February 9, 2023

Filipino Guardian

Sentinels of Filipino Free Press

The UN treaty on nature can help wildlife as long as countries deliver

Apo Myna—Neon Rosell

MONTREAL — A new conservation agreement passed at this week’s United Nations (UN) summit in Montreal puts the world on a strong path to halt nature’s rapid decline — but only if wealthy nations commit enough funds and all Countries prioritize nature conservation.

The goals of the agreement, known as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, include halting species extinction, conserving 30% of the world’s land and sea by 2030, and mobilizing $200 billion a year for conservation .

Conservationists hailed the accord’s ambition, saying it is tantamount to a Paris Agreement for nature, setting out 23 specific targets against which countries can measure their progress.

“This is in line with the global climate target of 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said Marco Lambertini, director general of the World Wildlife Fund International.

Setting the targets alone required four years of negotiations, culminating in this month’s “COP15” summit in Montreal, where countries weighed natural considerations against other burdens such as economic development and industrial competition.

At stake is nothing less than the survival of hundreds of thousands of species, with the UN saying about 1 million are currently threatened with extinction.

But achieving the 23 goals will be much more difficult, conservation experts told Reuters, requiring strong political will and a willingness to sacrifice some of the world’s finest real estate to nature.

“What really matters is how these targets translate into national plans,” said Nick Isaac, macroecologist at the UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology.

Developing countries will also depend on obtaining much-needed funds to incentivize conservation and meet the costs.

“The key will be for developed countries to meet their funding commitments early,” said a negotiator from a Latin American country.

POSSIBLE ROAD BLOCKS

While the deal includes an ambitious goal of protecting 30% of land and sea by 2030, results will depend on which areas are chosen for protection – and what exactly counts as protection.

Neither is strictly defined in the agreement, leaving it up to countries to decide how ambitious they will be.

Scientists and conservation groups have urged countries to protect biodiversity-rich land and sea areas. The problem is that these are the same areas where most people prefer to live and work – with temperate weather and plenty of water and greenery available.

“The choice of regions to protect…must be based on the best available data and methods,” said Alexandre Antonelli, Science Director of Britain’s Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. “Otherwise there is a great risk that the cheapest areas will be protected and not those that are most important for biodiversity.”

Experts say what countries consider protected also matters.

During the talks, delegates debated whether protected areas should be completely closed to human habitation and development, or whether some resource extraction should be allowed if they are managed sustainably. The deal left the question unsettled.

Some countries have already started to exclude protected areas.

China has closed almost a third of its country to development. Canada, one of the largest nations in the world, is expanding protected land and sea areas in the Arctic.

Later this month, the US Congress is expected to pass legislation to provide US states with $1.4 billion in annual funding for conservation.

SHOW US THE MONEY

During the two-week COP15 summit, ministers repeatedly insisted that any conservation claim must be matched with money.

Funding from industrialized countries ended up well below the required $100 billion a year. Instead, the deal included a pledge to provide $200 billion annually through 2030 from the public and private sectors — including $30 billion from wealthy nations.

Without this money, poorer nations warned that they could not guarantee the protection of nature within their borders.

“Global protection of the Amazon, Congo Basin forests, peatlands, mangroves and reefs will require a significant increase in funding,” said Brian O’Donnell, executive director of the nonprofit Campaign for Nature.

“Political leaders are just beginning to realize how high the priority of biodiversity should be on their agendas and in their budgets,” he said.

At COP15, the three largest rainforest nations – Brazil, Congo and Indonesia – worked together over the past few hours to reach consensus on the deal. The three had just announced a new partnership last month to work together on forest conservation.

“Such an alliance has great potential,” said Anders Haug Larsen of the Rainforest Foundation Norway. “As the agreement gives priority to areas of greatest biodiversity, the protection of the rainforest will implicitly be at the heart of its implementation.” – Reuters