COP15: historic agreement reached to halt biodiversity loss by 2030

Governments appear to have signed a once-in-a-decade deal to halt the destruction of Earth’s ecosystems, but the accord appears to have been forced on by the Chinese president, ignoring objections from some African states.

After more than four years of negotiations, repeated delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Sunday night talks in Montreal, nearly 200 countries – but not the United States or the Vatican – signed an agreement during COP15 on Biodiversity, which was co-hosted by Canada and China, to set humanity on the path to living in harmony with nature by mid-century.

In an extraordinary plenary that started on Sunday evening and lasted more than seven hours, the countries squabbled over the final deal. Finally, around 3:30 a.m. local time on Monday, news broke that a deal had been reached.

The negotiator for the Democratic Republic of Congo appeared to block the final agreement presented by China, telling the plenary that he could not support the agreement in its current form because it did not create a new biodiversity fund, separate from the existing UN fund, the Global Environment Facility (GEF). China, Brazil, Indonesia, India and Mexico are the main recipients of GEF funding, and some African states wanted more money for conservation under the final agreement.

However, moments later, China’s Environment Minister and COP15 President Huang Runqiu signaled that the deal was complete and agreed, and the plenary erupted in applause.

Negotiators from Cameroon, Uganda and the DRC have expressed disbelief that the agreement has been put in place. The DRC said it officially opposed the deal, but a UN lawyer said no. Cameroon’s negotiator called it a “fraud”, while Uganda said there had been a “coup” against COP15.

Amid plummeting insect numbers, acidifying oceans filled with plastic waste, and rampant overconsumption of the planet’s resources as humanity’s population grows richer and surpasses 8 billion, the agreement, if implemented, could signal major changes in agriculture, corporate supply chains and the role of indigenous communities in conservation.

The deal was negotiated over two weeks and includes targets to protect 30% of the planet for nature by the end of the decade, reform $500bn (£410bn) in harmful subsidies to the environment and restore 30% of the planet’s degraded terrestrial and inland waters. , coastal and marine ecosystems.

Governments also agreed on urgent action to end human-caused extinctions of species known to be threatened and to promote their recovery.

The deal follows scientific warnings that humans are behind Earth’s sixth mass extinction event, the greatest loss of life since the days of the dinosaurs.

Canadian Steven Guilbeault, a former environmental activist turned minister, said the Kunming-Montreal pact was a “bold step forward to protect nature”.

“As little as six months ago, we did not know if we were going to be able to organize this conference, let alone adopt this historic document. And this was only possible thanks to the collaboration of all the countries present here this evening,” he said.

Governments have never achieved the goal they set on nature in previous decades, and the Montreal-Kunming agreement has seen a major push to change the years of failure, apathy and environmental destruction.

Echoing last month’s Cop27 climate summit in Egypt, divisions over money were the main sticking point in the closing hours of negotiations. EU member states, the UK and other countries in the global north pushed for ambitious conservation targets in the final text, with Canada’s co-hosts saying the summit’s success depended on the primary goal of protecting 30% of the Earth by the end of the Decade for Nature, known as 30 by 30.

Countries in the South, including Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – hugely diverse countries that are home to the world’s three largest rainforests – wanted governments to agree to the creation of a new biodiversity fund in as part of the Montreal Pact to pay for new conservation goals.

In the final agreement, the countries agreed to create a new fund within the main existing UN biodiversity funding mechanism – the Global Environment Facility – and to engage in future discussions on a fund. distinct. Rich countries have agreed to provide $30 billion in biodiversity aid by the end of the decade, a substantial increase from current levels.

Although the Montreal-Kunming agreement is not legally binding, governments will be responsible for showing their progress towards the goals with national biodiversity plans, similar to nationally determined contributions, which countries use to show the progress made in achieving the Paris climate agreement.

Observers expressed disappointment with weaker-than-expected language on pesticide consumption and use, two major drivers of biodiversity loss. The term “nature positive”, which some scientists had said would be the biodiversity equivalent of “net zero”, did not appear in the agreement.

Along with nature-related goals, countries have reached a historic agreement to develop a financial mechanism to share the benefits of drug, vaccine and food discoveries from digital forms of biodiversity, known as information. of digital sequence or DSI, after disputes over biopiracy in mind. -until COP15.

Find more Age of Extinction coverage here and follow the Biodiversity Reporters Phoebe Weston and patrick greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features

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