Countries adopt a sweeping agreement to protect nature

MONTREAL, Quebec — Some 190 countries early Monday ratified a sweeping United Nations agreement to protect 30% of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030 and implement a host of other measures. against the pervasive loss of biodiversity, a growing underground crisis. , if left unchecked, will jeopardize the planet’s food and water supplies as well as the survival of countless species around the world.

The agreement comes as biodiversity is declining worldwide at a rate unprecedented in human history. Scientists have predicted that a million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction, many within a few decades.

Brian O’Donnell, director of Campaigns for Nature, said of the deal: “This is an important moment for nature. “This is a scale of conservation we’ve never seen before.”

Overall, the agreement provides a set of 23 conservation objectives. The most prominent measure, the one that places large areas of land and sea under protection, is called 30×30. 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 businesses disclose risks and impacts to biodiversity.

Now, the question is whether the agreement’s lofty goals will come to fruition.

According to watchdog the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations treaty that underpins the old agreement and the new one reached on Monday, the agreement 10 years earlier failed to fully achieve one goal. single target at the global level. But negotiators say they have learned from their mistakes and that the new treaty includes provisions to set measurable goals and track nations’ progress.

“Now you can have a report,” said Basile van Havre, a Canadian who co-chaired the negotiations. “Money, surveillance and goals” will make all the difference this time, he said.

Although there are many causes of biodiversity loss, people are behind each. On land, the biggest driver is agriculture. At sea, it is overfished. Other factors include hunting, logging, logging, climate change, pollution and invasive species.

The agreement is intended to address these drivers. For example, Goal 17 commits to at least halving the overall risk from pesticides and highly toxic chemicals, while addressing fertilizer spills.

Conservation groups have pushed for stronger measures regarding extinctions and wildlife populations.

Anne Larigauderie, an ecologist and executive secretary of the intergovernmental scientific foundation on biodiversity, known as IPBES, regrets the omission but praises the overall agreement as ambitious. expected and quantified.

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

Questions about how to balance the deal’s ambitions with the countries’ ability to pay have generated sharp disagreements at the talks, along with the demand for a new global biodiversity fund. . China, which led the negotiations, and Canada, the host country, struggled to strike a fragile middle ground.

The European Union has sought stronger conservation goals. Indonesia wants more time in how to use nature.

While the US sent a team, they could only join from the sidelines as the country is not a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Republicans, who generally oppose joining the treaty, blocked its passage. The only other country not to join the treaty is the Holy See.

Developing countries have been working hard to get more money, with dozens of countries from Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia dropping out of the meeting on Wednesday to protest that they were not being heard.

A great deal of the world’s biodiversity lives in countries in the southern hemisphere. But these countries often lack the huge financial resources needed to restore ecosystems and reform harmful agricultural, aquaculture, fishing and forestry practices; and to conserve threatened species.

The Democratic Republic of Congo expressed fierce opposition and delayed final approval in the early hours of Monday morning. As the chair of the talks proceeded despite Congo’s objections, several African countries voiced their objections.

The final agreement would double total funding for biodiversity to $200 billion a year from all sources: government, private sector and philanthropy. It spends up to $30 billion a year to flow into developing countries from developed countries.

Representatives of developing countries said that money should not be considered charity.

Joseph Onoja, a biologist who directs the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, notes that the former colonial powers became rich by exploiting natural resources around the world. “They come and rob us of resources for self-development,” he said.

He noted that now that countries in the southern hemisphere are trying to use natural resources for their own development, they are required to conserve them in the name of global conservation.

Dr Onoja emphasized that, as a conservation biologist, he believes in protecting nature. But he wants the global north to be held accountable for his past actions.

A study by the Paulson Institute, a research organization, found that reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 would require closing the financing gap by some $700 billion per year.

A major source of funding could come from reallocating hundreds of billions or more per year currently spent on subsidies that harm nature, for example some agricultural activities and fossil fuels. Goal 18 requires the world to reduce at least $500 billion a year by 2030.

Currently, about 17% of the planet’s land and about 8% of the planet’s oceans are protected. Indigenous rights are a point of contention around the idea of ​​30×30. Some are concerned that this measure could cause communities to be displaced from their lands, while others support the goal as a measure to secure Indigenous land rights and call for call the percentage of protected land even higher.

Jennifer Corpuz, representative of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity and executive director of policy at Nia Tero, a nonprofit group, welcomed the inclusion of indigenous rights language in the agreement. . “It was a breakthrough,” she said.

Maisa Rojas Corradi, Chile’s environment minister and climate scientist, said she had not grasped the depth of the biodiversity crisis until a major intergovernmental report on the topic in 2019. Back home, she said, her plan is to get other ministers involved. While acknowledging that agricultural problems are particularly difficult today due to food security problems caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she said it was important to move forward.

“We have to understand that there would be no food on the planet without biodiversity.”


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