World Agreement on Biodiversity: 30 Percent of Earth Must be Protected

Nearly two hundred countries signed an agreement on better nature protection in the Canadian city of Montreal. Worldwide, many species are disappearing on land and in the sea and ecosystems are deteriorating rapidly. Therefore, by 2030 at least 30 percent of the earth must be protected.

EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius is pleased with the result: "We have made history with this."

Photo: Mandy Choi/Unsplash

The expansion of protected areas was the European Union's main commitment from the beginning. Yet a significant part of the two-week conference was not about biodiversity or setting such goals, but about money. As a result, the summit was reminiscent of November's UN climate summit in Egypt.

Rich countries have pledged to allocate $20 billion annually by 2025 to help poorer countries protect biodiversity. This amount is to rise to $30 billion by 2030. The targeted total funding for domestic nature policy will then be about seven times greater.

Moreover, by 2030, 30 percent of the land, freshwater areas, and oceans are to be given official protected status. Now that proportion is only 17 percent on land and 8 percent on the sea.

Negotiations resembled recent climate summit

There is a strong similarity between the Montreal biodiversity summit and the climate summit held a month earlier in Egypt's Sharm-el-Sheikh.

The summits lean on environmental agreements from 1992 when both the UN Climate Convention and the UN Biodiversity Convention were established. From that period dates a division into "rich" and "poor" countries. In this, rich countries are supposed to help poorer countries achieve shared environmental goals.

Thirty years later, some countries would like to keep this division, and others that point out that the world has changed greatly economically. Meanwhile, there is a middle group that has become much richer and receives a lot of nature funding. These include countries like China and Brazil.

Photo: S N Pattenden/Unsplash

EU calls on 'new rich countries' to make a greater commitment

The EU pointed this out when poor countries at the Montreal summit called for a new international biodiversity fund to protect ecosystems. A month earlier in Egypt, there were calls for a new climate (damage) fund.

The EU was initially against such a new fund but is in favor of countries that became wealthy after 1992 also participating in funding. According to Sinkevicius, it should include China and Brazil and rich oil states in the Middle East.

"The European Union is by far the biggest funder of biodiversity. Other countries could make a big breakthrough if they match those amounts. We should also be clear about the Arab countries. Some have reached very different economic levels since the agreements."

A political agreement does not yet mean biodiversity restoration

With such wrangling, the question remains whether world leaders are not losing sight of what this is about: the meteoric decline of plants, animals, and other natural life. According to the political agreement, this decline should be halted in seven years.