Philanthropists pledge record $5 billion to protect nature

Parched land is pictured around the Lake Wegnia, in Sahel region of Koulikoro, Mali November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Arouna Sissoko/File Photo

SINGAPORE, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Philanthropists and investors committed $5 billion to nature restoration and conservation on Wednesday, a move environmental activists welcomed as the highest sum of private funding ever pledged.

The funding, pledged at an event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, will focus on the "30by30" target, which aims to protect 30% of the planet's land and water over the next decade.

Scientists and conservationists say this is key to protecting biodiversity, which encompasses millions of species and natural processes in ecosystems such as rainforests and oceans, and is under threat from human-driven activities such as industrial agriculture, fishing, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Some $150 billion a year is currently pledged on conservation and so-called nature-positive initiatives that prevent degradation of nature but up to $1 trillion a year is needed to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, according to the Convention for Biodiversity, an intergovernmental U.N. agency that leads global biodiversity negotiations.

Conservationists said Wednesday's pledges went some way in closing the biodiversity funding gap.

"Today's announcements show that the world is converging around the need to reverse the loss of nature and is beginning to mobilise funds at scale," said Marco Lambertini, Director General of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Around 85 countries, including the United States have already pledged to protect 30% of their territory. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that having all countries on board with the initiative was key to "turn the tide" on biodiveristy loss.

Organisations such as the Rainforest Trust and Bezos Earth Fund were among those that pledged the funds.

Editing by Timothy Heritage

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