LONDON (Reuters) – British broadcaster David Attenborough on Wednesday led a campaign by conservation groups for the world to invest $500 billion a year to halt the destruction of nature, saying the future of the planet was in “grave jeopardy”.
Attenborough, whose new film “A Life on Our Planet” documents the dangers posed by climate change and the extinction of species, made his statement as the United Nations convened a one-day summit aimed at galvanising action to protect wildlife.
“Our natural world is under greater pressure now than at any time in human history, and the future of the entire planet – on which every single one of us depends – is in grave jeopardy,” Attenborough, 94, said in a news release.
“We still have an opportunity to reverse catastrophic biodiversity loss, but time is running out.”
Opening the summit in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said a million species were at risk of extinction and that climate change and the loss of biodiversity were “destroying Earth’s web of life”.
“Humanity is waging war on nature, we need to change our relationship with it,” Guterres said.
The push to redirect financing away from fossil fuels and other polluting industries and into locally led conservation was launched by environmental group Fauna & Flora International and backed by more than 130 organisations.
“U.N. member states must take the lead in getting ahead of this crisis and putting funding into the hands of those who are best placed to use it – local conservation organisations,” Mark Rose, chief executive of Fauna & Flora International, said.
The world spends an estimated $80-$90 billion on conservation each year, but studies show that hundreds of billions of dollars may be needed to save ecosystems from collapse.
Britain, Canada and others joined the European Union on Monday in pledging to protect 30% of their land and seas by 2030. U.N. officials hope to secure broad agreement on that target at talks to forge a new global biodiversity pact due to take place in China in 2021.
Addressing the summit in a video message, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged global cooperation on the environment, saying countries were “passengers in the same boat”.
“The loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystems pose a major risk to human survival and development,” he said. “It falls to all of us to act together, and urgently turn the Earth into a beautiful homeland for all creatures to live in harmony.”
(Additional reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels; Editing by Alistair Bell and Barbara Lewis)