COP15: UN summit reaches agreement to protect world’s land and seas despite objections

Important points
  • The COP15 conference agreed on an agreement that could protect 30 percent of the world’s land and seas.
  • Chinese Ecology and Environment Minister Huang Runqiu dropped the official gavel and declared a proposed deal accepted.
  • This came despite objections from key African nations.
A United Nations summit has endorsed a landmark global deal to protect nature and allocate billions of dollars to conservation, but objections from key African nations, home to large tracts of tropical rainforest, have marred the final passage.
The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which reflects joint leadership by China and Canada, is the culmination of four years of work to create an agreement to guide global conservation efforts through 2030.
Countries attending the United Nations-backed COP15 biodiversity conference had negotiated a text proposed on Sunday, and talks on the intricacies of the deal dragged on until Monday morning.
Delegates were able to reach consensus on the agreement’s ultimate goal of protecting 30 percent of the world’s land and seas by the end of the decade, a goal informally known as 30 by 30.

However, questions about the financial contributions from developed nations to developing countries seemed unresolved as delegates gathered to discuss the adoption of the text.

With China holding the COP15 presidency, Ecology and Environment Minister Huang Runqiu seemed to ignore objections from the DRC delegation to lowering the gavel and signing the deal just minutes after they said they didn’t want the deal could support to declare passed.
“The parties that are developed nations should provide funds to parties that are developing,” the Congolese representative said through a translator.
Mr Huang then confirmed Mexico’s statements supporting the final deal and stated just after 3.30am (local time) that the deal had been accepted, prompting outraged comments from other African delegations.
A representative from Cameroon said through a translator that the deal was done by hand.
A Ugandan representative stated that he did not accept the spirit and manner in which the gavel fell and asked for a record showing that Uganda did not support the process, citing fraud.

A final meeting will take place on Monday.

In addition to supporting 30-by-30 projects, the agreement also directs countries to allocate US$298 billion ($200 billion) a year to biodiversity initiatives in both the public and private sectors
Developed countries will contribute US$37 billion (US$25 billion) annually from 2025 and US$45 billion (US$30 billion) annually by 2030.
The agreement, which includes a total of 23 targets, replaces the failed Aichi Biodiversity Targets of 2010, which were supposed to guide conservation through 2020.
None of these targets were met and no single country met all 20 Aichi Targets within its borders.

Unlike Aichi, the deal includes more quantifiable targets — like reducing harmful industry subsidies by at least $744 billion ($500 billion) a year — that should make it easier to track and report progress.

People stand tall as they applaud at a United Nations meeting on biodiversity.

Participants applaud at a plenary session of the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity (COP15) December 19, 2022 in Montreal, Canada. Source: Getty / LARS HAGBERG/AFP

More than a million species could disappear by the end of the century in what scientists have dubbed the sixth mass extinction event.

Since 1970, up to 40 percent of the Earth’s land surface has been degraded and wildlife populations have declined dramatically.
Investment firms focused the deal on one objective, recommending that companies analyze and report on how their operations impact and are affected by biodiversity issues.

The parties agreed that large corporations and financial institutions would be subject to “requirements” to disclose their operations, supply chains and portfolios – but the word “mandatory” was dropped from previous drafts.

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