“historic” agreement to protect land and oceans

Left to right: COP15 Deputy Executive Secretary David Cooper, Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu and Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema applaud after the adoption of the biodiversity agreement in Montreal on December 19. Via JULIAN HABER/UN BIODIVERSITY/REUTERS

Under the auspices of China, representatives of more than 190 countries committed to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030 in Montreal. All that remains is to finance this ambition and inform the public.

On the first floor of the Palais des Congrès de Montréal, the speakers of the huge Chinese pavilion, one after another, praise the environmental behavior of the Middle Kingdom. If the declarations are sometimes smiling, China can boast of its success in chairing COP15 biodiversity. “We took a historic step”, said Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Stephen Guilbeault, who hosted the international conference on Monday morning. Washington, for its part, “rotationfor biodiversity.

Here we are at the end of two weeks of meetings and a marathon night of talks between representatives from more than 190 countries. COP15 President Huang Runqiu, China’s Environment Minister, presented the draft agreement on Sunday evening. 4 goals and 23 targets were adopted in the new road map valid until 2030. The main goal of the consensus: to protect 30% of oceans, land and coastal zones by the end of the decade. This is currently the case for 17% of land areas and 10% of marine areas under the Convention on Biological Diversity. This goal was presented by the parties as the biodiversity equivalent of the Paris Agreement, which was adopted by the parties in 2015 and aims to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The Montreal agreement proposes to halve exposure to pesticide risks, restore 30% of altered land, and guarantee indigenous peoples, who are the guarantors of most of the planet’s biodiversity. Other goals include reducing food waste and invasive species.

“It is not a perfect document, it is not a document that will satisfy everyone, but it is a document based on the efforts of everyone over four years”, Huang Runqiu explained at the end of the week. In Montreal, the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity had to agree: on the one hand, more than 1 million species are threatened with extinction and 75% of the planet’s ecosystems are degraded. On the other hand, and this did not escape China, European ministers, trapped by the timetable imposed by Brussels, were to attend the European Energy Council on Monday. So it’s time to sign off. Only the Democratic Republic of the Congo opposed it.

The basis of the discussions was the financial issue. Last week, the craziest numbers resurfaced in the corridors of COP15. Developing countries have called for an annual fund of at least $100 billion to protect nature. Some called for $700 billion a year. The compromise presented on Monday seems to have satisfied most of the various parties. Rich countries will pay $20 billion a year until 2025, and $30 billion after that until 2030. “You can adopt a framework that is as ambitious as possible, but if you don’t know exactly how it will be funded, implementation will not reach the desired level”, COP15 co-chair Francis Ogwal warned Radio-Canada. To date, developed countries pay 7-10 billion dollars annually. “Most people say it’s better than we expected on both sides, both for rich and developing countries. This is the mark of a good text.Gabon’s Environment Minister Lee White told AFP.

Canada was chosen

Rich countries were often chosen during the two weeks of the conference. Canada in particular is too dependent on the economic lobbies of its vast natural resources to really care about biodiversity. From Vancouver to Toronto, where entire floors of metropolis skyscrapers are illuminated at night, the ecological transition has never begun. Canada is second in the world for fossil fuel subsidies with the quiet support of banks. A Radio-Canada article last week noted: “Royal Bank of Canada investments in fossil fuels rise from $19 billion to $39 billion between 2020 and 2022, according to Banking on Climate Chaos.” In the early 2000s, environmental activist Steven Guilbeault invited Canada’s five largest oil companies to COP27. Residents of Indian reservations such as Fort Chipewyan, Alberta are suffering from cancer due to the release of pollutants from oil companies. Abitibi people in Quebec are exposed to arsenic from foundries, and others to asbestos. Examples are legion in Canada, and other than pleasantries from the authorities, there is little hope for the implementation of the COP15 agreement in the country.

France was also criticized. While several speakers blamed Emmanuel Macron’s presence in Qatar to attend the World Cup finals rather than biodiversity in Montreal, France’s Minister of Environmental Transition, Christophe Bechu, surprised some NGOs, including the very dynamic. Climate Action Network. “He just told us that international funding will only come with ambition. Very paternalistic. You won’t say that to African countries”Eddie Perez, climate diplomacy director of the NGO, told the Montreal daily La Presse.

Although the parties reached an admirable agreement, neither the media nor the Canadian public paid attention to it. No Canadian daily ran its front page at COP15 on Monday, preferring to write headlines about Messi or the scandals of the national hockey team’s players accused of sexual harassment. And if Montrealers were expecting tens of thousands of students to oppose COP15, that was not the case. On December 7, the grand opening of the high biodiversity, only a few dozen helmeted green anarchists marched. “Let’s Block COP15”. A thousand people, students and NGOs watched three days later, near Mount Royal, reluctantly. COP16 will be held in Turkey in 2024.

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