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Mon. 8:48 a.m.: Leaders at summit focus on better protecting biodiversity

Part of a grey seal colony are seen Sunday on the beach at Horsey Gap in Norfolk, England. A group monitoring the seals in the national park on England's east coast have recorded more than 2,000 seal births this season, with police patrolling the area to deter visitors during the current coronavirus lockdown. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP)

PARIS (AP) — Protecting the world’s biodiversity was on the agenda today for world leaders at the One Planet Summit, which was being held by videoconference due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The one-day summit will focus on four major topics: protecting terrestrial and marine ecosystems; promoting agroecology, a more sustainable way to grow food; increasing funding to protect biodiversity; and identifying links between deforestation and the health of humans and animals.

About 30 leaders, government officials and heads of international organizations were to attend, including U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. China will be represented by Vice Premier Han Zheng.

The event, organized by France, the United Nations and the World Bank, is taking place in the absence of top officials from the United States, as President-elect Joe Biden, a strong proponent of climate issues, does not take office until Jan. 20. Other notable absences include the leaders of Russia, India and Brazil.

Organizers hope to merge the fight against climate change and the preservation of biodiversity as experts say the two issues are interconnected and any solutions must be as well.

The U.N. stressed that “the COVID-19 pandemic has been a dramatic reminder of the importance of nature for our daily lives and economies.”

“Biodiversity represents the natural capital of the world, yet exploitation, pollution and climate change are bringing irreversible damage to ecosystems,” the U.N. said ahead of the summit.

Today’s talks seek to prepare negotiations to set biodiversity targets for the next decade at a U.N. conference on biodiversity to be held in China in October, after it was postponed last year due to the pandemic. The U.N.’s global climate summit, the COP26, has also been rescheduled for November.

The summit also intends to boost the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which was launched in 2019 by Costa Rica, France and Britain to set a target of protecting at least 30 percent of the planet, including land and sea, by 2030.

A side conference today is focusing on investment for Africa’s Great Green Wall project, which involves gigantic efforts to stop the Sahara Desert from spreading futher south. Launched in 2007, the program consists in planting an arc of trees running 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles) across Africa — from Senegal along the Atlantic all the way to Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden.

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