Is COP15 closer to global plan pact to reverse biodiversity loss?

After a week of deliberations, negotiators at the fifth Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a once-in-a-decade chance to make a difference for people and nature, are closer to reaching agreement on a global plan to reverse biodiversity loss, but with experts warn it won’t be simple.

With ministers and high-level representatives set to arrive this week in Montreal in Canada, negotiators say they expect a brand new version of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) text to be out.

On the GBF, aka Paris Agreement for nature, IANS roughly knows where country blocs stand.

Forty-six countries, comprising the EU, the US, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Gabon and Nigeria, want tougher rule, while 20 countries that harbour 70 per cent of the earth’s biodiverse areas, including Brazil, India, China, Indonesia and Congo, say finance flows must match targets, warning that a $10 billion per annum proposal is “far from adequate”.

However, agreeing on a global target to conserve at least 30 per cent of the planet’s land and water by 2030 (30X30) won’t be simple, as Avaaz campaign lead Oscar Soria says: “An Indigenous leader with whom we spoke notes that it is always like this, and that last time, some of the discussions on target 3 (30×30) went on until 3 a.m. The wee hours, the games and tactics to reduce or watering down an already unambitious target (30×30) is emotionally exhausting.”

Responding to the outcomes, Ernest Bai Koroma, former President of Sierra Leone and Campaign for Nature Global Steering Committee Member, said: “It’s time for delegates to roll up their sleeves and deliver the deal nature deserves. We’re already delayed by two years, and we do not have a moment to waste. The world is depending on an agreement to protect 30 per cent of its land and sea by 2030, anything less will be a failure.”

“For every species lost, there is a human cost — we must protect nature now to save ourselves and the generations behind us. The world is counting on COP15.

“We simply cannot address development issues and meet the Sustainable Development Goals without addressing the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change — they are inextricably linked. Ensuring 30 per cent of the world’s land and sea is protected, will not only help us meet these development goals but will also drive a more prosperous future for all.”

Responding to India’s stand, Jagdish Krishnaswamy, Dean, School of Environment and Sustainability, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, told IANS that India has had a very good record in biodiversity conservation in spite of heavy odds and development challenges.

“Moving forward, given the looming threat of a post-1.5 degree warming, we cannot afford to lose any of our remaining old growth forests rich in biodiversity and carbon, as their loss is irreplaceable and cannot be ‘compensated’ for by planting trees elsewhere.

“In terms of a goal of 30 per cent of land and water under biodiversity-friendly coverage, we can only achieve this by going beyond conventional protected area approaches (land sparing), and increase our conservation coverage through ecological restoration and evidence-based strategies for sustainable multiple use (land sharing) of wetlands, rivers, grasslands, coastal and marine ecosystems, urban green and blue spaces areas and agro-ecosystems.

“This would ensure synergies between forests, biodiversity conservation, water security and resilience under climate change as well enhancing our options to adapt to a warming world.”

COP15 is an international meeting bringing together governments from around the world. Participants will set out new goals and develop an action plan for nature over the next decade. The government of Canada’s priority is to ensure the COP15 is a success for nature.

Since COP15 talks began, negotiators had roughly 70 plus hours of negotiations. All this comes against a backdrop of the Montreal march, where farmers, unions and indigenous people among many others joined forces, demanding an ambitious global deal for nature that guarantees and respects human rights.

“We are approaching the age of mass extinction. But we can still turn this around. Nature can help us stabilise the climate, but we’re destroying it faster and faster. We need to protect, restore and fund nature,” remarked Greta Thunberg.

“The negotiations in COP15 Montreal now have the world’s eyes on them. If they fail, we will once again lose invaluable time that could have been used to protect the things many of us take for granted, like clean air, food security and stable societies. To the negotiators in Montreal, you must listen to the voices marching on the streets. What you do now can become a make-or-break moment, for entire societies. We are watching you.”

The federal government has set the goal of conserving 30 per cent of Canada’s land and water by 2030, because science shows that nature needs help in order to reverse the decline in biodiversity, better fight climate change, and maintain a strong, sustainable economy.

At COP15, Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada Agency, last week announced the government is leading by example by recognising a number of federally-managed properties for their contribution to the federal government’s conservation goals.

These federal properties will be recognised using an international mechanism established by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), called Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures (OECM), which has been adopted by Canada.

OECMs achieve long-term and effective conservation of biodiversity, even when the land is managed for different purposes. They are a model for how people can manage and steward the land sustainably, in ways that allow nature to thrive, achieving the same biodiversity results as a protected area.

Experts urged COP15 policymakers to support research to find, catalogue, protect disappearing deep-sea species.

Sounding an alarm bell, they say more than 90 per cent of marine species are undescribed and many may go extinct due to human activity before they are discovered — the loss of unique, potentially valuable genetic resources resulting in unpredictable effects on global ecosystems essential to human food supplies and climate regulation.

Without knowledge of these species, effective deep sea conservation is impossible, leading international marine scientists warned in a new policy brief.

They urge global policy-makers to support urgently needed new research to fill a critical knowledge gap.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

20221211-125603

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