UN Biodiversity COP15: Agreement Signed

Biodiversity fish

On Monday, at the UN’s COP15 biodiversity conference in Canada, more than 190 countries approved an agreement to declare 30% of the planet as a protected zone by 2030 and to raise $30 billion per year for conservation in the developing world.

Debates over the agreement have been held for nearly two weeks in Montreal, where representatives of about 200 governments from all across the globe took part in the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), also known as the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15).

Representatives of from all around the world signed a pact, dubbed as “historic,” at the closure of the COP15 in Montreal on Monday.

COP15, co-hosted by the governments of Canada and China, was aimed at protecting global nature and halting biodiversity loss over the next decade.

The agreement considers maintaining, enhancing, and restoring the planet’s ecosystems, as well as targeting 30% of lands and oceans conserved by 2030. The parties also agreed on halting human-caused extinctions of species that are known to be under threat, along with promoting their recovery within the time limits of the deal.

“Just six months ago, we did not know if we were going to even be able to have this conference and or even less to be able to adopt this historic document. And this was only possible through the collaboration of all countries present here tonight,” said Canada’s newly appointed Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault, adding that the deal was a “bold step forward to protect nature.”

Although COP15 took place from December 7 to 19, talks over the Kunming-Montreal pact had been ongoing for more than four years, as the conference had been delayed several times due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Following nearly two weeks of negotiations in Montreal, the adoption of the final version of the agreement faced some obstacles, before it was reportedly forced by China’s President Xi Jinping.

Delegates from a number of countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Brazil, and Indonesia, which are home to the world’s three mega-diverse rainforests, along with Cameroon and Uganda, objected to the adoption of the deal, demanding more financial assistance in order to meet the announced biodiversity conservation targets.

They suggested the establishment of a new financing mechanism, separate from the United Nations’ Global Environment Facility (GEF).

However, the final deal included the creation of the new fund within the existing GEF fund, leaving the possibility for developing a separate mechanism open for future discussions.

A BBC report said:

There will also be targets for protecting vital ecosystems such as rainforests and wetlands and the rights of indigenous peoples.

The agreement at the COP15 UN biodiversity summit in Montreal, Canada, came early on Monday morning.

The summit had been moved from China and postponed due to Covid.

China, which was in charge of the meeting, brought down the gavel on the deal despite a last minute objection from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hailed the deal and said: “We are finally starting to forge a peace pact with nature.”

The main points include:

  • Maintaining, enhancing and restoring ecosystems, including halting species extinction and maintaining genetic diversity
  • “Sustainable use” of biodiversity – essentially ensuring that species and habitats can provide the services they provide for humanity, such as food and clean water
  • Ensuring that the benefits of resources from nature, like medicines that come from plants, are shared fairly and equally and that indigenous peoples’ rights are protected
  • Paying for and putting resources into biodiversity: Ensuring that money and conservation efforts get to where they are needed.

The summit in Montreal had been regarded as a “last chance” to put nature on a path to recovery. Throughout the talks there was division over the strength of ambition and how to finance the plans.

One big sticking point was over how to fund conservation efforts in the parts of the globe that harbor some of the world’s most outstanding biodiversity.

Biodiversity refers to all the Earth’s living things and the way they are connected in a complex web of life that sustains the planet.

A new text of the agreement was released by China on Sunday.

Delegates convened a full session of the summit early on Monday morning after hours of delays, but then agreed to the text quickly.

The president of COP 15, Minister Huang Runqui, declared the deal approved despite objections from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which said it could not back the deal.

Sue Lieberman of the Wildlife Conservation Society said the agreement was a compromise, and although it had several good and hard-fought elements, it could have gone further “to truly transform our relationship with nature and stop our destruction of ecosystems, habitats and species”.

The agreement follows days of intense negotiations. On Saturday, ministers made impassioned speeches about the need to agree on clear goals to put nature on a path to recovery by the end of the decade.

The UN Development Programme said the “historic agreement” meant people around the world could hope for real progress to halt biodiversity loss.

Scientists have warned that with forests and grasslands being lost at unprecedented rates and oceans under pressure from pollution, humans are pushing the Earth beyond safe limits.

This includes increasing the risk of diseases, like SARs CoV-2, Ebola and HIV, spilling over from wild animals into human populations.

A key sticking point has been finance. In echoes of the climate summit, COP 27, in Egypt, some countries have been calling for a new fund to be set up to help preserve biodiversity, but this was rejected by others.

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