UN biodiversity conference opens with warning: ‘We are killing ourselves by proxy’

World leaders seem to agree that the world’s land and ocean ecosystems are in troublebut deep divisions continue to plague discussions about how to protect nature for the next generation.

The United Nations Biodiversity Conference – known as COP15 – opened on Tuesday and will run until December 19 in Montreal, Canada, with the aim of adopting a global strategy biodiversity framework and roadmap that includes protection, conservation, restoration and management.

With 190 participating nations – not officially including the United States – the idea is to broker a deal to protect 30% of Earth’s land and waters by 2030, a steep climb since only 10% of life marine and 17% of terrestrial ecosystems are currently protected. in a global agreement. Huge issues are on the agenda, including eliminating plastic waste from the oceans, reducing pesticide use and raising $200 billion to fund the effort.

Opening the event, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, was greeted with a protest in the room and made it a point of pride, saying delegates may not agree, but “we we all work together, we all listen to each other” to protect the environment. .

Trudeau said that if the world “can’t agree … on something as fundamental as protecting nature, nothing else matters.”

“When it comes to biodiversity, we are at war with nature,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. “And ultimately, we commit suicide by proxy.”

Guterres called for concerted actions by governments, the private sector and financial institutions:

  • Governments must develop “bold national action plans” in everything from food and finance to energy and infrastructure, redirecting subsidies and tax breaks “away from nature-destroying activities towards green solution”.
  • The private sector “must recognize that profit and protection must go hand in hand”, with more sustainable production, accountability and compliance with strict regulatory frameworks.
  • International financial institutions need to “align their portfolios” with conservation and sustainability.

“We cannot expect developing countries to shoulder the burden alone,” Gutteres noted, calling for “bold financial support” from wealthier nations.

United Nations Biodiversity Conference
Benoit Charette, Minister of Sustainable Development and Environment of Quebec, speaks during a roundtable with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, at the Youth Summit of the United Nations Conference on biodiversity (COP15) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on December 6, 2022.

ANDREJ IVANOV/AFP via Getty Images

Although there is some hope for a new deal, many observers are skeptical.

“The chances of getting a deal seem very slim,” Oscar Soria, campaign manager for nonprofit Avaaz, told CBS News.

President Biden has said he is committed to increasing conservation in the United States with the goal of protecting 30% of its lands and waters by 2030. United States Special Envoy for Biodiversity and water resources, Monica Medina, who leads the U.S. delegation, highlighted priorities including land degradation, plastic pollution, crimes such as wildlife trafficking and the risks of “spreading zoonotic diseases.” i.e. pathogens spreading from wildlife to the human population.

But the United States will not participate in the formal drafting of an agreement.

“As it’s not part of the convention, the role of the United States is very limited. That’s a big part of the problem,” Soria said.

With nearly two weeks of negotiations ahead, some organizers are making the issues known.

“We can no longer continue with a ‘business as usual’ attitude,” said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

“Without nature, we have nothing. Without nature, we are nothing,” Guterres said, adding a caveat: “Today, a third of all land is degraded, making it more difficult to feed growing populations.


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