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COP15: Nations reach ‘historic’ deal to protect nature

COP 15, MontrealBBC/H Briggs

A new deal to protect nature has been agreed at the UN biodiversity summit, COP 15.

The “historic” plan will put 30% of the planet under protection by the end of the decade.

There will also be targets for safeguarding vital ecosystems such as rainforests and wetlands.

The agreement was finalised in the early hours of Monday in Montreal, Canada.

The following points were agreed:

  • Maintaining, enhancing and restoring ecosystems, including halting species extinction and maintaining genetic diversity of populations of wild animals.
  • “Sustainable use” of biodiversity – essentially ensuring that species and habitats can provide the services they provide for humanity, such as food and clean water, without being destroyed.
  • Ensuring that the benefits of resources from nature, like medicines that come from plants, are shared fairly and equally and that indigenous peoples’ rights are protected.
  • Paying for and putting resources into biodiversity: Ensuring that money and conservation efforts get to where they are needed, particularly the poorest and most biodiverse countries.

The summit in Montreal had been regarded as a “last chance” to put nature on a path to recovery. Throughout the talks there was division over the strength of ambition and how to finance the plans.

One big sticking point was over how to fund conservation efforts in the parts of the globe that harbour some of the world’s most outstanding biodiversity.

Biodiversity refers to all the Earth’s living things and the way they are connected in a complex web of life that sustains the planet.

Lady bird

Getty Images

A new text of the agreement was released on Sunday by China, the official president of the summit, which is also known as COP 15. It had to be moved to Canadian soil due to Covid restrictions in China.

Delegates convened a full session of the summit early on Monday morning after hours of delays, but then agreed to the text quickly.

The president of COP 15, Minister Huang Runqui, brought down the official gavel despite objections from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which said it couldn’t back the deal.

Cop 15 president, Montreal

IISD Mike Muzurakis

Georgina Chandler, senior international policy advisor for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said 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.”

Sue Lieberman of the Wildlife Conservation Society said the agreement was a compromise, and although it had several good and hard-fought elements, it could have gone further “to truly transform our relationship with nature and stop our destruction of ecosystems, habitats and species”.

The agreement follows days of intense negotiations. On Saturday, ministers made impassioned speeches about the need to agree on clear goals to put nature on a path to recovery by the end of the decade.

“Nature is our ship. We must ensure it stays afloat,” said EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius.

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Colombia’s environment minister, Susana Muhamed, drew applause when she called for ambition in protecting the planet for the good of all. “Nature does not have boundaries,” she said.

Scientists have warned that with forests and grasslands being lost at unprecedented rates and oceans under pressure from pollution, humans are pushing the Earth beyond safe limits.

This includes increasing the risk of diseases, like SARs CoV-2, Ebola and HIV, spilling over from wild animals into human populations.

A key sticking point has been finance. In echoes of the climate summit, COP 27, in Egypt, some countries have been calling for a new fund to be set up to help preserve biodiversity, but this was rejected by others.

Follow Helen on Twitter @hbriggs.

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BBC News – Science & Environment

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