Historic biodiversity agreement reached at UN conference

Historic biodiversity agreement reached at UN conference

  • US News
  • December 19, 2022
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MONTREAL (AP) — Negotiators reached a historic deal early Monday at a UN biodiversity conference that would represent the most significant effort to protect the world’s lands and oceans and provide critical funding to save biodiversity in the developing world .

The global framework comes a day before the end of the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity, or COP15, in Montreal. China, which chairs the conference, released a new draft earlier in the day that gave the sometimes contentious talks a much-needed boost.

The most significant part of the agreement is the commitment to protect 30% of land and water areas considered important for biodiversity by 2030. Currently 17% of land and 10% of sea areas are protected.

“There has never been a conservation goal of this magnitude in the world,” Brian O’Donnell, director of conservation group Campaign for Nature, told reporters. “This gives us the opportunity to save biodiversity from collapsing… We are now in the realm of what scientists believe can make a significant difference in biodiversity.”

The bill also calls for raising $200 billion for biodiversity by 2030 from a range of sources and working to phase out or reform subsidies that could provide another $500 billion for nature. As part of the funding package, the framework calls for increasing money going to poor countries to at least $20 billion a year by 2025 — or about double what is currently being provided. That number would increase to $30 billion per year by 2030.

    Corals at Moore Reef are seen in Gungandji Sea Country off the coast of Queensland in eastern Australia on November 13, 2022. Corals at Moore Reef are seen in Gungandji Sea Country off the coast of Queensland in eastern Australia on November 13, 2022.

AP Photo/Sam McNeil, file

Some proponents wanted tougher language on subsidies that make food and fuel so cheap in many parts of the world. The document simply calls for identifying by 2025 subsidies that can be reformed or eliminated and working to reduce them by 2030.

“The new text is mixed,” said Andrew Deutz, director of global policy, institutions and conservation funding at The Nature Conservancy. “It provides some strong signals on finance and biodiversity, but does not go beyond the targets set 10 years ago when it comes to addressing the drivers of biodiversity loss in productive sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and infrastructure, and therefore still runs the risk of to change completely.”

Ministers and government officials from some 190 countries largely agree that protecting biodiversity must be a priority, and many are comparing these efforts to the climate talks that concluded in Egypt last month.

Climate change combined with habitat loss, pollution and development has taken a toll on the world’s biodiversity, with a 2019 estimate warning that one million plant and animal species could face extinction within decades – a rate of loss which is 1,000 times higher than expected. Humans routinely use about 50,000 wild species, and 1 in 5 of the world’s 8 billion population depend on these species for food and income, the report said.

But they’ve been fighting for almost two weeks to agree on what that protection looks like and who will pay for it.

Chairman Huang Runqiu, Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment, center, opens the high-level segment at the COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, December 15, 2022.Chairman Huang Runqiu, Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment, center, opens the high-level segment at the COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, December 15, 2022.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP

Funding was one of the most contentious issues as delegates from 70 African, South American and Asian countries walked out on Wednesday. A few hours later they returned.

Brazil, speaking for developing countries during the week, said in a statement that a new biodiversity financing mechanism should be set up and that developed countries will provide $100 billion annually in financial grants to emerging economies until 2030.

“All the elements are in place for a balance of misfortune, which is the secret to reaching an agreement in UN bodies,” Pierre du Plessis, a Namibian negotiator who is helping to coordinate the African group, told The Associated Press . “Everyone got a little bit of what they wanted, not necessarily all of what they wanted. Let’s see if there is a spirit of unity.”

Others praised the fact that the document recognizes the rights of indigenous communities. In previous biodiversity documents, indigenous people’s rights have often been ignored and they have rarely been part of the larger discussions, save for a reference to their traditional knowledge. The framework would affirm the rights of indigenous peoples and ensure they have a voice in all decision-making.

“It’s important that indigenous peoples’ rights are there, and while it’s not the exact wording of this proposal to begin with, we believe it’s a good compromise and that it addresses our concerns,” Jennifer Corpuz, a said Representative of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity. “We think it’s a good base for us to be able to implement policy at the national level.”

But the Wildlife Conservation Society and other environmental groups were concerned that the draft postpones a goal by 2050 to prevent species extinction, preserve the integrity of ecosystems and conserve genetic diversity within populations. They fear that the timetable is not ambitious enough.

The Associated Press’s climate and environmental reporting is supported by several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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