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Wetlands International calls for global wetland targets ahead of critical CBD COP15 negotiations

Published on:
  • Accountability
  • Climate and disaster risks
  • Climate mitigation and adaptation

A new white paper from Wetlands International released today (21 June 2022) ahead of the pre-COP15 negotiations in Nairobi reveals the critical need to restore wetlands – with urgency and at scale. 

 Currently, the protection and restoration of wetlands is not accounted for in global nature and climate agreements, and the first draft of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework failed to mention ‘wetlands’ in the text.  The white paper by Wetlands International – the only global non-profit organisation dedicated to the restoration of wetlands – presents an urgent case to establish global wetland targets. Calling on world leaders, it highlights the unrivalled benefits of wetlands and argues for wetlands to move to the top of the CBD COP15 agenda. 

Wetlands cover just 6% of the Earth’s surface but are home to a staggering 40% of the world’s plant and animal species. In fact, every year 200 new species are discovered in freshwater wetlands and these precious habitats store almost a third of global soil carbon. Nevertheless, wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests, with 35% of wetland ecosystems lost since 1970. 

 COP15 will negotiate global biodiversity targets, including protecting 30% of land and sea. However, absorbing wetlands into land and ocean targets fails to account for the specific and unique properties of wetlands as interfaces between land and water, which must be managed under their own set of targets. Restoring at least a fifth of degraded freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems will also be discussed, which wetland ecosystems must be inextricably linked to.  

 Wetlands International is calling for five global, science-based targets by 2030: 

  1. The remaining undrained peatland carbon stores remain intact, and 10 million hectares of drained peatland are restored. 
  1. A net gain of 20% in global mangrove cover. 
  1. Remaining free-flowing rivers and floodplains are preserved and river connectivity is enhanced, restoring floodplain ecosystem functionality and area.  
  1. A net gain of 10% in area of tidal flats. 
  1. 50% of the estimated 7000 critically important sites identified along flyways come under favourable management. 

Jane Madgwick, CEO of Wetlands International, commented: “
Wetlands are vital to securing a liveable future for people and nature. Yet these crucial ecosystems continue to be under-valued and overlooked. Wetlands are literally going up in smoke and down the drain. 

“It is astonishing that we have no global wetlands targets to reverse these negative trends. We are in a critical decade for action and COP15 must move wetlands to the top of the agenda. Join us in calling for ambitious targets for the conservation and large scale restoration of the world’s wetlands, before it really is too late.” 

Patience Nabukalu is a climate justice activist with Fridays for Future Most Affected People and Areas fighting the degradation of wetlands in her home country Uganda. As author of the white paper foreword, Nabukalu urges world leaders to feel the injustice of the climate crisis and act to restore wetlands.   

Nabukalu said: “I’ve experienced the devastating impacts of climate change first hand in my home country of Uganda, where we frequently suffer the consequences of too much or too little water, through storms, floods and droughts. 

  “Resolved to defend the most affected people and areas, I am fighting to protect wetlands, which play a critical role in mitigating climate change.  

   “I stand with Wetlands International to call for global targets and action for wetland restoration.” 

Dr Ritesh Kumar is Head of Wetlands International South Asia and has been part of drafting India’s National Biodiversity Targets under the Convention of Biological Diversity, as well as indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals. Dr Kumar added: “Wetlands may only cover a small portion of the planet, but they are a critical ecosystem that we rely heavily on, and yet under tremendous pressure.  

 “The Convention on Biological Diversity must not lump wetlands in targets for land and sea, rather affirm specific targets on these ecosystems, thus ensuring affirmative actions for bending the biodiversity curve.”

For more information, interviews, and images, please contact Greenhouse Communications:  
Emma Wilkinson [email protected] 07827 912 608
Fiona Stainer [email protected] 07851 772 512  


About wetlands
Wetlands are ecosystems periodically or permanently saturated with water, and encompass a varied range of habitats from lakes, rivers, fens, peatlands and deltas, to mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass meadows. In addition to their significance for biodiversity and climate mitigation and adaptation, wetlands support the livelihoods of over one billion people globally. 

About Wetlands International
Wetlands International is the only global not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wetlands. Wetlands International is dedicated to maintaining and restoring wetlands – for their environmental values as well as for the services they provide to people. Their vision is a world where wetlands are treasured and nurtured for their beauty, the life they support and the resources they provide. They work through their international network of offices, partners and experts to achieve their restoration goals. 

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IUCN (2020). Call for an ambitious Global Biodiversity Framework on World Wetlands Day 2020.,for%20over%201%20billion%20people. 

Lundberg J.G, Kottelat M, Smith G.R, Stiassny M.L.J, Gill A.C. So many fishes, so little time: an overview of recent ichthyological discovery in continental waters. 

Nahlik, A. M. and Fennessy, M. S. (2016). Carbon storage in US wetlands. Nature Communications. 

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. (2018). Global Wetland Outlook, State of the world’s wetlands and their services to people 2018.