COP15 vows to protect 30% land, water by ’30

ByJayashree Nandi, New Delhi
Dec 20, 2022 04:16 AM IST

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework aims to bring the loss of areas of high biodiversity importance, including ecosystems of high ecological integrity, close to zero by 2030, while respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

In what some experts call the “Paris moment” for biodiversity, 196 countries (excluding, significantly, the US) signed a historic deal to protect 30% of the world for nature by 2030, reduce environmentally harmful subsidies by at least $500 billion a year, and restore at least 30% (by area) of degraded ecosystems, at the UN Biodiversity Summit (COP15) in Montreal.

Delegates take souvenir photos during a snowfall outside the convention centre at the COP15 UN conference on biodiversity in Montreal, on Friday. (AP)
Delegates take souvenir photos during a snowfall outside the convention centre at the COP15 UN conference on biodiversity in Montreal, on Friday. (AP)

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework aims to bring the loss of areas of high biodiversity importance, including ecosystems of high ecological integrity, close to zero by 2030, while respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

However, demands from the global South, including India, for a new fund were fulfilled only partially by the agreement, which said one would be created within the Global Environment Facility or GEF, the United Nations’s existing biodiversity financing fund, although it said a separate fund could be discussed at future summits. Developed countries said they would provide $30 billion a year to the least developed countries towards protecting biodiversity by the end of the decade.

Also Read | At COP15 summit, India warns developed nations 'one-size-fits-all' unacceptable

While India has reason to be disappointed at the lack of consensus on a new fund, the agreement’s nuanced phrasing of the target on subsidies, the fact that it avoided asking that pollution be reduced to zero, and its mention of an “ecosystem-based approach” are all in sync with the country’s stance on protecting biodiversity.

“The Global Biodiversity Framework sets out to respond to several assessments that provide ample evidence that, despite ongoing efforts, biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide at rates unprecedented in human history. This framework outlines an ambitious plan to implement broad-based action to bring about a transformation in our societies’ relationship with biodiversity by 2030 and ensure that, by 2050, the shared vision of living in harmony with nature is fulfilled,” Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav said on Monday.

Also Read | India to focus on ‘harmony with nature’ at COP15

“India had negotiated strongly and had discussions with the COP Presidency and the CBD Secretariat prior to placing the final Global Biodiversity Framework for adoption. The suggestions from India for keeping all the goals and targets, globally, was accepted, along with other propositions. The most significant contribution of the Indian interventions was that all the targets are kept as global in nature and countries will be free to adopt them as per their circumstances, priorities and capabilities. India could also successfully negotiate that the Ecosystem based approaches should be given due place in all mitigation processes,” he explained.

“The concept of Life style for environment was also given the due place and it was recognised that for achieving the goals of biodiversity conservation enhancing and effective implementation of all the action concept of behavioural change, sustainable lifestyles is important,” he said referring to a target on sustainable consumption.

With four main goals and 23 targets for 2030, the landmark agreement covers various aspects of biodiversity loss. It agreed that at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, and of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity are effectively conserved by 2030. This was one of the most contentious targets discussed by 196 countries and is also known as the 30x30 target.

To be sure, the agreement was not without controversy, with several African nations led by the Democratic Republic of Congo claiming that it was pushed through by the COP15 Presidency, China, despite opposition from it and other African countries, although UN officials maintained that there had been no formal opposition to it.

“This is a challenge with the UN process which follows a principle of consensus. It delays the process but it makes sure all countries are treated equally irrespective of their size and economies,” explained Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy with Climate Action Network.

The framework also agreed to ensure urgent management action to halt human induced extinction of known threatened species; reduce pollution risks and the negative impact of pollution from all sources, by 2030, to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services; identify and eliminate or reform incentives, including subsidies that are harmful for biodiversity by 2025; reduce the overall risk from pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals by at least half; and ensure that people are encouraged to make sustainable consumption choices.

“These are global targets and each party as per their national circumstances and priorities will strive to achieve them. India understands the importance of biodiversity conservation and will take the required steps to implement the GBF,” said Vishaish Uppal, director of governance, law and policy at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India, who attended COP15.

To support the implementation of the framework, parties have agreed that financial resources from all sources will be increased in accordance with Article 20 of the Convention, to support national biodiversity strategies and action plans.

The framework has agreed to mobilise at least $200 billion per year by 2030. This will be done by increasing total biodiversity related international financial resources from developed countries, official development assistance, and from countries that voluntarily assume obligations of developed country parties, to developing countries (in particular the least developed countries and small island developing States) to at least $20 billion per year by 2025, and to at least $30 billion per year by 2030.

The passage of the agreement comes after almost four years of work on the Global Biodiversity Framework at different meetings of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity. COP15 started on December 7 in Montreal with over 10,000 delegates, including official representatives of 196 countries are participating in the negotiations, which Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), described to be the “Paris moment for nature”, alluding to the landmark 2015 Paris climate pact where all countries unanimously agreed to limit global temperature rise within 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial times and make efforts to keep it within 1.5 degrees. The main objective of COP15 was to adopt an ambitious and balanced global biodiversity framework to replace the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which expired in 2020 and were considered a failure by many experts.

Nature’s ‘Paris’ moment

Biodiversity experts from around the world welcomed the deal. “Unlike the World Cup, there isn’t just one winner at COP15. People and nature should both be better off thanks to the deal struck in Montreal. Now it’s done, governments, companies and communities need to figure out how they’ll help make these commitments a reality. That’s the only way to win the ultimate goal: a healthy planet for us all,” said Georgina Chandler, Senior International Policy Advisor, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in a statement.

“Extinction doesn’t negotiate — the science is clear that we need to protect at least half the Earth by 2030. This text is a step forward from where we are, but nature needs a giant leap. Governments should scale up protections, and deliver a clear plan for the full $1 trillion a year that is needed to make this agreement real,” Oscar Soria, Campaign Director, Avaaz in a statement. “Tonight, together we take a bold step forward to protect nature, to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink…,” said Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s environment minister during the closing plenary.

Many issues flagged by India seemed to have been addressed in the GBF though India’s support for a new global biodiversity fund remained unmet.

India was against a numerical target to eliminate harmful subsidies. That has been partially addressed: “Identify by 2025, and eliminate, phase out or reform incentives, including subsidies, harmful for biodiversity, in a proportionate, just, fair, effective and equitable way, while substantially and progressively reducing them by at least 500 billion United States dollars per year by 2030, starting with the most harmful incentives,” the text stated, giving room for developing nations to phase out these subsidies gradually.

“The subsidies provision is not just about eliminating but about repurposing. It is to encourage positive steps say in agriculture. India is already working on soil health and encouraging adoption of organic agriculture,” added Uppal.

India was also against a numerical goal of cutting pollution to zero. The text called for reducing pollution risks and the negative impact of pollution from all sources by 2030 to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity and ecosystem functions. India was of the view that GBF should focus on an ecosystem-based approach rather than nature-based solutions. The text spoke of both approaches.

Nature-based solutions are actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural and modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously benefiting people and nature, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. But several environmentalists and biodiversity experts are also critical of these solutions because they feel the term is vague and can go against the rights of indigenous populations and forest dwellers.

Bhupender Yadav, Union environment minister, on Saturday had called for an ambitious and equitable deal. “The goals and targets set in the global biodiversity framework should be ambitious, yet realistic and practical. Conservation of biodiversity must also be based on common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, as climate change processes affect biodiversity,” he said during the plenary on Saturday.

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