A major biodiversity summit will be held in Canada, not China: what scientists think

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Deforestation, in places like the Amazon, contributes to the loss of biodiversity.Credit: Ivan Valencia/Bloomberg/Getty

Researchers are relieved that a pivotal summit to finalize a new global deal to save nature is going ahead this year, after a two-year delay due to the pandemic. But they say the hard work of negotiating an ambitious deal lies ahead.

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) announced yesterday that the meeting will move from Kunming in China to Montreal in Canada. The meeting of representatives from nearly 200 CBD member states — known as COP15 — will now take place from December 5-17. China will continue to chair COP15 and Huang Runqiu, China’s Minister of Ecology and Environment, will continue to chair.

Conservation and biodiversity scientists were increasingly concerned that China’s strict ‘zero COVID’ strategy, which uses measures such as lockdowns to nullify all infections, would force the host country to delay again the meeting. Researchers have warned that another setback to the deal, which aims to halt the alarming rate of species extinctions and protect vulnerable ecosystems, would be disastrous for countries’ ability to meet ambitious biodiversity protection targets. over the next decade.

“We are relieved and grateful to have a firm date for these critically important biodiversity negotiations in this calendar year,” says Andrew Deutz, biodiversity law and finance expert at the Nature Conservancy, a group of conservation in Virginia, USA. “The global community is already overdue to agree, let alone implement, a plan to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030,” he says.

With the date now set, Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, says the key to success in Montreal will be for the new global biodiversity agreement to focus on the direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity. loss of nature, and the behaviors that underlie them. “Policy must be guided by science, action must be adequately resourced, and change must be transformative,” she adds.

New location

The decision to move the meeting came after representatives of the regions of the world that make up the decision-making body of the COP reached a consensus to move it to Montreal. China and Canada then discussed the details of how the move would work. The CBD has provisions that if a host country is unable to hold a COP, the meeting moves to the headquarters of the convention secretariat in Montreal.

Announcing the decision, Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Secretary of the CBD, said in a statement: “I would like to thank the Chinese government for its flexibility and continued commitment to advancing our path towards an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework.” .

In a statement, Runqiu said: “China would like to underscore its strong and continued commitment, as COP President, to ensuring the success of the second part of COP 15, including the adoption of a for Biodiversity Post-2020, and to promote its delivery throughout its presidency.

China has also agreed to pay ministers from least developed countries and small island developing states to travel to Montreal to attend the meeting.

Work in advance

Paul Matiku, environmental scientist and director of Nature Kenya, a conservation organization in Nairobi, Kenya, said the decision “is a welcome decision” after “the world lost patience after a series of postponements”.

But he says wealthy nations need to dig deeper into their pockets to help low- and middle-income countries – home to much of the world’s biodiversity – implement the deal, including reaching goals such as protecting at least 30% of the world’s lands and seas and reducing the rate of extinction. Disputes over funding are already threatening to stall the deal. At a meeting in Geneva in March, the countries failed to move the new deal forward because countries like Gabon and Kenya argued that the $10 billion-a-year funding proposed in the draft text of the agreement was insufficient. They called for $100 billion a year in aid.

“The extent to which the CBD will be implemented will depend on the availability of predictable and adequate financial flows from developed to developing countries,” says Matiku.

Talks on the deal resume in Nairobi from June 21-26, where Deutz hopes the countries can find common ground on key issues such as funding before heading to Montreal. Setting a firm date for COP15 will help move the negotiations forward, he said.

“Negotiators don’t start compromising until they’re faced with a deadline. Now they have one,” he says.

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