The Environment

Twenty-three Former Foreign Ministers Call on World Leaders to Protect Biodiversity

February 18, 2020  • Aspen Ministers Forum & Aspen High Seas Initiative

The statement below was released by members of the Aspen Ministers Forum on February 18, 2020. The signatories are acting in a personal capacity, and this statement does not represent an official position taken by the Aspen Ministers Forum, the Aspen High Seas Initiative, or the Aspen Institute. The statement is also available in pdf format in English, Spanish, and French.

The Aspen Ministers Forum, a project of the Aspen Strategy Group, is an initiative of former foreign ministers from around the world and across the political spectrum. The group seeks to develop concrete, non-partisan recommendations to address common global challenges. Through its members in-depth understanding of foreign policy, and continued leadership as members of parliament and advisers to governments, the group has examined and provided recommendations on issues including the fight against terrorism, Middle East peace, humanitarian intervention, and reform of the international architecture.

The Aspen High Seas Initiative brings the ocean community and world leaders together to advance sustainable management and protection of the health of our planet’s ocean, including the High Seas, our greatest and most neglected global commons. We use the convening power of the Aspen Institute to advance ocean health and the wellbeing of people and communities that depend on ocean and coastal resources. This includes leveraging Aspen’s reputation for non-partisanship and balance, our vast international and domestic network of potential new ocean champions, and the multiple disciplines in which Aspen works. In doing so, we expand awareness of how ocean ecosystems affect everyone on this planet, and we advance actions that improve management of our ocean and coasts to ensure they continue to provide the vital goods and services on which all of us rely.

Twenty-three Former Foreign Ministers Call on World Leaders to Protect Biodiversity

We are a group of former foreign ministers from around the world who met recently to discuss one of the most urgent challenges of our time: the deepening global environmental crisis. It is clear to us from these discussions that climate change, ecosystem degradation, and the excessive exploitation of natural resources are now threatening millions of species with extinction and jeopardizing the health of our planet. Having devoted our careers to fostering international cooperation and stability, we are as gravely concerned about this environmental destruction as we are about any other threat to international security.

The loss and degradation of nature jeopardizes human health, livelihoods, safety and prosperity. It disproportionately harms our poorest communities while undermining our ability to meet a broad range of targets set by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We must rise above politics and ideology to unite the global community around the urgent cause of protecting our planet and way of life.

To that end, we strongly support action to establish ambitious targets at the upcoming meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China in late 2020. Specifically, we endorse setting a global target of strongly protecting at least 30 percent of the land and 30 percent of the ocean by 2030.

The marine environment deserves special attention, as it covers 70 percent of our planet, and even people who live far inland depend on the ocean to produce half of the oxygen we breathe, to serve as the primary source of protein for over three billion people, and to help maintain a livable climate. In addition to protecting 30% of the ocean, we also call on nations of the world to manage the entirety of their ocean territories in a manner that is sustainable, equitable, and integrated across sectors. This combination of protection and sustainable management will ensure the health and productivity of the global ocean on which we all depend.

In order to meet these targets, we also support the finalization of a new international legally binding treaty in 2020 for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in the high seas currently being negotiated under the UN Convention on Law of the Sea. This treaty needs to establish mechanisms that will allow us to protect at least 30 percent and assess and sustainably manage the rest of the high seas —the nearly two-thirds of the global ocean that lies beyond the legal jurisdiction of any one country.

The world has a moral imperative to collaborate on strong actions to mitigate and adapt to the current climate change and biodiversity crisis. Ambitious targets for conservation of land and ocean ecosystems are vital components of the solution. We are proud to join with a broad coalition – including youth, the business community, and representatives from the developing world – in calling on world leaders to support an “at least 30 percent” conservation target through the Convention on Biological Diversity. Humanity sits on the precipice of irreversible loss of biodiversity and a climate crisis that imperils the future for our grandchildren and generations to come. The world must act boldly, and it must act now.

Madeleine K. Albright (United States of America), Lloyd Axworthy (Canada), Mohamed Benaissa (Morocco), Maria Eugenia Brizuela de Avila (El Salvador), Erik Derycke (Belgium), Lamberto Dini (Italy), Alexander Downer (Australia), Jan Eliasson (Sweden), Joschka Fischer (Germany), Jaime Gama (Portugal), Ibrahim Gambari (Nigeria), Marina Kaljurand (Estonia), Tzipi Livni (Israel), Susana Malcorra (Argentina), Donald McKinnon (New Zealand), Daniel Mitov (Bulgaria), Amre Moussa (Egypt), Marwan Muasher (Jordan), George Papandreou (Greece), Malcolm Rifkind (United Kingdom), Claudia Ruiz Massieu (Mexico), Javier Solana (Spain), Knut Vollebæk (Norway).