The plan aims for these protected areas to achieve this status before 2030.
It’s a “historic” plan: put a third of planet Earth under protection before the end of the decade.
This new agreement, aimed at preserving biodiversity, was reached this Monday at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity, known as COP15, in Montreal, Canada.
There will also be targets to protect vital ecosystems such as rainforests and wetlands and the rights of indigenous peoples.
Originally, the summit was going to be held in China, but it was postponed and the venue changed due to the covid-19 pandemic.
This meeting meant for many “one last chance” to take the reins and the path for nature to recover.
The main points of the agreement include:
– Maintain, improve and restore ecosystems, which implies stopping the extinction of species and maintaining genetic diversity.
– “Sustainable use” of biodiversity: essentially ensuring that species and habitats can provide the services they provide to humanity, such as food and clean water.
– Ensure that the benefits of natural resources, such as medicines that come from plants, are shared fairly and equitably and that the rights of indigenous peoples are protected.
– Pay and put resources into biodiversity: ensure that money and conservation efforts go where they are needed.
Negotiations and problems with financing
The agreement follows days of intense discussions.
COP15 President Huang Runqui of China approved the agreement despite the objection of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
After a first text, China, which despite the change of location held the presidency of this summit, presented a new document this Sunday. After several hours of discussion, meetings and delay, it was approved early this Monday morning.
COP15 president, Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment Huang Runqui, declared the deal approved despite objections from the Democratic Republic of Congo, reluctant to back the pact.
Throughout the talks there was division on how ambitious the goals were and how it was going to be sustained financially. In fact, a major sticking point was how to finance conservation efforts in those parts of the world where the most outstanding biodiversities on Earth are found.
With the still recent echoes of the Climate Summit, COP 27, in Egypt, some countries called for the establishment of a new fund to help preserve biodiversity, but there was no unanimity on the matter.
Last Saturday the attending ministers made very passionate speeches about the need to agree on clear targets to put nature on the path to recovery by 2030.
“Nature is our ship. We must ensure that it stays afloat,” said European Union Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius.
Colombian Environment Minister Susana Muhamad received applause when she called for ambition to protect the planet for the good of all. “Nature has no limits,” she said.
A “commitment” to nature
Different experts have highlighted the importance of this agreement, although not without putting some “buts”.
Georgina Chandler, international policy adviser to Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said that thanks to the agreement reached in Montreal, both people and nature should be on a better situation.
“Now that it’s done, governments, businesses and communities must figure out how they will make these commitments a reality.”
Sue Lieberman of the US Wildlife Conservation Society said the agreement was a commitment in itself. But despite having several good and hard-to-achieve elements, she notes that it could have gone further “to truly transform our relationship with nature and stop our destruction of ecosystems, habitats and species.”
Scientists have warned that with the loss of forests and grasslands at unprecedented rates and the oceans under pressure from pollution, humans are pushing the Earth beyond safe limits.
This includes increasing the risk of diseases, such as SARS CoV-2, Ebola, and HIV, being transmitted from wild animals to human populations.