Press Release

National Geographic Honors Two World Leaders for their Outstanding Commitment and Action Toward Protecting Our Ocean

Former President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada and President of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez have championed the global target of protecting at least 30% of our lands and oceans by 2030 (30x30) and implemented it in their own marine waters

Breaking: The Rht Hon Lord Goldsmith announces 100 countries have now joined a coalition pushing for the global 30x30 goal

LISBON, PORTUGAL (Monday, June 27, 2022)—Former President of Costa Rica Carlos Alvarado Quesada and President of Colombia Iván Duque Márquez were awarded the 2022 Planetary Leadership Award by the National Geographic Society for their outstanding commitment and action toward protecting our ocean this evening at the National Geographic Ocean Night at the UN Ocean Conference. The Planetary Leadership Award honors world leaders who have successfully established globally significant protected areas, such as national parks, wilderness areas, or marine reserves, that are shielded from exploitation. The bold actions of informed and inspired global leaders are vital to building a better future for our planet. Previous winners of the Planetary Leadership Award include Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada; Michelle Bachelet, Former President of Chile; and Former Presidents of the Seychelles Danny Faure and James Michel.

“We commend the commitments of President Alvarado and President Duque to preserve the remarkable biodiversity of their countries,” said Jill Tiefenthaler, CEO of the National Geographic Society. “Their words, decisions, and actions exemplify planetary stewardship and protection, helping to create impactful, sustainable solutions for our ocean.”

Today, less than 8% of the world’s oceans are under any sort of legal protection, and more is needed to prevent rapid biodiversity loss and mitigate climate change. President Alvarado and President Duque have both championed the global target of protecting at least 30% of our lands and oceans by 2030, otherwise known as 30x30, and have implemented it in their own waters, eight years early.

  • President Alvarado expanded Cocos Island National Park by 27 times its size, fully protecting it from fishing and other damaging activities. The area totals 54,000 square kilometers around the jewel of the crown of Costa Rica's waters, including a chain of seamounts along which endangered species of large predators such as sharks migrate. He also designated the Bicentennial Marine Managed Area, around the expanded national park, reaching the goal of 30% of Costa Rica’s marine waters under some kind of protection.
  • President Duque expanded the no-take Malpelo Sanctuary of Flora and Fauna, protecting an underwater mountain ridge that harbors unique deep-sea ecosystems and acts as a marine highway for endangered sharks. He also designated another fully protected area in the Caribbean, and two marine-managed areas in the Pacific, reaching the goal of 30% of Colombia’s marine waters under some kind of protection.

“A healthy ocean is as vital to the future of humankind as breathing is to each and every one of us, since it generates at least 50% of the Earth's oxygen and absorbs a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions. Thus, we need to be very ambitious when it comes to protecting the ocean and its biodiversity,” said Former President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada. “Costa Rica believes in leading by example, and, accordingly, my Administration co-launched the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People and the 30x30 goals with France and the United Kingdom. And last December I signed the executive order to expand our ocean protection from 2.7 to 31% in one stroke. Humanity has the chance and the responsibility to foster a resilient and healthy ocean. Let’s do it.”

“We are getting dangerously close to the global temperature limit of 1.5 degrees, which we set in the Paris Agreement. Climate change is a reality and is a threat to our future. That is why Colombia decided to act and be part of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People,” said President of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez. “Before August of this year, 30% of our national territory will be declared a protected area, 8 years before the global goal. We will not wait until 2030 to do so. This year 17 million marine hectares will be part of our system of protected areas. We have already begun with the expedition to the Beata mountain range and the declaration of the Ají Island as a protected area. Our commitment is unavoidable, there is no planet B. Our moral duty is to act now. Let's do it all together.”

The Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith, Minister for Pacific and the Environment at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for the United Kingdom announced the same evening that 100 countries have now joined the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, an intergovernmental group of countries, co-chaired by Costa Rica and France, with the United Kingdom acting as Ocean co-chair, championing a global goal to protect at least 30% of the world's land and ocean by 2030. The science-based 30x30 target aims to halt the accelerating loss of species and protect habitats for the sake of people, economies, biodiversity and the climate. It has been endorsed extensively and is expected to be a cornerstone of a global biodiversity agreement currently under negotiation by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“Costa Rica, France and the UK launched a wild dream: a coalition of countries supporting the protection of at least 30% of our planet by 2030,” said Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer in Residence and founder of National Geographic Pristine Seas. “The wild dream is now mainstream; the coalition has 100 member nations - and continues to grow. Never before in the history of humanity have we been so close to giving nature the space it needs to thrive. Our future depends on preventing the collapse of natural systems that provide our food, clean water, clean air and stable climate. To preserve these benefits, we must protect enough of the natural world to sustain them.”

National Geographic’s ocean work aims to explore, understand, and conserve marine and coastal systems. As vast as the ocean itself, the stories that derive from our ocean Explorers inspire us to connect with the ocean and work toward finding solutions to protect it. Since 2008, National Geographic Pristine Seas has carried out 35 expeditions and supported the creation of 25 marine protected areas covering 6.5 million square kilometers of ocean. This is an area more than twice the size of India. Pristine Seas conducted expeditions to both Costa Rica (2009 and 2019) and Colombia (2018 and 2021) to inform the expansion of Cocos Island National Park and the Malpelo Sanctuary, as well as the creation of new marine protected areas.

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