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Editorial: 30x30 the wrong solution for the world's environmental woes

On Thursday, the Department of the Interior released a plan to protect 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, as directed by President Biden’s executive order of Jan. 27. Intended to tackle the twinned crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, the administration’s “30 by 30” plan is a domestic interpretation of the Global Deal for Nature—a proposal with strong support among scientists, diplomats, and major environmental organizations. The GDN aims for 30 percent of Earth to be formally protected and an additional 20 percent designated as “climate stabilization areas”—natural areas that would sequester carbon and thereby offset greenhouse gas emissions.

This combined 50 percent target emerged among conservation biologists nearly a decade ago and gained traction in 2016 with E.O. Wilson’s book Half Earth, which argues that “only by setting aside half the planet in reserve, or more, can we save the living part of the environment and achieve the stabilization required for our own survival.” Following a $1 billion campaign funded by Swiss philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss, a large intergovernmental coalition is pushing for formal adoption of a 30 by 30 target at the next Convention on Biological Diversity, which will be held in Kunming, China, in October 2021.

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