COP15 half-time report: China raises fears of a new ‘Copenhagen moment’

Talks to stop nature destruction ‘are very much in the balance’, sources say, as environment ministers from around the world start arriving in Montreal amid concerns over lack of Chinese leadership in talks of COP15.

Midway through the summit in Canada, UN biodiversity summit negotiators said divisions were contributing to the growing risk of a “Copenhagen moment,” referring to the UN climate summit in 2009 when the talks ended with a weak final agreement in Denmark. capital, not the “Parisian moment for nature” demanded by environmental personalities.

Over the next two days, environment ministers from more than 100 countries will arrive in Canada to complete the text – known as the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. Senior UN officials have called for a renewed sense of urgency as negotiations enter the home stretch, praising China’s leadership in COP15, which is Beijing’s first time leading a major political environmental deal of ONU.

But, privately, governments, activists and NGOs have expressed deep concern about the state of the talks, with the entrenched positions of the EU, the African group and Latin American countries raising the likelihood of a deadlock during the last week of COP15. They say the disagreement has been confounded by “a leadership vacuum” on China’s part in the negotiations, with the country often playing a ceremonial role in the talks. The COP15 presidency is supposed to reach out to NGOs and governments on how to resolve disputes.

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Proposals to protect 30% of the Earth and issues of money and digital biopiracy are seen as major sticking points between countries, fearing they are tackling key drivers of biodiversity loss such as overconsumption, pesticides and intensive agriculture, and that companies disclose the impact of their activities on the natural world.

Negotiations respond to scientific warnings that 1 million species are at risk of extinction, while the architects of the Paris agreement said a successful outcome in Montreal was essential to limit global warming to 1.5° vs.

“I’m still optimistic they’ll sort it out, but it’s so chaotic at the moment and so finely balanced between complete failure and success that it will depend on what ministers decide,” he said. a negotiator on Tuesday.

“China could be working furiously in the background. No one has perfect eyesight. But from where I’m sitting, I don’t see them providing leadership or even opinions in most negotiations. Everyone cares about where it’s going. At the moment, the final text is very likely to be a bad deal – but not so bad that a country might refuse it – so we will launch the box on the road to the next Cop in two years, ”they added .

“Too many questions remain on the table for ministers to make sensible decisions. There is a global will to try to reduce them quickly, but there is a feeling that the talks are very much on the line, ”said a source familiar with the talks.

Huang Runqiu, China’s environment minister and Cop15 president, was reluctant to speak to international media. So far, Justin Trudeau is the only world leader to speak at COP15. More than 150 scientists this week backed a call by British conservationist Chris Packham for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to attend the biodiversity summit.

Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, former environment minister of Costa Rica and director of the Global Environment Facility, the main fund supporting biodiversity action in developing countries, said the talks were tense .

“I’ve never seen such a tense and aggressive environment. It was very different before,” he said. “It’s the downside of success to make this cop politically relevant. was irrelevant, politically speaking, but it was not until the pandemic arrived and we started to negotiate a new framework that we saw that biodiversity loss and climate change are the product of the same problem.

Environmental groups are calling on the Chinese presidency to show leadership in Montreal and bring countries together to address key issues.

“So far, discussions at COP15 have stalled on the usual main topics. The Chinese presidency needs to provide clarity on how it wants to organize the process over the last week, and especially how it wants to use the ministers coming in. Will they be tasked with finding compromises on key issues, or will they just be used for talk shops?” said Oscar Soria, campaign manager for the activism organization Avaaz.

“There is an incredible leadership vacuum here, if it continues like this, we will soon have to say goodbye to ambition for good. This may be what the world powers, including China, really want, ”a- he declared.

Li Shuo, a Greenpeace China political adviser who follows the biodiversity negotiations closely, said China should start inviting ministers to resolve key issues in Montreal as soon as possible.

“A clear roadmap is needed for the second week of the biodiversity talks in Montreal. Ministers are currently not supposed to engage in negotiations. This must change. Their leadership is needed immediately after arrival. The [Cop15] the presidency needs to start building trust and joint ownership of the outcome,” he said.

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