After more than four years of negotiations, nearly 200 countries have approved a historic deal to protect and reverse dangerous loss to global biodiversity. The agreement at the COP15 UN biodiversity summit in Montreal, Canada, sets 23 targets and 4 goals aimed at safeguarding biodiversity. The most significant part of the deal is a commitment to protect 30% of land and water by 2030. Currently, 17% of terrestrial and 10% of marine areas are protected. The 23 targets in the accord also include cutting farming subsidies, reducing the risk from pesticides, and tackling invasive species. Besides, the deal also commits to progressively increase the level of financial resources from all sources by 2030, mobilising at least 200 billion dollars per year. Hailed as a landmark deal, it is being compared to the Paris Agreement, which is the international treaty on climate change to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C.
- Healthy, biodiverse ecosystems sustain life on Earth. Despite the value nature provides, it is deteriorating worldwide – a decline projected to worsen under business-as-usual scenarios.
- In the month of December, the world gathered for the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal to strike a landmark agreement to guide global actions on biodiversity through 2030.
- The framework ended with an ambitious plan that implements broad-based action across sectors addressing the key drivers of nature loss and ensure that by 2050, the shared vision of living in harmony with nature is fulfilled.
Key areas agreed:
Conservation, protection and restoration:
- Delegates committed to protecting 30% of land and 30% of coastal and marine areas by 2030, fulfilling the deal’s highest-profile goal, known as 30-by-30.
- This will prevent species losses and bring them close to zero by 2030.
Money for nature:
- Signatories aim to ensure $200 billion per year is channelled to conservation initiatives, from public and private sources.
- Wealthier countries should contribute at least $20 billion of this every year by 2025, and at least $30 billion a year by 2030.
Big companies report impacts on biodiversity:
- The parties agreed to large companies and financial institutions being subject to requirements to make disclosures regarding their operations, to promote biodiversity, reduce the risks posed by/to businesses and encourage sustainable production.
Harmful subsidies: Countries committed to identifying subsidies that deplete biodiversity by 2025, and then eliminate, phase out or reform them.
- The final language focuses on the risks associated with pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals and will focus on reducing the negative impacts of pollution to levels that are not considered harmful to nature.
Monitoring and reporting progress:
- All the agreed aims will be supported by methods to monitor progress in the future, in a bid to prevent this agreement from meeting the same fate as the Aichi targets of 2010.
- National action plans will be set and reviewed, following a similar format used for GHG emissions under U.N-led efforts to curb climate change.
Finance at the core
- Finance played a key role at COP15, with discussions centring on how much money developed countries will send to developing countries to address biodiversity loss.
- It was requested that the Global Environment Facility set up a Special Trust Fund – the GBF Fund – to support the implementation of the GBF, in order to ensure an adequate, predictable and timely flow of funds.
- Countries also approved a series of related agreements to implement the GBF, including on planning, monitoring, reporting and review, which are all vital to ensure progress is made – in the words of the GBF, to ensure that there is not “a further acceleration in the global rate of species extinction, which is already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.”
Challenges to protecting biodiversity:
- Use of GDP as the chief determinant of development.
- GDP calculations exclude the depreciation of assets like nature, degraded by the relentless extraction of resources.
- According to the UN’s Inclusive Wealth (IW) report, although 135 countries did better on inclusive wealth in 2014 compared to 1990, the global GDP growth rate considerably outpaced IW.
There is a need for environmental appreciation and the measurement of “inclusive wealth,” which considers not only financial and produced capital but also human, social, and natural capital.