UN negotiators began talks on Tuesday in Nairobi for a new global agreement to protect nature and wildlife, after an earlier round of talks in March failed to make progress.
With scientists warning that an estimated one million species are at risk of extinction, the United Nations is asking countries to dedicate 30% of their land and marine areas to conservation by 2030. Achieving this “30 x 30” target will help protect the world’s environments against overfishing or, scientists say, say Pollution or infringement of human development.
Earth has experienced five mass extinction events and scientists believe we are now in sixth place, with animal and plant species going extinct at a rate not seen in 10 million years. Only 17% of the land area and 7% of the ocean are currently under some form of protection.
Tuesday’s talks were boosted by a sense of progress after organizers announced that the United Nations Biodiversity Summit, or “COP15,” would be moved to Montreal, Canada, after being postponed four times in China due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have every reason to be fully confident that the global biodiversity framework will be adopted,” said China’s environment minister, Huang Runqiu, who is also the head of COP15.
Already, more than 90 countries, including the United States, have committed to the 30 x 30 goal, according to the High Aspiration Coalition for Nature and People. The head of the United Nations Environment Program appealed to delegates on Tuesday to reach a draft final agreement during this week’s Nairobi talks. This draft will then be voted on at COP15 in December.
“Here and these days, it is imperative that you make significant progress to ensure success in COP15 and beyond,” UN Environment Executive Secretary Inger Andersen said during the opening session on Tuesday in the Kenyan capital. But there are still many sticking points, as the draft text is currently riddled with square brackets indicating a lack of agreement on issues such as targets for reducing pesticide use.
“Without numbers, the framework will remain ambitious and will be built to fail,” Andersen said. Funding is still another area of contention. A coalition of environmental groups, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the World Wildlife Fund, have called on wealthy nations to contribute $60 billion annually of the $700 billion needed annually to tackle the biodiversity crisis.
“A lot of the global loss of biodiversity is driven by high levels of consumption in rich countries,” said Brian O’Donnell, director of the nonprofit Nature Conservancy. Green groups said another $500 billion could be made by cutting harmful subsidies on fossil fuels and agriculture.
The UN also urged delegates to address how to plan and report on progress on each of the goals. The world’s previous conservation goals – known as the Aichi Targets – expired in 2020 without a single target being fully met.
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