Five things you need to know about the Global Biodiversity Agreement

World governments have agreed to conserve nearly a third of the planet’s land and waters as part of a broader effort to stem the collapse of global plant and animal populations.

The last-minute deal at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Montreal (COP15) was heralded as a milestone for the protection of nature. It’s because about 1 million species — one-eighth of the total — are threatened with extinction, according to the UN Environment Programme.

About three-quarters of the Earth’s land area — and two-thirds of its oceans — has been “substantially altered” by human activity, the UN says, with agriculture and fishing the main contributors to the ongoing threat of extinction.

Here are five things you should know about the deal:

Countries agree to protect 30 percent of land and water by 2030

Nearly 200 countries agreed to protect nearly a third of the Earth’s land and waters – an important goal.

The agreement includes a target to ensure that 30 percent of “areas with degraded terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine ecosystems” are “effectively restored” by the end of the decade, with the aim of “promoting biodiversity and ecosystem functions.” improve”. ”

“Biodiversity” refers to the variety of life on the planet – that is, the amount of different plant, animal and other species that exist on Earth.

This would be a significant advance over the amount of land and water currently protected. A UN report last year found that as of 2020, about 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water ecosystems were protected. The report also found that only 8 percent of coastal waters and oceans were protected.

“A global agreement to protect one-third of the planet by 2030 is monumental,” Tanya Sanerib, international legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “All my life, habitat loss has been a major driver of declining biodiversity.”

The deal calls for this conservation to be achieved through “environmentally representative, well-connected and equitably managed systems” and calls for any sustainable use of these areas to be “fully consistent with conservation outcomes” and the rights of indigenous peoples.

US was not part of the formal agreement

The biodiversity conference was attended by all countries that are party to the Convention on Biological Diversity, a global biodiversity treaty, a list that notably excludes the US

While then-President Clinton signed the treaty on which the summit was based in 1993, Congress never ratified it. The US is therefore not part of the treaty and is not subject to the agreement.

However, the Biden administration set its own conservation target of 30 percent by 2030 last year. In response to the agreement, a White House press release characterized the agreement as the world following the US lead.

“Under President Biden’s leadership, the United States will continue our progress toward broad, just, and strong environmental governance, with continued global cooperation as our shared goal,” Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in a statement. .

The government released a statement last week highlighting the measures it is taking to combat global biodiversity loss, including providing millions in funding for international conservation initiatives.

Sanerib, of the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Hill that such funding was “critical” to the agreement.

Some environmentalists have called on the US to go even further by creating a national biodiversity strategy to combat habitat loss, climate change, pollution, invasive species and the overuse of animal and plant species by humans.

Lindsay Rosa, vice president of conservation research and innovation at Defenders of Wildlife, said in an email that a biodiversity strategy would “elevate the biodiversity crisis as an explicit national priority” and provide a “blueprint for a society-wide approach to tackling the crisis.”

African countries object to funding

Earlier this month, the United Nations called on world governments to double their spending on conservation to a level of about $300 billion a year.

Still, the COP15 agreement calls for $200 billion in spending annually by 2030 — $20 billion of which will go to poorer countries by 2025 and rising to at least $30 billion by 2030.

This amount — far less than what poorer countries had asked for — led to an awkward scene when the agreement was signed, Reuters reported.

Huang Runqiu, COP15 president and China’s ecology minister, announced the closure of the deal at 3:30 a.m. Monday, despite strong objections from the representative of the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to one of the world’s largest rainforests.

The Congolese representative called on wealthier countries to provide more resources for things like forest protection, but Runqiu appeared to ignore the request, Reuters reported.
Cameroon and Uganda also objected to the conclusion, as did delegates from Latin American countries, which also host large, endangered wildernesses.

While the direct funding was much smaller than poorer countries had hoped, signatories agreed to cut subsidies that support wildlife-damaging behaviors — such as incentives for unsustainable fishing or logging — by $500 billion a year by 2030.

The agreement has implications for business

While the US is not an official signatory, the agreement also has serious implications for US-based companies doing business in other countries, with the agreement encouraging the idea of ​​reporting on how companies’ activities affect biodiversity.

One of the 22 agreed provisions suggests that governments should ensure that large transnational corporations and financiers “monitor, assess and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity”.

The agreement is part of a broader pattern in which investors are increasingly calling on companies to disclose biodiversity risks in a manner similar to ongoing calls for climate risk disclosure.

Part of these concerns have to do with reputational risk: investors don’t want to find out that a company they’ve invested money into is doing something embarrassing for the environment.

But other concerns are tied to the growing realization that the global economy is entirely dependent on massive, largely unseen contributions from the natural world.

According to the World Economic Forum, more than half of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) — about $44 trillion — depends on nature and its systems.

But the collapse of those systems — such as forest loss and pollination by insects, a group of animals whose populations are in sharp decline — is on track to cause nearly $3 trillion in global GDP losses by 2030 if drastic action isn’t taken, according to a report. World Bank Report 2021.

While the COP15 agreement is an important milestone in corporate reporting on wildlife, the signatories disagreed with requiring disclosure from the company — merely recommending it.

Proponents say the agreement is great, but there is still more work to be done

Environmental advocates hailed the agreement — and particularly the 30 percent conservation goal — as a big deal. But many said there is more work to be done.

“It’s not the deal we hoped for, but it still gives me hope,” said Sanerib, who argued the treaty would be stronger if it had an agreement to halt extinction.

“It needs to be recognized that humans are causing species extinctions and one of the critical things we need to do right now is to devote all of our attention and resources to stopping that,” she said.

The agreement comes amid the reality that the world has historically failed to meet global biodiversity targets.

World governments failed to meet any of the 20 goals they committed to at the last biodiversity summit in 2010 in Aichi, Japan, the UN found.

The treaty’s provisions are also not legally binding, raising further questions about whether countries will be able to achieve the goals.

“While agreements are great, if we want to save life on Earth, we need to roll up our sleeves and do it now,” Sanerib said.

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