Outlook ‘Grim’ Halfway Through Global Biodiversity Summit, Climate Groups Warn

“If Global North countries don’t compromise, the consequences will be dire,” said Greenpeace. “One million species are at risk of extinction, threatening the web of life that holds our planet together.”

By Julia Conley.  Published 12-15-2022 by Common Dreams

Primary Forest Alliance at COP15 on December 7, 2022. Photo: UN Biodiversity/flickr/CC

Disagreements over financing biodiversity protection, the piracy of natural resources, and commitments to protect at least 30% of the Earth’s land and water by 2030 are some of the top sticking points at the United Nations’ global biodiversity summit in Montreal, which is set to wrap up in just four days.

Following a walkout early Wednesday by developing nations outraged over the Global North’s opposition to creating a biodiversity fund, one anonymous negotiator at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) wrote in The Guardian that the summit is at risk of amounting to more of what climate campaigner Greta Thunberg has called “blah blah blah.”

“There is still time to turn it around. But there is no political urgency behind the biodiversity crisis or any desire for transformative change, as far as I can tell,” wrote the negotiator. “Greta Thunberg’s ‘blah, blah, blah’ criticism of government negotiations on the environment is proving right as things stand, unfortunately.”

This week’s walkout was sparked by a disagreement over whether wealthy countries including China and Brazil should benefit from a biodiversity fund, with biodiverse countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America arguing they should be compensated more. China and Brazil are currently set to be among the top five recipients of aid from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for the next funding cycle.

Delegations from the European Union, Switzerland, and Japan have also opposed biodiversity protection funds, Greenpeace reported from the summit late Wednesday, warning that “negotiators are playing a dangerous game.”

“Developing countries left the meeting because they considered that it was impossible to make progress in the discussions because developed countries were not ready to compromise,” Oscar Soria, campaign director of the activism group Avaaz, told The Guardian on Wednesday, “and they invited the parties that are obstacles to the discussions to reflect on their positions in order to move forward at another point.”

Beyond the division over finance, delegates representing China, which is presiding over COP15 along with host country Canada, are reportedly abdicating their responsibility to lead negotiations.

“In talks, China has remained objective and offered no opinions, telling other countries that they must sort it out between themselves,” wrote the anonymous negotiator in The Guardian. “We cannot go on like this. Someone needs to step up.”

Negotiators have yet to come to an agreement on the 30×30 goal aimed at protecting 30% of land and water by the end of this decade.

Indigenous delegates say their role in protecting biodiversity should be considered as negotiators finalize a post-2020 global biodiversity framework, as they hope to next week with the aim of mitigating the crisis that is pushing one million species toward extinction.

“Many scientists, and some governments, say the best way to meet the 30×30 goal involves working with Indigenous communities to expand formal protected areas on their lands,” wrote Chris Arsenault at Mongabay on Wednesday. “According to estimates by the ICCA Consortium, an equity in conservation organization, 30% of land on Earth is already conserved if Indigenous lands are taken into account, and Indigenous communities conserve an estimated 80% of Earth’s remaining biodiversity.”

Along with the 30×30 goal, advocates are calling for a framework that includes:

  • Policies to prevent or reduce invasive species by 50%;
  • The elimination of plastic waste;
  • The reduction of pesticides in the environment by at least two-thirds; and
  • At least $100 billion in annual funding for developing countries to protect wildlife, provided by wealthy governments.

The anonymous negotiator warned that delegates “have left all of the difficult bits to the final few days of a process that has taken three years,” while Greenpeace said the minimal progress seen at the talks may amount to a “slow and steady” march “toward catastrophe.”

“If Global North countries don’t compromise, the consequences will be dire,” said Greenpeace. “One million species are at risk of extinction, threatening the web of life that holds our planet together. There’s no time to waste. Countries must put the planet first before it’s too late.”

A failure to reach an agreement that includes aid for developing, biodiverse countries could result in a new “Copenhagen moment,” advocates say, referring to the 2009 global summit in Denmark where leaders failed to include commitments to reduce emissions even as they acknowledged the scientific case for mitigating the climate crisis.

“This was meant to be nature’s Paris moment and it looks like that ambition is being pushed into the 2030s and 2040s,” wrote the anonymous negotiator. “A successful outcome is still possible but we must start making real progress. We cannot keep kicking the can down the road.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
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