Researchers have drawn up a blueprint of areas that need additional conservation to stem biodiversity and climate crises.
World leaders are preparing to join a key summit on biodiversity being hosted in New York amid mounting evidence that governments are failing to halt the unprecedented loss of species around the world.
Earlier this month, a UN report revealed that the international community had failed to fully achieve any of the 20 biodiversity targets agreed in 2010.
But scientists at the environmental research organisation Resolve have drawn up a blueprint for a planetary "safety net" of protected areas they say could help halt catastrophic biodiversity loss.
Global conservation issues have taken on renewed urgency since the Covid-19 outbreak, with a number of reports suggesting that increased human contact with wildlife is linked to a heightened risk of disease "spillover".
The authors of the global safety net paper believe that protecting the most biodiverse ecosystems could lower the risk of deadly viruses jumping from wildlife to humans.
"We know that when humans come in greater contact with tropical forest interiors, for example, we greatly increase the risk of disease transmission from animals to humans," Dinerstein said.
Asked whether he thought that the international community would adopt more ambitious biodiversity targets in the near future, Dinerstein was cautiously optimistic.
"It probably won't be the UN that's going to do this, because they don't move quickly," he said. "I suspect it's going to be a combination of climate and biodiversity scientists, indigenous leaders and the Greta Thunbergs of the world that rally civil society. It's going to be young people that are going to address these existential threats to civilisation that their elders just can't seem to wrap their heads around. But I think the rest of civil society will come along and we'll get there."