets for 2030. The statement also calls for a new treaty to protect biodiversity on the high seas, the two thirds of the oceans beyond the jurisdiction of any one nation.