How California (and the World) Get to 30×30
COP15 in Montreal ended with a pledge to guard 30 percent of the planet by 2030. UCLA student evaluation shows what we are able to learn from California’s own plan.
By Ashley Anderson, Elana Nager, and Madeline Ward
As 2022 wound down, the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) convened in Montreal. The conference ended with around 190 of the world’s nations adopting the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which establishes 4 goals and twenty-three targets to be achieved by 2030. Probably the most outstanding of those was a “30×30” commitment: to conserve thirty percent of the earth’s lands, oceans, coastal areas, and inland waters by 2030. Striving for 30×30 is seen as crucial because biodiversity is declining at unprecedented rates.
California showed up at COP15 in additional ways than one. California is the primary–and only–U.S. state to act as an official observer on the talks, as reported by CalMatters. State lawmakers and members of the Newsom administration were physically in Montreal.
But California’s presence was felt in one other way: California has a pre-existing 30×30 commitment that may function a roadmap for implementation of the COP commitment. Following a 2020 executive order, California began implementing its own 30×30 initiative, with three most important goals: to guard and restore biodiversity, to expand access to nature for all Californians, and to construct resilience to climate change. In April 2022, California’s Natural Resources Agency released “Pathways to 30×30,” which lays out the Newsom administration’s plan to get there. It includes ideas like executing strategic land acquisitions, increasing voluntary conservation easements, and strengthening coordination with federal and tribal governments.
So how is California’s 30×30 pledge going? That was the query we dove into over several months of in depth research last semester within the California Environmental Laws and Policy Advocacy Clinic. We dug into California’s 30×30 initiative and spoke to scores of stakeholders at state agencies, state conservancies, NGOs, and environmental consultancies, all deeply committed to creating California’s 30×30 pledge a reality. What we learned about these early stages of California’s 30×30 implementation can provide useful guidance for other jurisdictions striving to attain that goal. Listed here are a couple of of our key takeaways:
- Representation matters. The Natural Resources Agency undertook a sturdy stakeholder engagement process because it was putting together its Pathways plan, including in-person and virtual meetings across the state designed to be accessible to a big selection of voices, and targeted working groups to deal with key implementation questions by engaging diverse stakeholders. Stakeholders uniformly praised the robustness of the approach, which led to a framework that recognized the needs and involvement of historically underrepresented communities like low-income Californians of color and indigenous groups.
Within the context of the COP15 agreement, coordinated efforts with the world’s Indigenous peoples, who currently protect eighty percent of the world’s biodiversity, will probably be crucial. In implementing 30×30 initiatives, care needs to be taken to ascertain a policy of free, prior, and informed consent before undertaking conservation projects that will affect Indigenous peoples. Coordinated efforts could include Indigenous co-management of lands, resources, and species. In California, for instance, the Ocean Protection Council funds the Tribal Marine Stewards Network, which is a coalition of California Native American tribes that manage coastal areas of their ancestral territories in alignment with their traditional ecological knowledge.
- Publicly accessible data can drive implementation. Publicly accessible data is significant to any 30×30 pledge. The Natural Resources Agency has created the CA Nature tool, maintaining a database that tracks already-protected areas of the state and allows stakeholders to layer on necessary data related to access and climate change. Keeping this data up-to-date and using it to tell future conservation decisions might help be sure that the state preserves the proper mixture of lands to attain its 30×30 objectives. For instance, greater than 30 percent of certain biomes, like desert shrublands, are already conserved in California, while other biomes, like grassland habitat, are underrepresented amongst already-conserved land. As 30×30 implementation continues, California can use this data to ensure that it’s conserving the lands and coastal waters most dear for safeguarding biodiversity in climate-smart ways.
The identical principles can apply to a world 30×30 goal. Currently, about 17 percent of the planet’s land and eight percent of its oceans are protected, based on the Latest York Times. Tracking each existing and newly conserved efforts might help jurisdictions tailor their approaches to conservation in ways in which maximize biodiversity.
- Ongoing maintenance is very important, too. Each the California and COP15 30×30 commitments are framed as objectives to conserve a specific amount of land and water by 2030, however the biodiversity advantages of all of this conservation will only be unlocked if these areas are protected well into the longer term. California’s 30×30 plan bakes the thought of long-term protection into its designation of conserved lands: Only “durably protected and managed” lands make progress toward the 30×30 goal. But the necessity for reliable maintenance funding was a continuing theme in our research and conversations with experts.
While it is comparatively easy to source funds to amass lands, or uplift them on a one-time basis, acquiring funding for ongoing maintenance is difficult. Without maintenance funds, conserved lands turn out to be degraded lands. The necessity for regular maintenance funding is an issue without a straightforward solution. While there are some strategies to ameliorate funding needs—for instance, supporting using regenerative practices that ultimately reduce the quantity of ongoing maintenance required in an area—continued efforts to secure maintenance funding will probably be vital if the conservation gains envisioned by 30×30 are to endure in future a long time.
With only 7 years left until 2030, this can be a critical time to preserve biodiversity and combat climate change. 30×30 is a singular opportunity with global support, and California is leading the best way in implementing a proper plan to attain 30×30 targets. As California pushes ahead, lessons learned from its example may be worthwhile across jurisdictions.
Ashley Anderson, Elana Nager, and Madeline Ward are UCLA J.D. ’24.