Little progress during biodiversity protection conference in Geneva

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Bee on flower, photo: Jenna Lee via Unsplash

Around 1,000 negotiators from 164 countries made little progress during a conference in Geneva about a global biodiversity deal to stop or reverse nature loss. The conference ended Tuesday, with the only formal agreement being another round of negotiations in Kenya in June.

The meeting in Switzerland was meant to be the last before the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biodiversity meeting in China, where countries are due to approve a deal to protect around 1 million plant and animal species threatened with extinction.

The framework has the potential to be the biodiversity equivalent of the 2015 Paris climate deal, but Greenpeace East Asia senior policy adviser Li Shuo said the process was “on shaky ground”.

“This process has so far been ill-designed and underwhelming,” Shua added. A group of countries, including Britain, the United States and New Zealand, said that moving forward would require a “fundamental shift in our approach”.

The final draft text showed a large portion of the framework’s 21 targets in square brackets, indicating a lack of formal agreement. Targets include goals for reducing pesticide use and eliminating billions of dollars in agricultural subsidies that incentivise farmers to destroy nature.

On the primary mission of stopping and reversing biodiversity losses, negotiators could not decide whether they were aiming for 2030 or 2050.

Another significant issue is how the framework will be financed, with Africa and developing countries calling on wealthy nations to provide up to $700 billion in annual funding by 2030.

“The current architecture for global biodiversity financing should be transformed,” Stanislas Stephen Mouba, Gabon’s head of delegation, told the conference.

One positive outcome – but not yet formalised – is that participants said there was support from a broad coalition of countries around the idea of protecting 30% of land and sea areas globally by 2030.

But experts agreed that setting a new target to rescue Earth’s animals and plants from human destruction is the easy part and will be ineffective without funding and rigorous monitoring.

“I think the whole world is pretty convinced that conserving nature is essential for the future of the planet, even big business and industry,” said Trevor Sandwith, director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Centre for Conservation Action.

But while a percentage goal is “easy to aim at, easy to measure”, it only tells part of the story, Sandwith said. The world failed almost entirely to reach similar objectives set in 2010 under the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity.

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