The Canadian city of Montreal hosts from this Tuesday until December 19 the UN Conference on Biological Diversity, known by the acronym COP15. Many international environmental negotiations are often overshadowed by summits on climate change. But hand in hand with the emergency generated by global warming is another major crisis: the pressing loss of biodiversity. A single piece of information helps to understand the magnitude of the problem: one million of the around eight million known plant and animal species on the planet are in danger of extinction and face complete disappearance in the coming decades. After this unprecedented situation in the history of humanity there is a mixture of factors that have the same person responsible, man. Changes in land use, overexploitation of resources, climate change itself, invasive species and pollution are behind this decline in biodiversity.
What will be sought during the next two weeks at the Montreal summit, which will have a more technical profile than the meetings on climate change, is to try to stop the loss of biodiversity with an agreement that establishes goals for this decade. “The environmental organizations want the pact that comes out of COP15 to be the Paris Agreement for biodiversity,” sums up Luis Suarez, from WWF. For this, he explains, it is necessary that what is agreed in Montreal allows “reversing the current biodiversity loss curve.” At the moment, conservationists regret that the meeting has “a very technical profile and that no progress has been made at the political level” and they are concerned about the role that the presidency of this summit, which is in the hands of China, may play.
The appointment has been postponed several times due first to the pandemic and then to the harsh covid control measures imposed by China. Finally, this summit, which should have been held in the Chinese city of Kunming in the spring, is now being held in Montreal. Although China continues to hold the presidency of the COP and, therefore, must lead the negotiations that lead to sealing a pact in which, among other things, it is sought that the signatory countries commit to protecting 30% of the earth’s surface and marine by 2030. “Despite the importance of this international summit, it remains relatively unknown by society, which poses a serious risk of losing the opportunity to reach the necessary agreements,” warns Greenpeace. These are the keys to the summit and the pact that is trying to be closed in Montreal.
What is the Convention on Biological Diversity?
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) dates from 1992. It has been ratified by 195 countries, practically all of those that are part of the UN except the United States, which refuses to adhere to this type of international treaty. The agreement’s general objectives are the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable and equitable use of resources. For its development, the COPs are held, from which various sectoral pacts and general goals have emerged. At the tenth COP, held in 2010 in the Japanese city of Nagoya, the so-called Aichi Targets for Biological Diversity and the strategic plan for the period between 2011 and 2020 were agreed upon.
Have the 2020 goals been met?
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No. Twenty goals were set and none have been fully met, the latest major review conducted under the auspices of the convention warned. Only six of the two dozen Aichi targets can be considered partially met. The low level of compliance does not mean that some progress has not been made, such as the reduction in the rate of deforestation or the increase in the surface area of protected areas, which in the last 20 years went from 10% to 15%. % in land areas and from 3% to 7% in marine areas, although without reaching the Aichi targets.
In the case of the recovery of degraded lands, the objective has not been achieved either. The goal for 2020 was to have managed to restore at least 15% of these areas of the planet in order to also contribute to the fight against climate change and desertification. But little progress has been made in that regard, the convention study admitted. In addition, it has not been possible to end the extinction of species, as claimed in Aichi, although the plans that have been put in place have had positive impacts. “It is likely that without the conservation measures adopted in the last decade the number of extinctions of birds and mammals would have been at least two to four times higher,” the convention analysis noted. But the document stressed that a drastic change is needed to be able to save the close to a million threatened species.
What are you looking for now?
What is pursued now is to promote this radical change of direction. In the draft agreement with which Montreal is reached, 22 goals are established for this decade. Although practically all the points are under discussion and we must wait until the end of the summit, some of the objectives that are trying to be promoted are already outlined. For example, it is pointed out that 30% of the planet’s ecosystems should be protected by 2030. Or the setting of a new objective for the restoration of degraded areas —the draft points to at least 20% or 30% of areas of this type on the planet by the end of this decade.
In addition, the text calls for halving the rate of introduction and establishment of exotic species and their eradication, and opens the door to limiting the use of pesticides and toxic chemical substances in agriculture. It is also expected to advocate for reducing food waste and overconsumption. In addition, one of the goals in the draft is dedicated specifically to public aid and incentives that are considered harmful to nature, which is expected to include some call for the reduction or elimination of subsidies such as those linked to fuels. fossils.
To develop these goals and try to guarantee their fulfillment, the pact advocates the formula of national biodiversity strategies and action plans, which all signatories to the pact should present with concrete objectives. The Aichi Goals already contemplated the preparation of national plans of this type, but Suárez, from WWF, maintains that in the last decade the mechanisms to measure the real progress of the countries have failed, since there has not been a good reporting system of national promises.
One of the points that could be more complicated is the financing that should be mobilized from developed countries to protect biodiversity and reverse degradation processes, such as deforestation. In many cases, those areas to be protected and restored are precisely in the less wealthy nations but which are still reserves of the planet’s biodiversity.
From now to 2030, it is estimated that 700,000 million dollars more will need to be invested annually than is currently the case if global biodiversity is to be effectively protected. And with the agreement that comes out of Montreal it is intended to “involve the public, private and philanthropic sectors to close the financing gap by 2030 biodiversity”, explains the convention. In the draft of the pact with which this COP15 is reached, the creation of a fund for biodiversity and various types of mechanisms is mentioned, although the options are so many that it is difficult to anticipate which commitment will finally go ahead.
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