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Forward Progress on Nature Conservation

Recently in Vancouver, Canada, high-level environmental policymakers from over 100 countries came together for a meeting that happens just once every four years – the Assembly of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). This global gathering was a chance for us all to take stock of the environmental challenges we face together and brainstorm solutions to them. I had the pleasure of leading the United States’ delegation to this meeting, which produced important results on international support for biodiversity, marine conservation, and the fight against nature crimes.

One important outcome from the Assembly was the launch of the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund, a new source of funding for governments to conserve, protect, and restore nature worldwide while furthering action to end pollution and nature loss, combat the climate crisis, and propel inclusive, local-led conservation. The Fund will support implementation of the ambitious goals and targets established under the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which the 15th Conference of the Parties of the Convention for Biological Diversity adopted last year.

On marine conservation, countries at the GEF Assembly formalized the GEF as one of the key funds that will support the implementation of the new High Seas Treaty, an historic agreement that creates, for the first time, a system for establishing marine protected areas on the high seas. With the GEF Assembly’s decision, and after the High Seas Treaty enters into force, the GEF will make more funds available to build global capacity to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity on the high seas, establish marine protected areas, and support conservation and sustainable use programs by Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Notably, the United States joined the government of Norway, the World Resources Institute (WRI), and others to launch the Nature Crime Alliance—a global, collaborative approach to raise political will, mobilize financial commitments, and bolster operational capacity to combat nature crimes like wildlife and timber trafficking, illegal mining, and crimes associated with fishing.

Nature crimes make up one of the world’s largest illicit economies. They threaten national security and the rule of law, push species to the brink of extinction, fuel corruption, undermine economic prosperity, and spread disease.  Working collaboratively across sectors – with governments, law enforcement, international organizations, civil society organizations, and frontline defenders, including Indigenous Peoples and local communities, donors, and the private sector – we will make real progress in combatting nature crimes around the world.

The GEF Assembly provides a timely platform to meet with counterparts from around the world and discover new areas for cooperation. In conversations on the margins of the Assembly and at a Ministerial on Nature that Canada hosted, I encountered common themes. Countries are eager to come together to protect nature, end nature crimes, combat the climate crisis, and stem the harmful effects of pollution.

The United States, for its part, will continue to be a staunch supporter of conservation. At home, we are working to meet our 30×30 commitment to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. Overseas, we will continue to be one of the world’s largest donors to both the GEF and conservation efforts. The outcomes we achieved in Vancouver create new opportunities for us to do more in the years to come – and we must now act together to conserve and restore the lands, water, and wildlife upon which we all depend.