Countries approved a historic deal to reverse decades of environmental destruction threatening the world’s species and ecosystems at a marathon UN biodiversity summit early Monday.
The chairman of the COP15 nature summit, Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu, declared the agreement approved at a plenary session in Montreal that lasted into the wee hours and slammed his gavel, causing loud applause from the assembled delegates.
In doing so, he dismissed an objection from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had refused to support the text, demanding more funding for developing countries as part of the deal.
After four years of hard-fought negotiations, more than 190 other states rallied behind the China-brokered deal aimed at saving Earth’s land, oceans and species from pollution, degradation and climate crisis
“We have in our hands a package that I believe can guide us all to work together to maintain and reverse the loss of biodiversity, to put biodiversity on the road to recovery for the benefit of all the people of the world,” he said. Huang in the assembly.
His Canadian counterpart and host Steven Guilbeault called it a “historic step.”
– The largest conservation agreement ever
The agreement commits to securing 30 percent of the planet as a protected area by 2030, increasing $30 billion a year in conservation aid for the developing world, and halting the extinction of threatened species caused by man
Environmentalists have compared it to the landmark plan to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius under the Paris accord, although some warned it did not go far enough.
Brian O’Donnell of the Campaign for Nature called it “the biggest land and ocean conservation commitment in history”.
“The international community has come together for a historic global biodiversity agreement that offers some hope that the crisis facing nature is starting to get the attention it deserves,” he said.
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“Monks, sea turtles, parrots, rhinos, rare ferns and ancient trees, butterflies, rays and dolphins are among the million species that will see their prospects for survival and abundance significantly improved if this agreement is effectively implemented “.
The chief executive of campaign group Avaaz, Bert Wander, warned: “It’s an important step in the fight to protect life on Earth, but it won’t be enough on its own. Governments should listen to what the science is saying and rapidly increase the ambition to protect half the Earth by 2030.”
– Indigenous rights –
The text is committed to safeguarding the rights of indigenous people as stewards of their lands, a key demand of activists.
But observers noted that it struck a chord in other areas, for example only encouraging companies to report their impacts on biodiversity rather than forcing them to do so.
The deal’s 23 goals also include saving hundreds of billions of dollars by reducing environmentally destructive agricultural subsidies, reducing pesticide risk and tackling invasive species.
– Struggle for funding –
At times, the talks looked at risk of breaking down as the countries fought over money.
The main sticking point was how much rich countries would send to the developing world, home to most of the planet’s biodiversity.
Developing countries had been seeking the creation of a new, larger fund for global North aid. But the draft text, instead, suggested a compromise: creating a fund within the framework of the existing Global Environment Facility (GEF).
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This concern was echoed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, home to the Congo Basin, a rich haven of biodiversity.
Current financial flows from nature to the developing world are estimated at around $10 billion annually.
A DRC delegate spoke at the plenary to demand an annual increase in funding to $100 billion, but Huang approved the deal, angering DRC allies.
The United States is not a signatory to the biodiversity convention due to resistance from Republican senators. US President Joe Biden supports the deal and launches his own “30 for 30” plan at the national level, while the US pays into the GEF to help developing countries.