MONTREAL — There were signs Sunday that negotiators were closing in on a historic deal at a U.N. conference that would be the most significant effort to protect the world’s land and oceans and provide a critical infusion of money to save biodiversity in the developing world.
China, which holds the presidency at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, or COP15, released a draft framework Sunday morning that calls for restoring 30% of land and water considered important for biodiversity be conserved by 2030. Currently, 17% of terrestrial and 10% of marine areas are protected. It also calls for a redoubling of efforts to conserve threatened species, minimize the impacts of climate change and reduce pollution.
“There has never been a conservation goal globally at this scale,“ Brian O’Donnell, the director of the conservation group Campaign for Nature, told reporters. “This puts us within a chance of safeguarding biodiversity from collapse … We’re now within the range that scientists think can make a marked difference in biodiversity.”
The draft also calls for raising $200 billion by 2030 for biodiversity and working to phase out or reform subsidies that could provide another $500 billion for nature. As part of that, it calls to increase to at least $20 billion annually or by some estimates double the amount that goes to poor countries by 2025. That number would increase to $30 billion each year by 2030.
It also calls for subsidies that make food and fuel so cheap in many parts of the world to be reformed, phased out and eliminated by 2025 and calls on countries to reduce them by 2030. If that happened, it could free up $500 billion for biodiversity.
But some advocates of subsidy reform say this language is woefully inadequate.
“The new text is a mixed bag,” Andrew Deutz, director of global policy, institutions and conservation finance for The Nature Conservancy, said. “It contains some strong signals on finance and biodiversity but it fails to advance beyond the targets of 10 years ago in terms of addressing drivers of biodiversity loss in productive sectors like agriculture, fisheries, and infrastructure and thus still risks being fully transformational.”
The draft now goes to a meeting of all governments this evening and could be adopted as early as Sunday night. But most delegates expect the discussions to carry into Monday.
The ministers and government officials from about 190 countries mostly agree that protecting biodiversity has to be a priority, with many comparing those efforts to climate talks that wrapped up last month in Egypt.
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 1 out of 5 people of the world’s 8 billion population depend on those species for food and income, the report said.
But they have 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 contentions issues, with delegates from 70 African, South American and Asian countries walking out of negotiations Wednesday. They returned several hours later.
Brazil, speaking for developing countries during the week, said in a statement that a new funding mechanism dedicated to biodiversity should be established and that developed countries provide $100 billion annually in financial grants to emerging economies until 2030.
“All the elements are in there for a balance of unhappiness which is the secret to achieving agreement in U.N. bodies,” Pierre du Plessis, a negotiator from Namibia who is helping coordinate the African group, told The Associated Press. “Everyone got a bit of what they wanted, not necessarily everything they wanted. Let’s see if there is there is a spirit of unity.”
Others praised the fact the document recognizes the rights of Indigenous communities. In past biodiversity documents, indigenous rights were often ignored and they rarely were part of the larger discussions other than a reference to their traditional knowledge. The framework would reaffirm the rights of Indigenous peoples and ensure they have a voice in any decision making.
“It’s important for the rights of Indigenous peoples to be there, and while it’s not the exact wording of that proposal in the beginning, we feel that it is a good compromise and that it addresses the concerns that we have,” Jennifer Corpuz, a representative of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity said. “We believe that it’s a good basis for us to be able to implement policy at the national level. So we urge the ministers … not to reopen the text on Indigenous peoples rights.”
But the Wildlife Conservation Society and other environmental groups were concerned that the draft puts off until 2050 a goal of preventing the extinction of species, preserving the integrity of ecosystems and maintaining the genetic diversity within populations.