A global agreement to protect a significant percentage of the world’s lands and waters will be reached by the time the COP15 nature convention ends on Monday, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Sunday.
Guilbeault spoke on the second to last official day of the conference, as negotiators in Montreal pored over the draft of an agreement that would also include mobilizing hundreds of billions of dollars to fund the pledges.
Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu released the new draft of the Kunming-Montreal Global biodiversity framework on Sunday morning.
It preserves the marquee goal of ensuring that 30 per cent of “terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services,” be effectively conserved by 2030.
That should include recognition of Indigenous territories when applicable, it adds.
It also includes a commitment to mobilize at least US $200 Billion per year from both public and private sources to finance nature, and to reduce subsidies that are harmful to nature by at least $500 Billion by 2030.
The final draft came after nearly two weeks of negotiations among 196 countries who are part of the UN biodiversity convention. They are seeking a new deal to halt the human destruction of nature and to begin restoring what has already been lost.
The United Nations estimates three-quarters of the world’s land has been altered by human activities and one million species face extinction this century as a result.
Guilbeault told reporters that while some countries were still seeking adjustments to the agreement on Sunday afternoon, many have voiced their support for the text as it stands.
He said he expects a deal on the framework to be reached by Monday, and compared its potential significance to the climate change deal reached in Paris in 2015.
“Six months ago, we didn’t even know if we would have a COP this year, let alone a Paris moment for biodiversity, and that’s sincerely where I think we’re heading,” he told reporters outside the closed-door meeting where negotiators continued to debate the text.
The framework seeks to find a balance between the countries pushing for more ambitious targets and developing nations who insist those targets need to be met with equally ambitious financing commitments from richer countries to help meet them, delegates and observers said.
The agreement proposes to have developed countries commit to providing developing countries at least US$20 billion per year by 2025, and $30 billion per year by 2030.
Maria Susana Muhamad Gonzalez, Colombia’s Environment minister, said she believed that last number will need to come up to between $30 billion and $100 billion per year.
But she noted that broad consensus appeared to have been reached in many areas, including the 30 per cent protection goal, restoration of degraded lands and recognition of Indigenous people.
“I’m very optimistic that, as the main goals have been landed and there is no general opposition to these goals, we have made a very important step forward,” she told reporters outside the closed-door meeting.
Virginijus Sinkevicus, environment commissioner at the European Commission, said the text represents a “compromise” and a “solid document on which we can work.”
But he said the agreement needs to be strengthened, noting there are no numerical targets on a key goal that includes halting human-induced species extinctions by 2050 and increasing the abundance of native wild species.
“We could clearly see increased ambition on resource mobilization, but then there are no numerical values in Goal A at all, and that’s of course, very problematic for the framework to be adopted in 2030,” he said.
A draft on the issue of resource mobilization proposes the creation of a dedicated global biodiversity fund, which is a key demand of developing nations and one that some developed nations have been resisting.
But the draft suggests the fund could be a dedicated entity within the existing Global Environment Fund preferred by Europe and G7 countries, including Canada.
Other targets in the draft agreement include reducing the impacts of pollution and invasive species and ensuring businesses monitor and disclose the affect of their activities on biodiversity.
Representatives of environment and civil society groups praised the text’s conservation and finance goals, but said it fell short in other areas.
Brian O’Donnell, the director of Campaign for Nature, said the text would be the “world’s largest commitment to biodiversity conservation” if adopted as written.
He particularly praised the text’s inclusion of Indigenous rights, which he said could herald “the start of a new era of conservation in which Indigenous people’s rights and leadership are included.”
However, he said he’s worried about language on “sustainable use” in protected areas and said more clarification is needed on the commitment to oceans.
Eddy Perez of Climate Action Network Canada described the accord as an “ambitious” one that puts pressure on developed nations when it comes to finance.
“China is telling the world, ‘if we want more ambition on biodiversity action at the international level, we also need more resources,”’ he said in an interview.
He said the finance package sets the bar “really high,” even if the proposed amount of aid still falls below what some developing nations have been asking for.
But he said the language on pesticides is weak and reiterated concerns over the lack of measurable goals on reducing extinctions by 2030.
The final adoption of the agreement could come as soon as Sunday night as delegates meet in an evening plenary.
China is officially the president of COP15 and as such oversees the negotiations. But the conference itself was moved to Canada because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in China.
The new agreement would be titled the Kunming-Montreal Global biodiversity framework after the host cities.