Over 190 countries of the United Nations agreed to a framework for wildlife protection and living in harmony with nature on December 19. This was the last day of a biodiversity conference. This meeting was delayed in 2020 after several years of negotiation and compromises between the parties. This singular goal was the basis for the new agreement.
Experts say that doing this offers the best chance for the world to reach the three objectives outlined in the Global Biodiversity Framework: to conserve wildlife, ensure sustainable use of nature, and equitably share genetic resources.'The last two weeks in Montreal placed nature at the forefront of global policy discussions. The agreement struck today among the participating 196 countries could mark a turning point in mending our broken relationship with nature,' said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund-US, in a statement. 'In the US, we take heart that—though our country is not a party to the underlying convention—the Biden administration has already embraced many of the principles of the agreement.'Today, wildlife species are most threatened by habitat loss due to agriculture, exploitation due to overhunting, climate change, invasive species, and pollution.
The new framework includes four overall goals and 23 targets that touch on each of these drivers of wildlife decline and offers much-needed solutions to help reverse biodiversity loss. Among some of the targets that were agreed to include a pledge to protect and conserve 30 percent of Earth's land, freshwater, and oceans by 2030, a critical goal that at least 120 nations had already committed to, including the United States, which is not a member of the convention. Additionally, the countries vowed to respect the rights and input of Indigenous communities, eliminate subsidies that are harmful to nature, and to gradually increase the amount of finance for nature conservation to $200 billion by 2030. A part of that funding will come from the Global Environment Facility, a multilateral, United Nations-style funding mechanism for conservation projects.Along with the Global Biodiversity Framework, five other frameworks were passed by the governing panel: monitoring, capacity building, planning and review, financing, and digital sequencing information.
The last category requires countries to share genetic information obtained from nature equitably. This information, which includes DNA, is key to providing scientific breakthroughs in areas such as medicine, agriculture, and combating poaching and wildlife smuggling. While there were some initial concerns, the delegates broke out into a round of applause following the gavel drop by Huang Runqiu, the president of the Fifteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15). 'After four years of work, we have now reached the end of our journey,' said Runqiu, who is also the Chinese Environment Minister, to the crowd of delegates around 4 a.m.
local time. 'And we have before us the fruits of our work … which I think can guide us all to work together to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, to put biodiversity on the path of recovery.'There was some discord after a group of African nations expressed a desire for more clarity and assurance that funding from developed countries would flow to developing countries. Many of them, including some of the most biodiversity-rich nations on the planet, said this is needed to help meet the conservation targets.
One delegate from the Democratic Republic of Congo stated that Article 20 of the convention requires developed countries to provide resources to developing countries in order to cover the extra costs of implementation. "Our experience shows that we are still not ready for this process." Cameroon's other representative said that the deal was ratified by force. David Ainsworth from the Information Office of the United Nations Environment Programme stated that despite these grievances, no one raised formal objections for the passage of this package. The agreement was adopted unanimously.
NGOs such as the Center for Biological Diversity expressed concern about the lack of funding and said that the agreement did not go far enough to guarantee the immediate end to human-caused extinctions. Lina Barrera (Vice President for International Policy Conservation International) said that some of its ambitions were weakened by targets to address climate change, foster nature's contributions, and reduce the loss of biodiversity-rich areas to near zero. However, most groups believe the agreement is a win in the long-term for wildlife and nature. Other targets included restoring at least 30% of degraded lands, reducing biodiversity loss to near zero, reducing global food waste by half, and requiring large transnational corporations to disclose the nature-threatening effects of their activities. The next step is the difficult task of actually implementing these plans.
The lack of political will to put in place the previous biodiversity framework, called the Aichi Targets, was primarily seen as its biggest failure. More than a decade after that agreement was reached, none of those targets have been reached. According to people close to this year's negotiations, a dedicated monitoring and review process will hopefully help bolster countries' efforts to put together the biodiversity strategies and plans needed to reach the targets. The condensed time frame that counties have to achieve the goals makes the job even more complicated.
The GBF is meant to be a decade agreement, but since the first COP15 was postponed until now, countries only have eight years to achieve what was supposed to be done in 10. While the collection of frameworks has been agreed to, there's still plenty of work to be done. Working groups, where representatives for delegates convene to discuss ideas within the agreement, have yet to meet to discuss the long-term goals and strategy for mainstreaming wildlife considerations into society. There's also more work to be done on how to bridge the financing gap of $700 billion needed to tackle all of the threats that nature is currently under.
These targets must be implemented by countries over the next eight years. Many hope that this will happen before COP16 in Turkey 2024. Barrera said that there is a lot to be done. We will create a new reality if we implement it with passion and care. This will be the type of transformation that we need.