At the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal in early 2023, world leaders agreed a plan to turn 30% of the Earth into “Protected Areas” by 2030 – a plan which Survival condemned as failing to recognize that Indigenous peoples are the best conservationists and that the best way to protect biodiversity is to protect their land rights. Read our full statement here.
Big conservation NGOs say that creating more Protected Areas will mitigate climate change, reduce wildlife loss, enhance biodiversity and so save our environment. They are wrong.
Protected Areas will not save our planet. On the contrary, they will increase human suffering and so accelerate the destruction of the spaces they claim to protect because local opposition to them will grow. They have no effect on climate change at all, and have been shown to be generally poor at preventing wildlife loss.
It is vital that real solutions are put forward to address these urgent problems and that the real cause – exploitation of natural resources for profit and growing overconsumption, driven by the Global North – is properly acknowledged and discussed. But this is unlikely to happen because there are too many vested interests that depend on existing consumption patterns continuing.
Who will suffer if 30% of Earth is “protected”? It won’t be those who have overwhelmingly caused the climate crisis, but rather indigenous and other local people in the Global South who play little or no part in the environment’s destruction. Kicking them off their land to create Protected Areas won’t help the climate: Indigenous peoples are the best guardians of the natural world and an essential part of human diversity that is a key to protecting biodiversity.
We must stop the push for 30%.
The truth about Protected areas
In many parts of the world a Protected Area is where the local people who called the land home for generations are no longer allowed to live or use the natural environment to feed their families, gather medicinal plants or visit their sacred sites. This follows the model of the United States’ nineteenth century creation of the world’s first national parks on lands stolen from Native Americans. Many US national parks forced the peoples who had created the wildlife-rich “wilderness” landscapes into landlessness and poverty.
This is still happening to indigenous peoples and other communities in Africa and parts of Asia. Local people are pushed out by force, coercion or bribery. They are beaten, tortured and abused by park rangers when they try to hunt to feed their families or just to access their ancestral lands. The best guardians of the land, once self-sufficient and with the lowest carbon footprint of any of us, are reduced to landless impoverishment and often end up adding to urban overcrowding. Usually these projects are funded and run by big Western conservation NGOs. Once the locals are gone, tourists, extractive industries and others are welcomed in. For these reasons, local opposition to Protected Areas is growing.
Why should we oppose it?
Doubling Protected Areas to cover 30% of the globe will ensure these problems become much worse. As the most biodiverse regions are those where indigenous peoples still live, these will be the first areas targeted by the conservation industry. It will be the biggest land grab in world history and it will reduce hundreds of millions of people to landless poverty – all in the name of conservation. Creating Protected Areas has rarely been done with the consent of indigenous communities, or respect for their human rights. There is no sign that it will be any different in the future. More Protected Areas are likely to result in more militarization and human rights abuses.
The idea of “fortress conservation” – that local peoples must be removed from their land in order to protect ‘nature’ – is colonial. It’s environmentally damaging and rooted in racist and ecofascist ideas about which people are worth more, and which are worth less and can be pushed off their land and impoverished, or attacked and killed.
The conservation industry is looking to get $140 billion every year to fund its land grab.
What do we propose?
We must fight against this big green lie and and respect indigenous peoples' rights.
If we’re serious about putting the brakes on biodiversity loss, the cheapest and best-proven method is to support as much indigenous land as possible. Eighty per cent of the planet’s biodiversity is already found there.
For tribes, for nature, for all humanity. #BigGreenLie
More information on the 30% land grab and other green lies:
- "Our land, our nature" alternative congress livestreams Part 1, Part 2 and press conference
- A People's Manifesto for the Future of Conservation
- Mapping For Rights: The ‘Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework’
- 'New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind'
- #DecolonizeConservation: Tribal Voice videos
- Joint statement by NGOs: concerns over the proposed 30% target
- The Big Green Lie: an infographic explainer
- EU Conference on 2030 Biodiversity Strategy
- 30% by 2030 and Nature-Based Solutions: the new green colonial rule
- Why Nature-Based Solutions won't solve the climate crisis
- Letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
- What the science does and doesn’t say about 30×30
- The new ‘con’ in conservation
More information on colonial conservation