MONTREAL – As negotiations officially began at the UN COP15 nature talks in Montreal on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin trudeau He said nearly two-thirds of the countries at the table have already agreed to protect 30 percent of the world’s land and water by the end of the decade.
But he said negotiations with some of the world’s five largest countries, including Russia and China, pose a diplomatic and political challenge.
“International relations are complicated,” he said. trudeau during an interview with reporters on the sidelines of the COP15 negotiations.
“But as I said yesterday, if we can’t come together and say, ‘Yeah, we should probably protect nature… so what can we come together on?’
COP15 is the negotiations of the 196 parties to the UN convention on biodiversity that was first drafted in 1992. The convention is to nature, including habitats and all wildlife, what the climate change convention is for global warming.
Discussions in Montreal, delayed by two years due to COVID-19, aim to draft a new biodiversity plan that halts and restores natural habitats and wildlife species that have been damaged or are in decline primarily due to activities human.
The UN assessed in 2019 that a quarter of the world’s animal and plant species are at risk of extinction by 2100. It also said that three-quarters of terrestrial ecosystems and two-thirds of marine environments had been “significantly” changed. by human actions, including agricultural and industrial expansions, consumption patterns, and population growth.
When it comes to protecting nature, size matters. The five largest countries by land mass—Russia, Canada, China, the United States, and Brazil—are home to more than half of the world’s forested land. Only Russia has a fifth.
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault pointed out that 30 percent of Canada’s land mass is equivalent to all of the countries in the European Union.
Loss of forests, wetlands, grasslands, and damage to coastlines and pollution in marine areas negatively affect the harmony of biodiversity that humans depend on for everything from clean air and water to food security and a safe climate.
At the moment, Canada is the only one of the five clearly on board with the 30 by 30 goal. The United States isn’t even a signatory to the biodiversity convention, so it’s not officially at the table.
Brazil has just elected a new government that will be headed by President Elect Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. Although Lula, as he is known, has clearly promised to restore the protections of the Amazon rainforest that were lost under his predecessor, his government is not sworn in until January. He still faces a country divided over the balance between economic development and environmental protection.
China is the official host of the event, although in June it was decided to move the meeting to Montreal from China due to the latter’s current pandemic restrictions.
As COP15 president, China helps set the agenda and oversees the negotiations. But trudeau He said Canada agreed to host the meeting on short notice, with the caveat that while China would remain the official host, the meeting would take place on Canada’s terms, including allowing protests and divergent views.
But beyond the protest, trudeau He said Canada wanted to push the negotiations further than China.
“We didn’t want to just slide in and have some sort of China ambition level or global check mark. We really wanted to make sure it matched Canada’s level of ambition for nature and biodiversity,” she said.
When other countries asked Canada to take over the hosting duties, Guilbeault said only if they supported and helped push others to support the “30 by 30” goal.
China has indicated that it seeks to protect 30 percent of its own land by 2030, but it is less clear what it intends to pressure the rest of the world to agree. Her decision, for example, not to invite world leaders to help turn up the pressure at this meeting, is possibly seen as a sign that China may be trying to downplay the whole thing.
The other wild card is Russia. trudeau He said Canada has had some constructive talks with Russia about protecting the Arctic, but that was before Russia invaded Ukraine.
“To be honest, how well that is holding up at this particular time, given what they have done in violation of the UN Charter to a large degree, and it just remains to be seen how general negativity they are getting,” he said.
Russia tried to block some negotiations that were underway to include gender equality in the framework, although they appeared to be failing. Gender language was the only one that entered today’s final talks without brackets. The square brackets indicate that there is not yet agreement by all parties on the wording.
“They are showing that they are just a disruptive force,” he said. trudeau.
“But it is a UN conference. Everyone can introduce themselves and everyone can share their opinions. We just have to make sure they don’t create the kind of chaos that is their modus operandi right now.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 7, 2022.