Almost all countries sign radical agreement to protect nature

Almost all countries sign radical agreement to protect nature

MONTREAL, Quebec — About 190 countries early Monday endorsed a sweeping United Nations agreement to protect 30 percent of the world’s land and oceans by 2030 and take a range of other actions against biodiversity loss, a growing crisis under the radar which, if left unchecked, it jeopardizes the planet’s food and water supply as well as the existence of untold species in the world.

The agreement comes as biodiversity is declining around the world at a rate never seen before in human history. Researchers have predicted that one million plants and animals are at risk of extinction, many within decades. While many scientists and activists had called for even tougher measures, the deal, which includes verification mechanisms that previous agreements lacked, clearly signals a growing momentum around the issue.

“This is a great moment for nature,” said Brian O’Donnell, director of the Campaign for Nature, a coalition of groups fighting for conservation, of the agreement. “It’s a conservation scale we’ve never seen before.”

Overall, the agreement establishes a series of 23 conservation objectives. The largest, known as 30×30, would place 30% of land and seas under protection. Currently, about 17% of the earth’s land and about 8% of its oceans are protected from activities such as fishing, agriculture and industry.

The countries also agreed to manage the remaining 70% of the planet to avoid losing areas of high importance for biodiversity and to ensure that big companies disclose the risks and impacts of their operations on biodiversity.

Now the question is whether the lofty goals of the agreement will be achieved.

A previous 10-year deal failed to fully achieve a single global goal, according to the body that oversees the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN treaty that underpins the old deal and the new concluded here on Monday. But negotiators said they had learned from their mistakes, and the new pact includes provisions to make goals measurable and track countries’ progress.

“Now you can have a ballot,” said Basile van Havre, a Canadian who served as co-chair of the negotiations. “Money, tracking and goals” would make the difference this time around, he said.

While the United States sent a team to the talks, it was only able to participate on the sidelines because the country is not a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Republicans, who are generally opposed to joining treaties, blocked its passage. The only other country that is not a party to the treaty is the Holy See.

Yet the Biden administration has pledged to protect 30% of land and water by 2030.

Although there are multiple causes of biodiversity loss, humans are behind each of them. On land, the main driver is agriculture. At sea, it’s overfishing. Other factors include hunting, mining, logging, climate change, pollution and invasive species.

The agreement aims to address these factors. Target 17, for example, commits to at least halving the overall risk from pesticides and highly toxic chemicals, while tackling fertilizer runoff.

Conservation groups had been pushing for tougher measures related to extinctions and wildlife populations.

Anne Larigauderie, ecologist and executive secretary of the intergovernmental scientific platform on biodiversity, known as IPBES, regretted this omission but hailed the global agreement as ambitious and quantified.

“It’s a compromise, but it’s not a bad one,” Dr. Larigauderie said.

Questions about how to balance the ambition of the deal with countries’ ability to pay for it have generated sharp disagreements during the talks, as well as calls for the creation of a new global biodiversity fund. China, which led the talks, and Canada, which hosted, worked to find delicate common ground.

The European Union had sought stronger conservation goals. Indonesia wanted more latitude in how it used nature.

A disproportionate amount of the world’s biodiversity lives in the countries of the Global South. But these nations often lack the significant financial resources needed to restore ecosystems; reform harmful practices in agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry; and conserve endangered species.

Developing countries have been pushing for more funding, with representatives from dozens of countries in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia walking out of meetings on Wednesday to protest that they were not were not heard.

The Democratic Republic of Congo expressed fierce opposition and delayed final approval until the early hours of Monday morning. When the chairman of the talks overruled Congolese objections, delegates from several African countries complained loudly.

Monday’s deal would roughly double global biodiversity funding to $200 billion a year from all sources: governments, the private sector and philanthropy. It allocates up to 30 billion dollars a year to rich countries from poor countries. Financial commitments are not legally binding.

Representatives from developing countries said the money should not be seen as a handout.

Joseph Onoja, a biologist who heads the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, noted that former colonial powers got rich by exploiting natural resources around the world. “They came and plundered our resources to develop,” he said.

Now that developing countries are trying to use natural resources for their own growth, he says, they are being told they must preserve them in the name of global conservation.

Dr Onoja, a conservation biologist, said he believed in protecting nature but wanted industrialized countries to be held accountable for past actions.

A study by the Paulson Institute, a research body, found that reversing biodiversity decline by 2030 would require closing a funding gap of about $700 billion a year.

A major source of funding could come from reallocating the hundreds of billions or more a year currently spent on subsidies that harm nature, such as certain agricultural practices and fossil fuels. Goal 18 commits the world to reducing them by at least $500 billion a year by 2030.

The rights of indigenous peoples have been a point of contention around the 30×30 idea. Some feared the measure would displace communities, while others championed the goal as a way to secure indigenous land rights and called for an even higher percentage of land to be placed under protection.

Jennifer Corpuz, representative of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Biodiversity and chief policy officer at Nia Tero, a non-profit group, celebrated the inclusion of language on indigenous peoples’ rights in the agreement. “It’s revolutionary,” she said.

Maisa Rojas Corradi, Chile’s environment minister and climatologist, said she hadn’t grasped the depth of the biodiversity crisis until a major intergovernmental report on the subject in 2019. she said, her plan is to involve other ministers. . While admitting that agricultural issues are particularly sensitive at the moment due to food security concerns triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she said it was important to move forward.

“We must understand that there will be no food on the planet without biodiversity.”

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