Historic biodiversity pact inspires, but past failures loom

MONTREAL (AP) — One day after negotiators reached a groundbreaking biodiversity deal, pressure was already mounting on countries, business leaders and the environmental community to deliver on their ambitious pledges to protect the planet — not repeat the failures of previous deals .

Delegates expressed optimism in Montreal on Tuesday that things will be different this time, mainly due to greater funding provisions in the global biodiversity framework and stronger language around countries reporting, measuring and verifying progress. There is also growing public awareness about the threats facing rainforests, oceans and other ecologically important areas.

“We have seen unprecedented mobilization for biodiversity protection,” Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault said at the closing press conference of the United Nations Biodiversity Conference. 2025 and tripling our funding by 2030 is a clear sign.”

The most important part of the agreement is a commitment to protect 30% of the world’s land and water considered important for biodiversity, known as 30 by 30, by 2030. Currently, 17% of the terrestrial and 10% of the marine areas protected.

The deal also calls for raising $200 billion for biodiversity from a range of sources by 2030 and working to phase out or reform subsidies that could raise another $500 billion for nature. As part of the financing package, the framework calls for the money going to poor countries to be increased to at least $20 billion a year by 2025. That number could rise to $30 billion each year by 2030.

The challenge now is to deliver on those commitments.

The new framework “is the equivalent of simply agreeing on the ‘to-do list’ — now the hard work has to begin to make sure it gets done,” said Terry Townshend, a Beijing-based fellow for the Paulson Institute, which had previously estimated the annual funding shortfall for biodiversity at about $700 billion.

Last time, countries failed to fully meet any of the targets of the previous 10-year agreement, only partially reaching six by 2020. The failures led some to question whether it’s worth it this time around was to set more ambitious targets.

Some complained that past objectives were too vague, while others cited multi-year delays in establishing a reporting mechanism. There was also a lot less money in that deal.

But the new targets are more precise and cover a wider range of issues impacting biodiversity, including pollution, invasive species and pesticides. There is also clearer language for protecting the rights of indigenous communities and respecting their role in biodiversity decisions.

Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, told The Associated Press that part of the problem with the targets set in 2010 was that the negotiators were “all inside the environmental bubble” when they agreed on a framework.

“Right now there’s a global conversation going on,” Andersen said. “I would say the difference between these 12 years is that there is a broader community engagement. Some countries will come closer and closer to the targets we have now set, others will exceed them. Others may not.”

As part of the framework, the nearly 190 parties are being asked to adapt their national biodiversity strategies to the goals achieved in Montreal. Those will be reviewed at COP16 in Turkey in 2024 to assess progress, challenges facing countries and progress in getting funding into the hands of developing countries.

“Governments worldwide have clearly set specific, numerical goals to restore degraded land and habitat and similarly expand protected areas,” said Eliot Whittington, policy director at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

Duke University ecologist Stuart Pimm said these goals give governments and civil society a “measurement of whether we are succeeding or not.”

“The devil is always in the details,” said Pimm. “Promises are made and not always kept, but we understand there is money involved. If we want to stop deforestation in Brazil, Congo and Indonesia, we need funding from richer countries.”

But others said the agreement fell short of establishing a strong system to monitor the country’s progress, meaning it will be the responsibility of credible, independent third parties to measure progress.

“The failure of countries to establish robust systems for monitoring progress towards biodiversity goals is a notable weakness in the outcome,” said Craig Hanson, general manager for programs for the nonprofit World Resources Institute. “Monitoring progress with robust, credible systems is critical to ensuring countries’ actions have the intended impact and freeing up funding for nature-based solutions.”

Others praised the language in the private sector paper. It calls for legal and administrative policies that enable business, especially larger and transnational companies, to “regularly monitor, assess and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity”.

“The corporate disclosure target for biodiversity risks also sends a strong signal to the private sector that it needs to adapt its business models and investment strategies to a nature-positive economy,” said Townshend of the Paulson Institute.

But some environmental groups suggested that big business had held the conference hostage and that the language related to business was little more than “greenwashing.”

“The text does not regulate companies and instead promotes greenwashing measures such as ‘Nature-Based Solutions’, which enable compensation for environmental destruction,” said Nele Marien, Forests and Biodiversity Coordinator for Friends of the Earth International, in a statement. .

Kaddu Sebunya, CEO of African Wildlife Foundation, said the new agreement “provides a foundation for many of the changes we need in conservation, especially in how conservation is funded.”

Nearly a third of the world’s biodiversity is in Africa, even though “Africa receives less than 4% of global funding for biodiversity,” Sebunya said. “That needs to be changed,” he said, adding that the new framework could jump-start the change.


Larson reported from Washington, DC


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