COP15: Finance tops list of crunch issues as ministers arrive in Montreal for high-level section of talks

Published 23:22 on December 13, 2022  /  Last updated at 13:19 on December 15, 2022  /  Biodiversity  /  No Comments

Ministers and other top delegates have started to arrive at the UN’s COP15 negotiations ahead of the Dec. 15-17 high-level segment that is meant to polish off a new global agreement on biodiversity.

Ministers and other top delegates have started to arrive at the UN’s COP15 negotiations ahead of the Dec. 15-17 high-level segment that is meant to polish off a new global agreement on biodiversity.

There are 22, or possibly 24, targets on the table to help form the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), spanning issues such as area protection, removing harmful subsidies, and facilitating financial disclosures.

Brackets have been cleared on many of the less contentious issues, but significant work remains.

“Delegates are working so diligently and so hard to achieve a clean text,” said Huang Runqiu, president of COP15 and minister of ecology and environment of China, during a conference mid-point press conference on Tuesday.

“We don’t have too much time left, today is the 13th. We have one week left, and we have to achieve the ambition, we have to achieve the framework. But we have a lot of difficulties,” he added.

Government delegates have been working to clean text ahead of the high-level segment, hoping to allow ministers, vice-ministers, and other high-level representatives to focus in on only the most contentious or political issues.

As of Tuesday, 112 ministers, commissioners, or secretaries of state are expected to show up at the negotiations, including the prime minsters for Libya and Tonga.

Removing brackets before these high-level talks begin is considered crucial but should not come at the expense of the agreement’s ambition, stakeholders have noted, also pointing to “achievability” as another key element in the delicate balance.

“We have an important week ahead of us,” said Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault, who has been at the talks since the opening last week.

“The canaries in our global coal mine are dropping like flies,” he added.

“Ministers are starting to arrive, they need to engage, and we need to come to a successful ambitious agreement.”

FINANCE GAP

Of several pressing issues that remain unresolved, the finance gap as well as Indigenous and human-rights inclusions remain heavily tracked.

While there is broad agreement that more resources are needed to help developing countries implement nature protection, it is not yet clear where that money will come from.

There are limits to what can be offered through publicly-funded official development assistance (ODA), several delegations have warned.

Some parties have called for funding in the range of $100-200 billion per year to help developing countries implement targets under the GBF, a figure that dwarfs current levels of targeted ODA, averaged at only $4-9 billion per year from 2015-17, according to OECD data.

“Resources mobilisation is the key element here,” said Canada’s Guilbeault.

“This is ‘the ring that will control everything’, as a reference of the Lord of the Rings.”

“Clearly we do not have enough money from governments to fund all the needs that we have identified.”

“So we need to review all the possible financial resources, whether it be from the private sector, philanthropy, or multilateral organisations,” he added.

NEW FUND

Some developing countries are calling for the creation of a new fund at COP15 that would be specifically set up to finance biodiversity outcomes.

This new fund, some parties have said, should be more accessible and transparent than the current mechanisms, specifically the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

These funds too often lack representation from Indigenous Peoples and local communities, according to some parties and stakeholders.

“Most of the world’s biodiversity is located on the lands and territories of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, yet our role is undervalued and, in some cases, not even acknowledged,” Ramson Karmushu from International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB), said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“To ensure the GBF has the best chance of reversing the loss of nature, the rights, needs, interests, cultural values, and knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and local communities must be at its heart. That includes allowing them to decide how and when funds should be spent to best conserve the plants, animals, and marine life on which we all depend,” said Ebony Holland, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)’s nature and climate policy lead.

Representatives of Indigenous Peoples and local communities hold just 11% of board seats on funds that have been set up to tackle the biodiversity crisis, these groups pointed out in a statement released Tuesday.

Some governments have pushed back on the idea of creating a new fund, citing inefficiencies compared to using existing mechanisms – although parties such as the EU and Canada have said they remain open-minded despite these concerns.

“We need to listen to what our partners in the Global South, and particularly the African countries, are telling us regarding issues of access, transparency, and predictability,” said Guilbeault when asked about the new fund.

“But the creation of a new fund could take years to set up, and during those years, countries in the South will not be receiving any money … So I think it would be better to use existing funds,” he added.

NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS

The current draft version of the GBF includes eight mentions of the term “nature-based solutions”, including within Target 8, which aims to minimise the impact of climate change on biodiversity, and Target 11, which aims to restore, maintain, and enhance nature’s contributions to people.

But the name “nature-based solutions” is also contentious in some groups, with some saying that the term in synonymous with “carbon offsets”.

“Increasingly, nature-based solutions are being used by corporations to justify continuing fossil fuel extraction and business as usual,” said Thomas Joseph of the Hoopa Valley Tribe with the Indigenous Environmental Network.

“Nature-based solutions are not actually nature based, but human made, through the process of commodification and enhancement, and more recently, manipulation and exploitation,” he added.

During a parallel event on Tuesday, one commentator from a climate justice group pointed to the recent investigation commissioned by Greenpeace, as an argument against the inclusion of the term.

The article claimed that fossil company TotalEnergies’ nature-based solutions project in Congo had resulted in eviction of local people.

Several interventions, statements, and comments made in side-events from various stakeholders have noted the need to scrub the term from the GBF text.

But green group WWF meanwhile made several public comments in support of nature-based solutions on Monday and Tuesday.

“Nature-based climate solutions provide us an important opportunity to bring together action that delivers benefits for biodiversity and climate change at the same time, while also advancing Indigenous-led conservation,” said James Snider, vice president of science, knowledge, and innovation at WWF Canada.

“For me that is a crucial opportunity that we need to embrace, including here within the GBF to ensure that nature-based solutions are recognised in the text,” he added.

By Katherine Monahan – katherine@carbon-pulse.com

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