Delegates from nearly 200 countries are meeting in Montreal next week to craft a new global biodiversity deal to protect ecosystems and species from further human destruction.
The meeting follows crucial climate change talks in Egypt in November, where leaders failed to make any breakthroughs on cutting fossil fuels and curbing global-warming emissions.
Observers hope the COP15 biodiversity talks in Montreal will yield a historic agreement to protect nature and reverse human damage to forests, wetlands, waterways and the millions of species that live there.
About 50% of the world’s economy depends on nature, but scientists warn that humanity must radically – and urgently – rethink its relationship with the natural world as fears of a sixth era of mass extinction grow .
“Our planet is in crisis,” Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, head of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), said in a briefing before the talks, adding that a global agreement on biodiversity was “crucial to ensure that the future of humanity on planet Earth is sustained”.
So far, humanity has been lamentable about this.
The so-called post-2020 biodiversity framework, delayed for two years due to the pandemic, will lay out a formal blueprint for nature until mid-century for most countries except the United States, which did not sign.
It will include key targets to be achieved by 2030.
But this comes after countries failed to meet a single target set for the previous decade.
With new rules affecting key economic sectors – including agriculture, forestry and fishing – and covering everything from intellectual property to pollution and pesticides, delegates grapple with an array of sticking points.
So far, only two of the new agreement’s 22 targets have been agreed.
“We have to admit that success is not guaranteed,” said a European source close to the talks. “We have a very difficult situation ahead of us.”
Although China is currently chairing COP15, it is not hosting this year’s meeting due to the ongoing pandemic.
Instead, it will be held from December 7 to 19 in Montreal, the seat of the CBD, which oversees the negotiations.
The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, is the only world leader present. Chinese President Xi Jinping has not said he will join, and neither side has invited other leaders to come, time is running out quickly.
Observers fear the leaders’ absence could sap the momentum of the talks and derail an ambitious final deal.
Divisions have already emerged on the key issue of funding, with wealthy countries under pressure to funnel more money to developing countries for conservation.
A group of developing countries, including Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia, have called on wealthy countries this year to provide at least $100 billion a year – rising to $700 billion a year by 2030 – for biodiversity.
But many Western countries are reluctant to establish a separate nature fund.
Currently, most biodiversity funding for the developing world comes from existing funding mechanisms, which often also include climate finance.
Another fight is brewing over the issue of “biopiracy”, with many countries, mainly African, accusing wealthy nations of plundering the natural world for ingredients and formulas used in cosmetics and medicines, without sharing the benefits with the communities from which they come.
One of the fundamental goals that has received broad support is the 30×30 target – a commitment to protect 30% of land and seas by 2030. Only 17% of land and around 7% of oceans were protected in 2020.
So far, more than 100 countries officially support the goal, according to the EU-backed High Ambition Coalition, which tracks the goal.
The new target will depend heavily on the involvement of indigenous peoples, who steward the lands that harbor about 80% of Earth’s remaining biodiversity, according to a landmark United Nations report on the impacts of climate change this year.
“It won’t work if indigenous peoples aren’t fully included,” Jennifer Tauli Corpuz of the Nia Tero association told AFP.
“We completely lose the integrity of the document,” added Corpuz, who is part of the indigenous caucus at the talks.
Other elements of the framework: eliminating or redirecting hundreds of millions of dollars in harmful government subsidies; promote sustainable agriculture and fishing, reduce pesticides; invasive species control and reforestation.
But implementation is perhaps the most crucial item on the agenda to ensure that the promises made are actually kept by governments.
“We need measurable goals and targets and they need to be linked to clear indicators,” the EU source said, calling for “robust monitoring, planning, reporting and review.”
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