'Historic agreement' at biodiversity COP: 30% of all land and water protected by 2030

'Historic agreement' at biodiversity COP: 30% of all land and water protected by 2030
COP15 in Montréal. Credit: Belga

At the UN biodiversity conference in Montreal (Canada), a "historic agreement" has been reached to protect 30% of all land and water area by 2030, and also to release additional funds to help protect biodiversity in developing countries.

The Chinese president of this conference (COP15), Huang Runqui, announced the agreement – already being called "the biggest effort ever" to safeguard Earth's biodiversity – early on Monday morning, after a long night of negotiating to loud applause from negotiators from about 200 countries.

The most eye-catching aspect of the agreement is that 30% of all land and water on earth will be protected by 2030 in order to preserve and advance biodiversity – or at least slow its decline. Currently, 17% of the earth and 10% of all marine areas are protected. Oceans, as well as rainforests and wetlands, must be better protected from human impacts from now on.

A financial breakthrough was also reached, as the agreement calls for $200 billion to be freed up by the end of this decade for biodiversity projects of all kinds, from various sources, private and public.

At the same time, the amount of money that goes to projects that could harm biodiversity should be reduced by $500 billion, while more money should go directly to developing countries by 2025: $20 billion, roughly double what it is now. By 2030, that would rise to $30 billion a year.

This is the biggest agreement of its kind in history, which comes at a time when biodiversity is greatly suffering worldwide and an urgent and firm agreement was needed to slow the decline. This conference was seen as something of a last chance, said Brian O'Donnell of the advocacy group Campaign For Nature. "Whether the agreement is enough will have to be seen later, but we now have a chance to stop the fall."

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"There are a lot of positive elements in [the agreement]. If governments actually implement it, nature will be better off in 2030 than it is today," said Sue Lieberman of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

This COP15 UN biodiversity conference closes a decade and sets targets for the next decade. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the conference was delayed by two years, and the Chinese presidency (due to Covid restrictions there) moved it to Canada for the final phase of negotiations.

As defined by experts, biodiversity is about more than exotic species: it is also about clean air, clean drinking water and healthy soil, and therefore humanity's entire food system. As everything in nature is interconnected, it essentially also concerns the survival of humanity, they added.

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