Ubuntu | Thoughts | Why the UN 30×30 agreement is a big deal

Why the UN 30×30 agreement is a big deal

Why the UN 30×30 agreement is a big deal

Ubuntu Thoughts  /  Article  /  7 min read
December 20, 2022
Ubuntu | Thoughts | Why the UN 30×30 agreement is a big deal
Ubuntu | Simon Lodge, Founder & Chief of Sustainability
Simon Lodge
Founder & Strategic Creative Director
Yesterday, approximately 190 countries approved a comprehensive United Nations (UN) agreement to protect 30% of the earth’s land and oceans by 2030 and to take other steps to address the loss of biodiversity.
Biodiversity, which is decreasing at an unprecedented rate worldwide, threatens the planet’s food and water sources as well as the existence of numerous species. The landmark deal includes verification mechanisms that were not included in previous agreements and demonstrates growing concern about some of the most critical issues facing the natural world and includes 23 conservation targets — the most notable of which is the 30×30 goal of protecting 30% of land and sea from activities such as fishing, farming, and industry (currently, about 17% of land and 8% of oceans are protected).

Countries also agreed to manage the remaining 70% in a way that prevents the loss of areas with high biodiversity value, and requiring businesses to disclose the risks and impacts of their operations on biodiversity. The effectiveness of these targets is uncertain, as the previous 10-year agreement failed to fully achieve any global targets according to the body that oversees the Convention on Biological Diversity, which underlies both the old and new agreements.

However, negotiators claim that the new pact includes measures to make targets measurable and to track countries’ progress. “Now you can have a report card,” said Basile van Havre, a Canadian co-chairman of the negotiations. “Money, monitoring and targets” are expected to make a difference this time, he said.

The agreement aims to address the drivers of biodiversity loss, such as the use of pesticides and toxic chemicals (target 17) and fertiliser runoff. While conservation groups had advocated for stronger measures related to extinctions and wildlife populations, the overall agreement was praised as ambitious and quantified by Anne Larigauderie, the executive secretary of the intergovernmental scientific platform on biodiversity (IPBES).

The issue of how to reconcile the ambitious goals of the agreement with the financial capabilities of countries led to tense negotiations, including calls for the creation of a new global biodiversity fund. China, which led the talks, and Canada, which hosted them, worked to find a compromise. The European Union sought more stringent conservation targets, while Indonesia requested more flexibility in its use of nature. Many developing countries, which often lack the financial resources needed to restore ecosystems, reform harmful practices in agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries, and forestry, and conserve threatened species, called for more funding. The Democratic Republic of Congo expressed strong opposition and delayed final approval until early Monday morning, while delegates from several African countries protested when the talks moved forward despite Congolese objections.

The agreement reached on Monday aims to roughly double overall biodiversity financing to $200 billion per year from all sources, including governments, the private sector, and philanthropy. It earmarks up to $30 billion per year to be provided by wealthy countries to poorer countries., although the financial commitments are not legally binding.

Representatives of developing countries argued that the funds should not be viewed as charity. Joseph Onoja, a Nigerian conservation biologist, pointed out that industrialised countries had become wealthy by exploiting natural resources globally and argued that developing countries should not be required to preserve their resources for global conservation while trying to use them for their own growth.

A study by the Paulson Institute estimated that reversing biodiversity decline by 2030 would require closing a financing gap of about $700 billion per year. A significant source of funding could be obtained by redirecting the hundreds of billions of dollars currently spent on subsidies that harm nature, such as certain agricultural practices and fossil fuels (target 18).

The inclusion of language on Indigenous rights in the agreement was welcomed by Jennifer Corpuz, a representative of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity and the managing director of policy at Nia Tero, a nonprofit group. Indigenous rights were a point of contention in discussions about the 30×30 target, with some expressing concern that it could lead to the displacement of communities and others advocating for it as a way to secure Indigenous land rights and calling for a higher percentage of land to be protected.

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