Biodiversity agreement to protect planet reached at UN conference in Montreal

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Negotiators in Montreal have finalized an agreement to halt and reverse the destruction of nature by 2030, as the COP15 United Nations Biodiversity Conference talks enter their final official day.

An announcement issued early Monday morning says the gathering nations at the biodiversity summit have agreed to four goals and 23 targets.

The goals include protecting 30 per cent of the world’s land, water and marine areas by 2030, as well as the mobilization, by 2030, of at least $200 billion US annually in domestic and international biodiversity-related funding from all sources, both public and private.

There is also a pledge to reduce subsidies deemed harmful to nature by at least $500 billion by 2030, while having developed countries commit to providing developing countries with at least $20 billion per year by 2025, and $30 billion per year by 2030.

“Many of us wanted more things in the text and more ambition, but we got an ambitious package,” said Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

“We have an agreement to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, to work on restoration, to reduce the use of pesticides. This is tremendous progress.”

WATCH | Deal reached at UN biodiversity summit in Montreal: 

Biodiversity agreement reached at Montreal COP15 conference

Negotiators in Montreal have finalized an agreement calling for the conservation of 30 per cent of the planet by 2030, as the COP15 talks enter their final official day.

As the conference neared its final official day, Guilbeault said some countries were still asking for the inclusion of more ambitious numerical targets, while others in the global south continued to push for more funding.

The new agreement is titled the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework after the official host cities in China and Canada.

“We have in our hands a package which I think can guide us as we all work together to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and put biodiversity on the path to recovery for the benefit of all people in the world,” Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu told delegates before the package was adopted to rapturous applause just before dawn. “We can be truly proud.”

Compromises reached, African negotiator says

The final agreement came after nearly two weeks of negotiations among 196 countries who are part of the UN biodiversity convention. They were seeking a new deal to halt the human destruction of nature and to begin restoring what has already been lost.

The United Nations says three-quarters of the world’s land has been altered by human activities and one million species face extinction this century as a result.

Climate change coupled with habitat loss, pollution and development have hammered the world’s biodiversity, with one estimate in 2019 warning that a million plant and animal species face extinction within decades — a rate of loss 1,000 times greater than expected.

Humans use about 50,000 wild species routinely, and one out of five people of the world’s eight billion population depend on those species for food and income, the report said.

WATCH | COP15 agreement ‘not just about getting a deal on paper,’ Guilbeault says:

Environment minister on COP15 agreement: ‘It’s not just about getting a deal on paper’

Almost 200 countries reached a final agreement overnight to protect 30 per cent of the world’s lands, inland waters and oceans by 2030. “The agreement received a massive amount of support, almost unanimity,” said Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault.

“All the elements are in there for a balance of unhappiness, which is the secret to achieving agreement in UN bodies,” Pierre du Plessis, a negotiator from Namibia who is helping co-ordinate the African group, told The Associated Press before the vote.

“Everyone got a bit of what they wanted, not necessarily everything they wanted.”

Disagreement over financing

But the countries struggled for nearly two weeks to agree on what that protection looks like and who will pay for it.

The financing has been among the most contentious issues, with delegates from 70 African, South American and Asian countries walking out of negotiations Wednesday. They returned several hours later.

Developed nations insisted on the 30 by 30 target, while developing nations accused wealthier countries of setting high ambitions without offering enough cash to help pay for them.

Europe and most developed countries, including Canada, preferred to use the existing Global Environment Fund (GEF) and argued that creating a new fund would take too much time.

Developing nations in Africa, Latin America and Asia wanted a new dedicated biodiversity fund and said the GEF was inefficient, slow to get money out the door and oversubscribed.

A compromise of sorts was reached, with a new, dedicated biodiversity fund to be created within the GEF.

A large sign reading COP 15 sits in front of an outdoor pond and fountain.
The COP15 venue in Kunming, China, the other official host city. The final agreement came after nearly two weeks of negotiations among 196 countries who are part of the UN biodiversity convention. (Agence France-Presse)

Tensions won’t affect agreement, Guilbeault says

Still, the financing disputes added drama and tension to the final moments of negotiations, when several nations, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Uganda, accused Huang of forcing through the deal despite their objections.

Huang’s gavel fell shortly after the Congo’s representative said his country couldn’t support the agreement because of concerns about funding.

A woman, dressed in a black ski jacket and grey head scarf, builds a small snowman, outside a building. Two other women, also dressed in ski jackets, shawls and head scarves, watch.
Amel Ibrahem, a delegate from Sudan, constructs her first-ever snowman as fellow Sudanese delegates look on during a break from the COP 15 summit on biodiversity in Montreal on Saturday. (Peter McCabe/The Canadian Press)

But a legal adviser from the UN secretariat for biodiversity said that it wasn’t a formal objection, so it didn’t prevent the deal from being finalized.

Francis Ogwal, a Ugandan delegate and one of the co-chairs of a working group helping with the negotiations, said later Monday that he clarified with the Ugandan team that their objections were procedural and not about the agreement itself.

“Uganda is fully behind and supports the global biodiversity framework,” Ogwal said.

Guilbeault said outreach has already been made to Congo government representatives to address their concerns. He said he doesn’t think the tension will undermine the agreement or affect its implementation.



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