COP15: more than 190 countries sign a historic agreement to end the biodiversity crisis


More than 190 countries adopted a broad agreement to protect nature at the United Nations conference on biodiversity in Montreal.

The hammer fell in the early hours of Monday on an agreement that includes 23 targets aimed at stemming the biodiversity crisis, including a commitment to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030. Only 17% of land and 10% oceans are currently considered protected. Activists hailed it as a “major step” for the conservation of complex and fragile ecosystems on which everyone depends.

But some countries were unhappy, blaming the deal for not going far enough. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said it could not support the deal and complained that it was rushed through without following proper processes.

The road to this agreement has been long and strewn with delays. It was originally scheduled to take place in Kunming, China, but difficulties posed by the country’s zero Covid policies made this impossible. The conference was moved to Canada under the joint leadership of Canada and China. Hopes were high for the conference, with some calling for it to be a “Parisian moment for biodiversity” – in reference to the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Nature is declining at an alarming rate. In 2019, a landmark report by the UN panel of experts on nature found that up to 1 million terrestrial and marine species are at risk of extinction due to human actions. Some scientists say the world is entering the sixth mass extinction, caused by human actions such as deforestation, the burning of fossil fuels and the pollution of rivers and oceans.

After two weeks of negotiations – with tensions over global conservation funding proving to be a particular sticking point – the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework was finally adopted around 3:30 a.m. local time on Monday.

Along with a commitment to protect nearly a third of land, freshwater and seas by 2030, the framework also includes an agreement to reform $500 billion in nature-harming subsidies and increase funding for biodiversity for developing countries.

“The agreement represents a major milestone for the conservation of our natural world, and biodiversity has never been higher on the political and business agenda,” said Marco Lambertini, chief executive of WWF International.

Brian O’Donnell, director of Campaign for Nature, said: “The ’30×30′ goal marks the largest commitment to land and ocean conservation in history. This will have major positive impacts for wildlife, for combating climate change and for ensuring the services that nature provides to people, including drinking water and pollination for crops.

The framework also includes language to protect indigenous peoples, who have an outsized role in protecting global biodiversity, but who have often been overlooked and, in some cases, even driven off the land in the name of conservation. It “has the potential to usher in a new paradigm for conservation, one in which the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities are respected and where they are recognized for the leadership they have provided,” O’Donnell said. .

While many have welcomed the deal, there are warnings that the proof of success will be in how the deal is enacted.

“It can be undermined by slow implementation and failure to mobilize promised resources,” Lambertini said.

The agreement has also been criticized for its lack of quantifiable commitments to reducing production and consumption, which are key drivers of biodiversity loss.

The agreement is not legally binding. Countries have agreed on a monitoring framework to assess progress, but “there are no binding commitments that make the whole mechanism look weak,” said lead researcher Imma Oliveras Menor. at the Environmental Change Institute of the University of Oxford at the Science Media Center in London.

The history of biodiversity targets is a checkered one. The world has failed to fully meet one of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets set more than a decade ago in Japan. Some developing countries have expressed disappointment with the levels of funding promised in the final agreement.

Many still remain cautiously optimistic.

“The Kunming-Montreal agreement adopted today gives nature a chance to recover in a world currently divided by geopolitics and inequality,” said Lin Li, Senior Director of Global Policy and Advocacy at WWF International. .

The next biodiversity summit will take place in 2024 and is expected to see countries stepping up their financial commitments to halt biodiversity loss.


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