Just weeks before the crucial COP26 climate conference in Scotland, another United Nations summit is taking place – this time in Kunming, China – and the topic is just as serious: How do we reverse the destruction of nature?
The UN conference begins on Monday and is called COP15. The topic is in many ways over under climate change, but the issue of preserving biodiversity is just as important as the planet Earth.
The key words are pollution control, ecosystem protection and mass extinction of species prevention.
The first phase of the conference will be held as a popular online meeting, while there will be a meeting in April where delegates will meet face to face. During this session, a binding agreement will be reached on the protection of nature and diversity. This year’s conference was supposed to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic.
Discussions under COP15 are rooted in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a treaty ratified by 195 countries and the European Union. But the United States, one of the world’s biggest polluters, is not a party to the agreement. Member states meet every two years.
The Convention on Biological Diversity was developed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The convention formulated goals to protect the Earth’s biodiversity and set guidelines for how to use natural resources in a sustainable and equitable way.
Plants and animals are becoming extinct at an increasing rate due to human activity. Natural core areas are getting smaller and smaller, pollution is increasing, the prevalence of invasive species is increasing and climate change is getting worse.
Biodiversity is weakening at an unprecedented rate. About one million animal and plant species out of the 8.1 million recorded species are threatened with extinction. This has happened in history more than ever, says Elizabeth Maroma Merema. It chairs the secretariat responsible for the day-to-day follow-up of the Convention.
Human footprints in nature also undermine the ecosystems that provide clean air, drinking water, food, medicine, and raw materials that humans need to survive.
Our relationship with nature must change, says Maruma Mariama. She believes the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have originated in a virus from a wild animal, is a brutal reminder of the price humans may have to pay for misusing nature.
At the Conference on Biological Diversity in Japan in 2010, 20 goals were set to conserve diversity and reduce human footprints in nature. The deadline to do so is set in 2020.
But none of the goals were achieved, and with a few exceptions, conditions today are worse than when the goals were formulated. This year’s conference is expected to set new goals to make humanity live in harmony with nature. The deadline is set for 2050, with the status and sub-targets examined in 2030.
Of the 21 points that will be examined in 2030, the goal is for 30 percent of marine and land masses to have protected status. This is supported by a large number of countries, including France and Costa Rica. Another goal is to halve fertilizer use to slow runoff in oceans and waterways.
The proposed text of the convention also states that pesticide use should be reduced by two-thirds. Plastic pollution of the oceans must be stopped completely. Subsidies for polluting factories will be reduced by $500 billion a year.
But many experts fear that the countries themselves will not follow through. Without funding and targeted implementation, actions may turn into empty promises again.
The COP26 Climate Conference and COP15 Nature Conference are based on two different international agreements. But more and more countries believe that it must be seen and dealt with in its context.
We cannot solve climate challenges without biodiversity, and we cannot stop the loss of diversity without doing something about climate change. Maruma Mariama says crises are intertwined and must be resolved together.
Healthy ecosystems, especially oceans and forests, can better absorb carbon dioxide emissions. This is necessary to maintain the Earth’s temperature at a level that ensures the survival of species and that climate change can be managed.
Maruma Mariama hopes that China’s status as host of a nature conference means that the world’s largest carbon dioxide polluter may take the lead in the fight to preserve biodiversity.
Li Shu, a Greenpeace China adviser, said a statement known as the Kunming Declaration will be announced, at the opening of the conference, to set the tone for the Chinese leadership.
The government in Beijing is responsible for saving a weak environmental pact from total collapse. He says the fight for biodiversity should have the same status as the fight to save the climate.
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