Open letter to Boris Johnson: 30% protected areas, a disaster for Indigenous peoples and biodiversity

These Khadia men were thrown off their land after it was turned into a tiger reserve. They lived for months under plastic sheets. Millions more face this fate if the 30% plan goes ahead. © Survival International

We are making this letter public so that everyone can understand that the fight against biodiversity loss cannot be done at the expense of nature’s best guardians. The goal of 30% protected areas is a “Big Green Lie”. It will destroy millions of lives, but will not save our planet. Find here a statement that specifies our opposition to this, signed by more than 200 environmental and human rights organizations, experts and academics.


20 March 2021

Dear Prime Minister,

Re: The 30% protected areas target – a disaster for tribal and Indigenous peoples and biodiversity

Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples, is extremely concerned by the goal, supported by you and your government, of transforming 30% of the planet into “protected areas” by 2030.

The 30% target is being erroneously presented as a solution to reducing biodiversity loss and mitigating climate change. The creation of protected areas follows the colonial model of “fortressconservation” and leads to serious human rights violations against Indigenous and local peoples. These include land grabbing, evictions, torture and killings at the hands of park guards, supported by conservation organisations like WWF and WCS.

The 30% plan would lead to the biggest land grab in history – violating the rights of over 300 million people. These will include the most vulnerable communities on the planet, who have contributed least to the climate crisis. It will not protect biodiversity or mitigate climate change. Evidence shows that when tribal and Indigenous peoples’ rights to their ancestral territories are guaranteed, they are the best guardians of nature, yet the current plan does not provide any guarantee for the rights of tribal and Indigenous peoples or for local communities. Their territorial rights and their rights to selfdetermination and to free, prior and informed consent, which are enshrined in international law, must be guaranteed and respected.

By co-chairing the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and Peoples, which is pushing the 30% target; and by hosting the G7 and COP26 summits this year, the UK is in a uniquely strong position to influence the debate. Therefore, we call on you to abandon support for the colonial and racist model of fortress conservation and we urge you to use your leadership to ensure that the rights of tribal and Indigenous peoples are respected, along with strong, enforceable guarantees.

Indigenous peoples are the best conservationists and ensuring their rights must be the main tool for protecting biodiversity. For tribal peoples, for nature, for all humanity.

Yours sincerely,

Caroline Pearce

Survival International