Press release

PM launches new action plan to save the natural world

PM to launch new biodiversity fund dedicated to saving the world’s most endangered animals.

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A new £220 million fund to save endangered animals such as the black rhino, African elephant, snow leopard and Sumatran tiger from extinction will be unveiled by Prime Minister Boris Johnson today.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York the Prime Minister will call for urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity as part of global efforts to tackle the drivers and impact of climate change.

The Prime Minister will warn that precious habitats and species are disappearing from our planet faster than at any other time in human history. The world’s animal populations have declined by almost two thirds in the last 50 years, and around a million species now face extinction – many within decades.

In the past century the number of orangutans has halved and there are now only 400 Sumatran tigers left on the planet. Over a million pangolins were killed and illegally traded for their scales in the past 15 years, while rhino poaching in South Africa increased 9000% in the seven years to 2014, and African Savannah elephants declined by a third in that period – with most slaughtered for their ivory.

The UK’s new International Biodiversity Fund will protect these animals and more by backing projects aimed at halting the unprecedented loss of habitats and species and saving those most at risk. The £220 million announced today is the first investment in the Fund, with more funding to be unveiled, and builds on the UK’s world-leading reputation on this agenda.

The illegal wildlife trade threatens species with extinction, destroys vital ecosystems and fuels corruption and insecurity. The new fund will step up UK investment in projects to strengthen law enforcement, reduce the demand for illegally-traded products, train anti-poaching rangers and help communities find alternative ways to make a living that prevents people taking up poaching and conserves wildlife.

Ahead of climate and biodiversity events at the UN today, the Prime Minister said:

The global population of animals is plummeting faster than at any time in human history. There are now more peers in the House of Lords than there are Sumatran tigers left in the world. And we risk there being no tigers left at all when the next Year of the Tiger comes round in 2022.

It is a privilege to share our planet with such majestic beasts as the African elephant, the black rhino and the beautiful pangolin. We cannot just sit back and watch as priceless endangered species are wiped off the face of the earth by our own carelessness and criminality.

That is why I am announcing today that we are ramping up UK efforts with a new action plan to save the natural world. And I’d like to see leaders in New York this week pledge to do the same.

The fund will also deploy UK expertise around the world to help local communities protect species under threat and preserve their natural habitats, through a significant scale-up of the UK’s Darwin Initiative. Previous Darwin projects have helped save the critically-endangered spoon-billed sandpiper from extinction and rescued hundreds of highly-endangered big-headed turtles from traffickers.

The new UK funding will also be used to create pioneering ‘green corridors’ in global biodiversity hotspots, which aim to prevent the loss of species by protecting and restoring habitats that have been threatened by human activity. This could help 250,000 elephants in the KAZA region of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe migrate safely from one reserve to another along a new ‘elephant corridor’.

The Prime Minister has been clear that biodiversity and climate change are two sides of the same coin and must be addressed in tandem if we’re to protect the planet for future generations. At the UN today he will call for greater global action to address these twin threats.

Protecting natural habitats is essential if we are to stop climate change. The Prime Minister has pledged that the UK will use the COP26 summit to shine a spotlight on solutions to climate change that can be found in nature – such as reforestation.

Rainforests absorb billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But the world is losing its forests at a rate of 18.7 million acres a year, or 27 football pitches every minute. This destruction creates emissions that contribute to and accelerate the rate of climate change.

The Prime Minister will today announce almost £40 million to protect and preserve the world’s forests and other natural habitats and support global efforts to tackle climate change through projects to:

  • prevent illegal deforestation in Ghana, Liberia, Indonesia, Cameroon, Vietnam and the Republic of Congo by working with local communities to tackle illegal logging and support the legal trade in timber by helping build markets for sustainable products; and
  • support communities in developing countries to farm in a more environmentally friendly way, including by helping them protect forests, conserve soil and water, and restore abandoned land where eco-systems like forests and mangrove trees used to be.

International Development and Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith said:

Our planet’s rich biodiversity is under threat. As we destroy the world’s forests, we drive ever more species to extinction, we erode nature’s ability to cope with climate change and we undermine the livelihoods of millions of people. The UK recognises that we are at a tipping point and that action now is both urgent and essential.

Our contribution through UK aid reflects that, and will help turn the tide on the environmental crisis we face.

Published 23 September 2019