COP15: Global deal in the balance as biodiversity talks enter final stretch

Published 04:08 on December 18, 2022  /  Last updated at 00:54 on December 19, 2022  /  Biodiversity  /  No Comments

A handful of thorny issues remain unresolved as delegates at COP15 prepare for the final two days of negotiations in Montreal, even as a steady drip of new funding announcements over the past couple of days have intended to brighten the mood of the talks.

A handful of thorny issues remain unresolved as delegates at COP15 prepare for the final two days of negotiations in Montreal, even as a steady drip of new funding announcements over the past couple of days have intended to brighten the mood of the talks.

The almost 200 nations gathered in the Canadian city have until Monday to agree on a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) built around an overarching goal to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030, lay the foundations for a reporting and monitoring programme, and put in place a financing mechanism to support the targets.

Steven Guilbeault, environment minister of COP host Canada, struck a hopeful tone when addressing reporters on Saturday.

“I’ve heard a lot of support for ambition from all corners of the world,” the minister said. “Everyone wants to leave here with an ambitious agreement.”

However, reaching a deal on the headline 30×30 target might be the easy bit. Securing finance and formulating the goal in a way that puts meaningful obligations on individual countries is, as expected, proving much more difficult.

There is talk about ramping up government finance to $200 billion per year by 2030 and using the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as the biological diversity convention’s financial mechanism, at least on an interim basis, but there is still a huge gap between that funding target and what nations have actually committed to contributing.

“The 30×30 is a headline target, but you can’t deliver 30×30 without a whole range of other things being agreed as well,” said Zac Goldsmith, a UK environment minister, according to AP.

“We’re not going to have 30×30 without finance. We’re not going to have it unless other countries do as Costa Rica has and break the link between agricultural productivity and land degradation and deforestation. And we’re not going to be able to do any of these things if we don’t address … subsidies.”

Agricultural subsidies are responsible for a significant share of global biodiversity loss, but there is little indication that COP15 will see major commitments to phasing those out.

“I reiterated that for the developing nations, agriculture is a paramount economic driver for rural communities, and the critical support provided to these sectors cannot be redirected,” Bhupender Yadav, India’s environment, forest, and climate change minister, wrote in a weekend blog post.

“Hence, India does not agree to reducing the agriculture related subsidy and redirecting the savings for biodiversity conservation, as there are many other national priorities.”

Instead, he reiterated India’s position, as well as that of most other developing countries, that developed nations must step up their funding efforts.

India is also among nations pushing for the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” – known from decades of climate negotiations – be included in the biodiversity convention.

One tricky issue that might see a solution in Montreal, however, is that of compensation for developing countries for use of genetic biodiversity resources in developing medicine and other products.

The environment ministers of Norway and Chile were asked to develop a proposal for how to handle the issue, meant to ensure that countries that provide the genetic material used in pharmaceutical developments receive some of the economic benefits.

In the proposal, Norway and Chile recommended that products developed based on data from a global “gene bank” will be subject to fees, and that those fees go to a fund set up to protect and restore nature in poor nations.

“It is important that it will only be an agreement if the other two parts (finance and ambition) are also agreed. This agreement will have three legs, and it looks like we have now settled one of those,” Espen Barth Eide, the Norwegian environment minister, told reporters on Saturday.

ACCELERATOR

Meanwhile, the governments of Colombia and Germany on Saturday launched an initiative designed to support developing nations in implementing their biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs).

Germany pledged €29 mln to the new NBSAP Accelerator Partnership, initiated by Colombia, with several other countries also pledging contributions.

“The NBSAP Accelerator Partnership launched today will enable us to start implementing the new global biodiversity framework as soon as it has been adopted,” Steffi Lemke, the German environment minister, said in an announcement.

“We want to establish a genuine partnership in which all stakeholders are involved and take responsibility,” she added.

The new partnership will facilitate mutual assistance between governments on issues such as revising, implementing, monitoring, and reviewing NBSAPs, as well as integrate other complementary initiatives, according to the German statement.

Germany said €20 mln of its commitment would go towards setting up an architecture for the partnership, a match-making mechanism, indicator reporting and monitoring, and capacity building.

The final €9 mln will focus on the implementation of updated national biodiversity strategies, or knowledge transfer and South-South exchange, the government added.

NEW FUNDS

The last couple of days have also seen a number of new biodiversity finance commitments from develop nations.

Canada on Saturday announced C$255 mln ($185.8 mln) in addition to the C$350 mln announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the opening day of the talks.

The majority of the new funds, C$219 mln, will go to the GEF, while the rested will be shared between the UNDP’s Programme Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN), Morocco’s decade-long forestry programme, and women’s climate action initiatives in West Africa.

Norway, too, announced new funding on Saturday as part of what it said would be a “significant step-up” in finance in the years to 2026.

For 2023, that will mean NOK120 mln ($12.1 mln), which will go towards the NBSAP Accelerator Partnership, BIOFIN, the Legacy Landscapes Fund, and the gene bank the country proposed along with Chile.

That came after the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Australia, Japan, the US, and others made similar finance commitments over Thursday and Friday.

AUSTRALIAN SUMMIT

Meanwhile, Australia’s environment minister Tanya Plibersek on Saturday announced the country intends to host a global nature positive summit in 2024.

“The summit will focus on how to encourage private finance for on-the-ground nature repair projects, such as restoring mangroves, protecting waterways, and re-establishing habitat for threatened species,” the minister said.

Australia is the only nation in the world in the process of setting up a national framework for voluntary biodiversity credits, which it refers to as a “Nature Repair Market”, and such market-based mechanisms will be a central theme at the 2024 summit, with the exact location and time yet to be confirmed.

“The Nature Positive Summit will help all nations, especially developing nations, get the knowledge, tools, and technical support they need to attract private investment in nature,” said Plibersek.

“Many businesses want to invest in nature. Their customers, their investors, their staff, and their exposure to nature-related risks demand it. Governments must work to make that easier, and help guide private investment to where it will benefit nature the most,” she added.

By Stian Reklev – stian@carbon-pulse.com

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