What Happened at the 2021 One Planet Summit?

    Stockholm (NordSIP) – On January 11th, the French President Emmanuel Macron, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and World Bank (WB) President David Malpass hosted the One Planet Summit for Biodiversity. The event included speeches from over 30 government leaders and international organisations. The meeting’s agenda covered climate change, biodiversity, deforestation, and the prevention of future pandemics.

    2020 marked the fourth edition of the gathering. In the absence of the USA, India, and Brazil, the event was mostly dominated by Europe and Africa. Three announcements stand out from the event.

    Launching the PREZODE Initiative

    Given the presumed origin of COVID-19, it is not surprising that one of the goals of the summit was to seek to develop tools to prevent future pandemics, through the mitigation of deforestation and the prevention of risks related to human contact with wild species.

    To address these concerns, three French research institutes – INRAE, CIRAD, and IRD – have partnered with research bodies in France, Germany, and the Netherlands to launch the PREZODE initiative, a global network of researchers to prevent the next pandemic due to zoonotic diseases. “I am very pleased with the PREZODE initiative (…) The world needs health for all, by all, for One Health, therefore let’s act holistically, coherently, collectively and historically”, said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu.

    The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) For Nature and People

    2021 saw the official launch of the HAC, an international group of more than 45 countries, which among other goals, aims to increase spatial targets to protect or effectively conserve at least 30% of the planet – land and sea – by 2030. The coalition is co-chaired by France, Costa Rica, and the UK, which counts with the participation of over 50 countries, including Germany, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ethiopia, Gabon, and Pakistan.

    To support these efforts, the French Development Agency (AFD) committed to double its financing targeting biodiversity, allocating 30% of AFD’s climate financing budget to this end by 2025. “AFD devoted €527 million to biodiversity protection in 2020. Our goal is to increase this amount to €1 billion per year by 2025,” said Gilles Kleitz, AFD’s Director of the Ecological Transition and Natural Resources Department.

    From the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson noted that “of the £11.6 billion that we’ve consecrated to climate finance initiatives, we’re putting £3 billion to protecting nature, whether it’s marine life, or timber conservation or sustainable food production.”

    Summit Commits to Funding the Great Green Wall

    The other main item on the agenda was deforestation, focusing on the Great Green Wall for the Sahel and Sahara Initiative (GGW), originally launched in 2007 by the African Union to address desertification along the Sahel – the southern boundary of the Sahara desert stretching from the Mauritanian coast on the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea coast of eastern Sudan.

    At the 2015 UNFCCC COP 21, the GGW pledged to restore 100 Mha of currently degraded land by 2030. However, preliminary results from the latest status report published by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in July shows that a third of the way through its planned lifetime, only 4% of the target had been achieved.

    Summit participants committed US$14.326 billion in new funding in the hope of beginning to fill the gaps. Mohamed Cheikh El-Ghazouani, President of Mauritania and current chair of the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall, welcomed the announcement. “The mobilisation of this additional funding through an innovative approach will certainly contribute to the achievement of the Great Green Wall goals, which aim by 2030, at the restoration of 100 million hectares of degraded land and the creation of 10 million green jobs,” said Ghazouani.

    In his address to the summit, Malpass announced that the WB will invest over US$5 billion over the next five years to help restore degraded landscapes, improve agriculture productivity, and promote livelihoods across eleven African countries. PROGREEN, a WB global fund dedicated to the mitigation of landscape degradation, will also invest US$14.5 million in five Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania.

    Less concretely, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, also committed to supporting the GGW. “We will bolster and sponsor initiatives like the Africa-led Great Green Wall. I would like to congratulate the African Union – and all of the partners involved for bringing a decades-old dream to life. (…) We will mobilise even more than the €700 million per year already raised for the Great Green Wall project,” she said.

    On the Margins

    While China mostly seems to have taken a back seat to the summit’s proceedings, saving its political capital to May, when it will host the COP15 in Kumming, Prince Charles also joined some partnerships to support the work of the summit. Meanwhile, on the margins of the meeting, Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist, was less than impressed with the commitments made at the event.


    Filipe Albuquerque
    Filipe Albuquerque
    Filipe is an economist with 8 years of experience in macroeconomic and financial analysis for the Economist Intelligence Unit, the UN World Institute for Development Economic Research, the Stockholm School of Economics and the School of Oriental and African Studies. Filipe holds a MSc in European Political Economy from the LSE and a MSc in Economics from the University of London, where he currently is a PhD candidate.

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