COP15: The colossal challenge of protecting biodiversity

After four years of difficult negotiations delayed by a global pandemic, the international community has finally succeeded in establishing a framework for the protection of biodiversity on an unprecedented scale. But the work has only just begun, since the implementation of this « pact of peace with nature » will require a lot of work to succeed in avoiding the sinking of the planet’s ecosystems.

Contrary to what many feared since the start of the UN conference on biodiversity (COP15) on December 7, this « Kunming-Montreal agreement » was adopted by consensus overnight from Sunday to Monday, i.e. before the scheduled end of the negotiations of the 196 Parties gathered at the Palais des Congrès. But above all, the text proposed on Sunday by China, which chaired the conference, made it possible to preserve the most significant elements of the « post-2020 framework » designed « to tackle the dangerous decline of biodiversity and restore natural ecosystems ». .

“Together we have taken a historic step,” reacted Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault on Monday. “A week ago, Canada and many environmental groups could not have dreamed of the level of ambition reflected in the final text,” he insisted. Like some observers, the minister spoke of « a Paris moment for biodiversity », in reference to the global climate agreement signed in the French capital in December 2015.

With this framework, the international community is formally committed to protecting 30% of natural land and sea environments by 2030, while opening the door to the “sustainable use” of these areas. This means that unprecedented efforts will be needed, since currently 17% of terrestrial ecosystems and less than 10% of marine environments are protected. In addition to the conservation of natural ecosystems, the document states that countries should aim for the « restoration » of at least 30% of areas « degraded » by human activity.

The reduction of the “risks” represented by “all sources” of pollution is also included in the agreement, which specifies that they must be reduced “to levels which are not harmful to biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems”. With regard to “plastic pollution”, the need to reduce and gradually eliminate it is indicated.

The delegations also pledged to turn to agriculture, forestry and fisheries that integrate practices favorable to biodiversity. And to reduce the pressure of our way of life on ecosystems, we hope to reduce food waste by 50%, but also “reduce overconsumption and waste production”.

Monetary promises

On the issue of financing the implementation of the global framework, which literally threatened to derail the negotiations, the framework provides for a substantial increase in financial support from developed countries to developing countries: 20 billion dollars per year by 2025 , then 30 billion dollars by 2030. If these amounts are much lower than what some countries were asking for, the agreement signed in Montreal nevertheless aims to manage to mobilize “at least” 200 billion dollars each year, by the end of the decade. These funds should be public and private in nature.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, however, qualified this monetary “target” as insufficient. A situation which forced the presidency of COP15 to hold several meetings just before the adoption of the framework, explained on Monday the spokesperson for the Convention on Biological Diversity, David Ainsworth. And while the deal « had an incredibly strong base of support, » he added, it will be important that the next steps in its implementation take place in a spirit of « trust » and « communication. » « .

Moreover, Minister Guilbeault supported the Homework that Canada has acquired « credibility » that will allow it to « build bridges with several countries » to achieve the objectives of the framework. Ottawa is notably part of a coalition of 116 countries which affirmed on Monday their intention to work together to achieve the target of protecting 30% of natural environments and to help other countries put in place “concrete” measures in this direction.

At the national level, Mr. Guilbeault also promised the development of a « plan » to comply with the post-2020 framework. “We need a framework law for the implementation of our objectives for nature. We have already started working on it and there will be a bill tabled in 2023,” he added.

In Quebec, the Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, agreed. “The Global Biodiversity Framework is an ambitious agreement to which Quebec fully subscribes, and we should all be happy about it. The government will adopt a plan that will be based, among other things, on the two tools announced by the Prime Minister, namely the Nature Plan and the Blue Fund, which will allow us to reach these targets for 2030.”


Co-chairman of the working group on the post-2020 framework, Basile Van Havre believes that countries must now give themselves the means to preserve their ecosystems. “What I’ve seen in the positive experiences is countries starting to create a national interpretation of what a protected area network might look like. There is political work that is important to involve the various stakeholders. »

In terms of restoring degraded environments, it will however be necessary to take into account the situations experienced by each, according to the executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Scientific and Political Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Anne Larigauderie. “We already know that some countries will not be able to restore 30% of their territory. A country like India, for example, where almost everything is already occupied, they won’t be able to. On the other hand, other countries will be able to do more. It would be interesting to have an approach like that, to try at the planetary level to reach these figures, while respecting the national conditions of each one « , she explained to the Homework.

As for the billions of dollars in the text that emerges from COP15, they will have to be there very quickly, according to the director of international climate diplomacy at the Climate Action Network Canada, Eddy Pérez. “This funding will be crucial in pushing countries that want to do less to act. For example, if we want Brazil to protect the Amazon, we will have to provide funds to encourage it to raise its ambition,” he argued.

Mr. Pérez is also urging the UN to revise the calendar of biodiversity conferences, which are held every two years, which means that COP16, scheduled for Turkey, will only take place in 2024. talk more often. And what will we do for two years if there is no momentum like the one created by the conference? »

With Alexis Riopel

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