Activists warn a toothless UN nature deal will fail

Indigenous community members demonstrate against the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity (COP15) during the Biodiversity Walk for Human Rights in Montreal.

Conservation groups said on Saturday on the sidelines of UN talks that the world’s next global agreement for nature is doomed to failure without clear mechanisms to implement the goals, as hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Montreal to demand more action.

Similar factors were blamed for the failure of the last 10-year biodiversity agreement, which was adopted in 2010 in Aichi, Japan, and which failed to reach almost any of its goals.

“A strong text that commits countries to reviewing progress towards global goals and taking action over time is crucial to holding governments accountable,” said Guido Broekhoven of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), adding that he was “very concerned” about the current situation. The state of the negotiations on this issue.

Implementation mechanisms are central to the Paris agreement on the fight against global warming, in the form of “nationally determined contributions”.

However, the existing text on biodiversity only “encourages” countries to consider the results of a global review over a four-year period – making no commitment to increase action if the review finds that the objectives are not on track.

“So what’s on the table is perhaps nothing more than an incentive to do better,” Aleksandar Rankovic of the US nonprofit Avaaz told AFP.

“And no harmonization mechanism is discussed that could help organize this necessary conversation between governments on how they can cooperate better.”

The UN meeting, called COP15, takes place from 7 to 19 December and brings together nearly 5,000 delegates from 193 countries to try to conclude a “peace deal with nature” with key objectives of protecting the Earth’s forests, oceans and species.

On a freezing Saturday, people young and old, including a large contingent of Native Canadians, braved the scorching cold to make their voices heard in Canada’s second city.

Some wore costumes, like birds, trees, and even reindeer, an emblem of the now threatened boreal forests of Canada.

“People are trying to talk, they’re trying to say you can’t just talk, you need to take action,” said Sheila Laursen, who is part of the Raging Grannies group.

“Let’s not forget that in order to protect biodiversity we must first protect Indigenous people, Indigenous people protect biodiversity,” said Helena Gualinga, a tribe member in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

‘Missing critical elements’

Saturday was to be the last day for delegates to work on the implementation text before environment ministers arrive on December 15 for the home phase of negotiations. Under pressure, an additional meeting day was approved next week.

“If biodiversity goals are the compass, then the real tool to get us there is practice,” Greenpeace’s Li Shuo told AFP.

“The implementation negotiations are missing critical elements that will enable countries to step up their action over time: it’s like a bike without gears.”

“Some progress has been made,” added Juliette Landry, researcher at the French think tank IDDRI, noting that it is the first time countries have adopted common planning and reporting templates, making cross-comparison possible.

© 2022 AFP

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