Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Leaders in more than 60 nations pledged Monday to preserve threatened and endangered species by including concerns about climate change and biodiversity in their COVID-19 recovery strategies.
Sixty-four nations committed to the Leaders Pledge for Nature, which promises to prioritize biodiversity and the environment in decisions about investments and national and international development.
The pledge came ahead of a major United Nations biodiversity summit this week.
The pledge calls for a series of 10 steps aimed at halting the loss of the planet's biodiversity by 2030.
"We are in a state of planetary emergency: the interdependent crises of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation and climate change -- driven in large part by unsustainable production and consumption -- require urgent and immediate global action," the pledge states.
"Despite ambitious global agreements and targets for the protection, sustainable use and restoration of biodiversity, and notwithstanding many local success stories, the global trends continue rapidly in the wrong direction. A transformative change is needed: we cannot simply carry on as before."
The United Nations said last year that 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, and that the average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20% since 1900.
Earlier this month, the global body said the international community failed to reach any of its biodiversity goals in the 2010s.
The recovery from the coronavirus pandemic presents an opportunity for the world to commit to U.N. sustainable development and biodiversity goals aimed at halting the "human-induced extinction of species," the leaders said.
Johnson unveiled the pledge during a teleconference Monday.
"We must act now -- right now," he said in prepared remarks. "We cannot afford to dither and delay because biodiversity loss is happening today and it is happening at a frightening rate.
"Left unchecked, the consequences will be catastrophic for us all. Extinction is forever -- so our action must be immediate."
As part of the pledge, Johnson said an additional 4% of Britain's land mass, equal to more than 1,500 square miles, will be protected.