Political will and the pandemic weigh on talks to save the natural world

Nations aiming to agree on a global plan to save the environment ended their first in-person meeting in two years on Tuesday, saying negotiations needed more time, as observers called for greater political momentum in the race to halt the loss of biodiversity.

Two weeks of talks in Geneva have produced a draft biodiversity framework for living ‘in harmony with nature’ by mid-century – with key milestones in 2030 – to be adopted at the UN’s COP15 conference in China later this year.

But delegates representing nearly 200 nations – but not the United States – agreed to hold further negotiations in Nairobi in June, acknowledging that additions made to the draft by governments would require further negotiations.

The world is facing a catastrophic decline in animals and plants which poses a dual threat to life on Earth with the interrelated threat of climate change.

Stemming extinctions is a daunting task, not least because biodiversity is being undermined by a host of human activities, from intensive agriculture and overfishing to mining and rapid urbanization.

“Biodiversity is not just one place, it is everywhere, it is life,” said Ghanaian scholar Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, who has played a key role in international efforts to protect wildlife and wildlife. diversity of species.

The imperative to set ambitions that will be implemented is all the more urgent as the world has missed almost all of the goals set for the past decade.

“We think this is the last chance we have and if we miss it, we don’t know what will happen,” Oteng-Yeboah said.

‘Future generations’

After two years of pandemic delay, the negotiations sought to incorporate both technical scientific work and high-level negotiations on global goals.

As the talks in Geneva drew to a close on Tuesday, evening delegations called for the process to be kicked into high gear.

Speaking in the closing plenary, New Zealand’s representative said the next meeting should move from countries stating their positions to “negotiating mode”.

While more than 90 nations have pledged to halt biodiversity loss by 2030, delegates said the weight of that political will has yet to be felt in the negotiations.

“Although leaders have repeatedly signaled that they are committed to action on nature, we have seen only limited progress in Geneva,” said Marco Lambertini, chief executive of WWF International, calling for “a greater leadership” for the next round of talks.

The most emblematic objective of the draft text is the protection of 30% of land and oceans by 2030 in the world.

It is backed by a growing number of countries, but delegates warned that even this fundamental goal was not yet certain to be part of the Kunming agreement, with several delegates saying that even China, host of COP15, was reluctant to support the goal.

And experts say that while big goals are important, failure to meet previous ambitions points to deeper challenges.

One of the main ones is money.

A group of nations called at the end of the Geneva meeting for a big increase in funding for developed countries by an additional $100 billion a year, reaching $700 billion (85.14 trillion yen) a year, claiming that the failure to meet previous targets was partly due to a lack of funds.

“We have a responsibility to ourselves, our peoples and our biodiversity, and to present and future generations to live in harmony with nature,” said a statement from the Gabon-led group.

Call to action

Developed countries accept that more funding should go into protecting and restoring natural habitats, but they say it should come from national budgets, international aid, private funding.

The draft text also includes a goal to redirect, reform or remove some $500 billion a year in subsidies that encourage activities harmful to nature.

But several delegates said the negotiations had yet to address the toughest issues.

“We haven’t talked much about the transformation of production, agriculture, urban planning,” said one.

A new meeting in the Kenyan capital will now be held from June 21-26 to finalize the draft text ahead of COP15 in China, which sources say is expected in late August.

Neville Ash, who heads the UN Environment’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, said he was confident COP15 would deliver an ambitious new set of goals and targets.

“We are not short of commitments. The success of the COP is not measured in terms of the outcomes of the meeting itself, it is over the next decade and beyond in the actions taken to deliver on those commitments,” he said.

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