Historic deal on biodiversity protection reached at COP15 in Montreal

Historic deal on biodiversity protection reached at COP15 in Montreal

The most significant ocean and land conservation pledge in history was made at COP15, the UN Biodiversity Conference, that was held from 7 to 19 December 2022 in Montreal, Canada. Over 190 countries signed an agreement promising to protect 30% of the earth’s lands, coastal areas, and inland waters by 2030, committing US$200 billion to this end.

Early on Monday, 19 December at COP15, after two weeks of negotiations, together, the countries reached a comprehensive agreement on 23 targets promising to halt the biodiversity crisis. This agreement intends to protect 30% of land and oceans by the end of the decade, in contrast to 17% of land and 10% of oceans currently being protected.

While tension grew over the funding commitments during the conference eventually, in the final agreement, the countries agreed to commit US$200 billion to support biodiversity by 2030. Another US$500 billion can be expected if subsidies, including those for food or fuel, are reformed or phased out. The countries also agreed to pay developing countries more than they currently received to protect nature with the amount of support reaching US$30 billion annually by the end of the decade for conservation in developing countries and the protection of the rights of indigenous people.

The decisions came at a time when the biodiversity crisis appears to have reached worrying levels. In 2019, a UN report revealed that human activities put up to 1 million land and marine species at risk of extinction. According to some scientists, the earth is actually entering the sixth human-driven mass extinction due to actions such as the mass pollution of oceans and rivers, the extensive use of fossil fuels, and deforestation.

Achim Steiner, the head of the UN Development Programme, called the final deal “historic” and noted: “This agreement means people around the world can hope for real progress to halt biodiversity loss and protect and restore our lands and seas in a way that safeguards our planet and respects the rights of indigenous people and local communities.”

For her part, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Andersen, praised “the ambitious targets, goals and financing” but noted that these “represent but a first step in resetting our relationship with the natural world. For far too long, humanity has paved over, fragmented, over-extracted, and destroyed the natural world on which we all depend. Now is our chance to shore up and strengthen the web of life, so it can carry the full weight of generations to come,” she added.

Even though the countries came to an agreement during the conference, some remained dissatisfied with the outcomes and criticized the deal calling it insufficient. For instance, the Democratic Republic of Congo did not agree to support the agreement, highlighting that during the conference, not all the processes were appropriately followed.

The deal, however, is not legally binding, meaning that governments cannot be punished if the progress made is inadequate. Nonetheless, the participants agreed to launch a monitoring framework to evaluate the progress being achieved towards meeting the targets. During the conference, the participants also agreed to establish a platform that would support countries to accelerate the agreement’s implementation.