COP 15: UN biodiversity conference in China issues ‘powerful signal of determination’ to tackle problem

·3-min read

The United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in the Chinese city of Kunming has adopted a pledge to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and agree a framework to protect threatened habitats.

The Kunming Declaration is not legally binding but its announcement by Chinese environment minister Huang Runqiu is seen as an important way of generating momentum for the second phase of the conference in April and May next year, where it is hoped participants will agree the framework.

“The declaration will send a powerful signal, showing the world our determination to solve the problem of biodiversity loss, and our stronger actions on the issues discussed at this high-level meeting,” Huang told the conference.

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Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said in a statement that the adoption of the Kunming Declaration is a clear indication of the worldwide support for the level of ambition needed next spring.

She also congratulated Chinese President Xi Jinping for his pledge to donate 1.5 billion yuan (US$232 million) to set up the Kunming Biodiversity Fund to support biodiversity protection in developing countries, saying she “looked forward to more financial and technical commitments in support of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and its implementation”.

Also on Tuesday, Japanese environment minister Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi said the Japanese government would extend US$17 million to developing countries for the protection of biodiversity.

COP15: China’s Xi pledges US$232m for new fund to protect biodiversity

The declaration highlights key aspects of a successful post-2020 global biodiversity framework, including making biodiversity a part of all policymaking and the phasing out of harmful subsidies.

It also noted the call from many countries to protect and conserve 30 per cent of land and sea areas by 2030 – a target known as “30 by 30” – and ensure that biodiversity is on a path to recovery within a decade.

“It is not a legally binding treaty. One reason China has put out this declaration is it wants to ensure that countries have the necessary momentum so that they are in a good place to launch the post-2020 global biodiversity framework at the next April meeting,” said Alice Hughes, deputy secretary general of the Beijing-based China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation.

“It’s a signal of China’s leadership in biodiversity conservation. The country is really invested in making sure that we have the best post-2020 global biodiversity framework possible.”

In the previous agreement signed in Aichi, Japan in 2010, governments around the world agreed 20 targets to reduce biodiversity loss and protect habitats by 2020, but none have been fully achieved.

Hughes said the Kunming Declaration did not formally commit to the “30 by 30” target because a lot of countries are still discussing its feasibility.

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“The Aichi targets were not successful, and we don’t have the chance to fail again,” she said. “Countries are very cautious that they do not commit to things that they are not sure if they have a realistic chance of succeeding.”

Li Shuo, global policy adviser for Greenpeace East Asia, said that despite the urgent global biodiversity crisis, progress on the Convention on Biological Diversity, a global treaty adopted in the early 1990s, had been slow.

“The contrast between China’s ambitious domestic agenda and its modest diplomatic approach is striking. It’s time to bridge that gap,” he said.

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