COP15: an ambitious agreement to halt the collapse of life
After two weeks of negotiations, almost all the countries of the world reached an agreement, Monday morning, at the end of the 15th world conference (COP15) on biodiversity. The challenge was daunting: to set an international framework for the current decade capable of halting, and even reversing, the collapse of life.

“It is a historic text which has just been adopted, well I hope it has been adopted. The words of the European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevičius, shortly after the final hammer blow of the COP15 on biodiversity, reflect the general incomprehension. A few moments earlier, China – which was co-organizing the summit with Canada – decided to adopt the agreement with forceps, ignoring the frank disagreement of the Congo. In principle, the decision had to be taken by consensus between the 196 States Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity present in Montreal.

Like others, the Central African country felt that several conditions were missing from the final document, the fruit of four years of work and two weeks of intense negotiations. Among these: the money needed to protect and restore biodiversity.

Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu and members of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity welcome the adoption of the new global biodiversity framework in Montreal, December 19, 2022 © UN biodiversity / Flickr
money for the living
The new “Kunming-Montreal Framework on Global Biodiversity” provides for funding dedicated to living organisms (public, private, national or international) to reach 200 billion dollars per year by 2030. However, certain high estimates of the amounts required fluctuate between 600 and 823 billion dollars per year, according to the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI).

Another subject of tension: many countries of the South demanded support from the countries of the North to the tune of 100 billion dollars per year by 2030 for the preservation and restoration of biodiversity; the framework finally foresees 20 billion dollars per year by 2025, and 30 billion at the latest in 2030.

Finally, while developing countries demanded the creation of a dedicated biodiversity fund, which the countries of the North opposed, the biodiversity money will finally be managed within the Global Environment Facility (GEF) , as proposed by Colombia. At least initially.

End clap to everyone’s surprise when the Democratic Republic of Congo had not given its agreement. But the legal advice of the expert of the Convention validates the procedure. © Earth negotiations bulletin
For a true sharing of benefits from genetic resources
The key issue of this COP, the sharing of benefits from the genetic resources of developing countries exploited by companies from Northern countries, for example in cosmetics or medicines ( our article ), was the subject of an agreement . This formalizes the creation of a mechanism whose workings will be determined during COP16 in Turkey.

In addition to additional funding, subsidies harmful to life must be reduced by at least 500 billion dollars per year by 2030. Subsidies granted to conventional agriculture are particularly targeted, as this constitutes the main threat on biodiversity, according to the Convention on Biological Diversity .

The text “does not break the house, but it saves the furniture” , in the words of Pierre Cannet, director of advocacy and campaigns for WWF France. “There was something for everyone,” greets a European diplomat. Everyone agrees that the new framework contains real advancements over its predecessors.

Protect 30% of land and seas by 2030
The European Union had made this its flagship proposal: the text endorses the objective of ensuring the protection of at least 30% of land, seas, coasts and inland waters by 2030. By the same deadline, 30 % of degraded areas will require “effective” restoration to promote ecosystem integrity, functions and services.

The agreement says nothing about the quality of these protections, which can range from putting the areas “under cover” to accommodating human activities – fishing, hunting, logging, etc. This point has provoked the ire of certain NGOs, including Bloom, who accuses the French government of having maneuvered so that there is no mention of an objective of 10% of areas under “strong” protection – which denies the executive.

This map shows the land areas (in green) and the marine areas (in blue) which have the status of protected areas in December 2022. Click to go directly to the site which lists them. © Protected Planet
Agriculture: no mention of meat or livestock
Alas, the final text contains no mention of animal husbandry or meat diets , while meat still requires more agricultural land. These are often borrowed from natural environments, aggravating the climate crisis and the collapse of life.

The agreement pleads weakly for a “sustainable management” of spaces dedicated to agriculture, aquaculture, fishing or forestry, through the use of practices that respect biodiversity. Among these: agroecology, “sustainable intensification” (producing more on the same land and using fewer inputs while increasing yields, according to the FAO) and “other innovative approaches” . Enough to allow everyone to see noon at their doorstep.

The planned reduction of pesticides
Notable fact and applauded by many European observers : by 2030, the new framework plans to reduce by at least 50% the “ pesticide risks » ; a more effective formulation than tackling the volumes spread alone. As Paul Leadly, a researcher specializing in population and community ecology at Paris-Saclay, tells us, while the use of pesticides has fallen by 40% in the United States, the risks have been multiplied by four due to a greater product toxicity. Some large emerging countries such as Brazil or Argentina have tried to influence to obtain a soft agreement with their agro-industrial sector and have scrapped in vain, in particular with the European Union, to remove the mention of pesticides.

Excessive discharges of nutrients into the environment – ​​such as nitrates from pig manure which destroy waterways and create green tides in Brittany – will also have to be halved in eight years. The parties also pledged to “work towards the elimination of plastic pollution” . In addition, the text encourages, without requiring, companies to report on their impact on biodiversity and the actions implemented to limit it.

Equity, rights of indigenous peoples and gender recognized
Indigenous peoples are the best stewards of biodiversity ( Green ) and their role in ecosystem conservation is recognized in this new global biodiversity framework. The text calls for balance and harmony with “Mother Earth”, as demanded by several Latin American countries.

A representative of indigenous people in the premises of the Palais des Congrès de Montréal, where COP15 biodiversity took place. © UN Biodiversity
Finally, the framework recognizes the need to take into account women, young people and people with disabilities in decision-making and to ensure the protection of environmental defenders, who are increasingly victims of abuse and even Assassination ( Green ).

And after ?
“What is not quantified and dated is not accomplished, we know it from Aichi” , remarks Pierre Cannet, of WWF France. The 20 objectives (known as from Aichi ”) of the previous global framework decided in 2010 all failed ( Green ), in particular because the text only provided for a few implementation indicators. An analysis of all national targets is planned at each of the COPs, which are held every two years. Then, the first assessment of the implementation of the national roadmaps will take place in four years.

The countries are now responsible for putting this new framework to music in their domestic policies. From 2023, France must write its new national biodiversity roadmap. It will also have to find a way to stop subsidizing harmful agricultural practices, seriously reduce the use of pesticides or the artificialization of soils, etc. “Everyone will have to live up to this Montreal agreement so that we can show that it is not a paper agreement” , explains the French Minister of Ecology, Christophe Béchu, who also applauds a “historical” text.

The text “does not break the house, but it saves the furniture” , in the words of Pierre Cannet, director of advocacy and campaigns for WWF France. “There was something for everyone,” greets a European diplomat. If the living isn’t out of the woods, everyone agrees that the new framework contains real advances over its predecessors.