At the Conference of the Parties on Biodiversity, 193 nations agreed to protect one-third of the planet by 2030 with a historic agreement to safeguard biodiversity. But there are some disappointing issues.
After the change of the venue from China and the postponement due to the pandemic, the Conference of the Parties on Biodiversity took place from 7 to 19 December in Montreal, Canada. The agreement arrived yesterday morning, 19 December, and was hailed by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who said that 'We are finally beginning to forge a peace pact with nature'.
The UN Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema described the Montreal summit as 'the last chance to stop the decline of nature'.
The main points of the agreement
During the talks, the big sticking point was how to finance the conservation efforts in the most biodiverse parts of the planet. The Democratic Republic of Congo had raised some objections saying it could not support the agreement, but the COP15 president, China's environment minister Huang Runqui, declared it approved anyway. Here are the main points:
• Maintain, enhance and restore ecosystems, including halting species extinction and maintaining genetic diversity
• Promoting a 'sustainable use' of biodiversity, in other words ensuring that species and habitats can continue to provide ecosystem services to humanity (such as food and clean water)
• Ensuring that benefits of natural resources, such as medicines from plants, are shared equitably
• Ensure the protection of the rights of indigenous people
• Investing resources in biodiversity: ensuring that money and conservation efforts reach where they are needed
• Commit to making 30% of the planet a protected area, but also protecting indigenous people
• Reclaim 30% of the land that is now degraded due to human activities
• Reduce pesticide risks by 50%.
There are many experts and politicians satisfied with the conclusion of the conference. "It is truly a moment that will mark history as Paris did for the climate," Canada’s minister for the Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault told reporters. Georgina Chandler, Senior International Policy Officer at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said that 'people and nature should both be better off thanks to the deal struck in Montreal'. The Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Achim Steiner, called the agreement 'historic' and said that people around the world can hope for real progress to halt biodiversity loss.
Lights and shadows
But this agreement is also the result of a compromise and the outcome of four years of negotiations, as is often the case. Although it has been greeted with much enthusiasm, there also more disappointing issues. Sue Lieberman of the Wildlife Conservation Society said the agreement had several good and hard-fought elements, but it could have gone further ‘to truly transform our relationship with nature and stop our destruction of ecosystems, habitats and species’.
One of the less positive results is the economic support of the richest nations on earth for the poorest and most vulnerable. In fact, instead of the $100 billion a year initially requested, aid will be $20 billion a year, starting in 2025, and rising to $30 billion from 2030.
Another important disappointment is the lack of a system to monitor progress and results. The risk is that, without a monitoring mechanism, the agreement will become ineffective.
About commitments to be made by private companies, the agreement merely mentions an 'encouragement' to make progress public, but no real obligation has been introduced.
There is no mention of the concept of ecological footprint, except for food consumption and food waste. However, there is no indication of the over-consumption of meat and the need to spread more sustainable diets.
But there are also those who argue that it is not enough to set the quota of protected areas at 30 per cent to stop the biodiversity loss, but it should be increased to 50 per cent. An example is the Half the Earth project of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation by the father of the modern definition of biodiversity, Edward O. Wilson, who died a year ago. The assumption is based on the theory of island biogeography, according to which the crucial factor in the survival of species is the amount of suitable habitat available to them. It means that a change in the area of a habitat results in a change in the number of species it can support. As reserves grow in size, so does the diversity of life that survives within them.
What biodiversity loss entails
Forests and grasslands have unprecedented rates of biodiversity drop and oceans are under pressure from pollution. The biodiversity loss is seriously threatening the balance of ecosystems and, as we all know, our health. The likelihood of transmission of new viruses from wild animals to human populations – so called spillover – is increasing.
It is not only an environmental and health risk, but also an economic one. According to World Economic Forum calculations, 44 trillion dollars of global GDP depend directly on ecosystem services. A reduction in the 'natural capital' risks causing massive damage to the global economy and production systems.
In short, an investment we cannot afford to lose.
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