Biodiversity agreement to protect planet reached at UN conference in Montreal

Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault speaks to reporters at the COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal on Sunday. Working late into the night, an agreement that includes some two-dozen targets was reached. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault calls the agreed measures ‘an ambitious package’

Negotiators in Montreal have finalized an agreement to halt and reverse the destruction of nature by 2030, as the COP15 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 per year 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….” Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault said. “We have an agreement to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, to work on restoration, to reduce the use of pesticides. This is tremendous progress.”

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

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.

But they 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.

“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.”

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