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Minggu, 10 Oktober 2021

COP26 in Glasgow is coming. But 'The Paris Agreement for Nature' — the other COP — hopes to halt the biodiversity crisis - ABC News

Today, representatives from nearly 200 countries are meeting in Kunming, China, to finalise what has been described by some as "the Paris Agreement for Nature". 

The Kunming Declaration and Framework — which will be worked out at the UN's biodiversity convention, known as COP15 — also aims to put an end to humanity's disruption of a crucial planetary system.

Where the Paris Agreement seeks to stop climate change, the Kunming Declaration aspires to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.

But this isn't the first decade-long plan to halt the biodiversity crisis. Experts say every single goal set from 2010 to 2020 — through the Aichi Biodiversity Targets — failed. 

Regardless, there is hope things will be different this time around, with scientists saying it is too late to fail for another decade. 

Why does the world need another agreement?

Nature is being destroyed at a rate never before seen in human history, that rate is accelerating and almost all of the destruction is caused by humans. 

If the world's population doesn't act, 1 million species could be lost, according to the most comprehensive report on the matter produced by the United Nations.

More than 40 per cent of amphibian, 33 per cent of reef-forming corals and a third of all marine mammals are now threatened.

According to the UN, climate change is one of the biggest causes of biodiversity loss, but the majority is still caused by more direct human impacts.

The biggest is changes in land use like clearing forests to make way for agriculture and mining. The next biggest is simply the direct exploitation of animals — like overfishing. 

Many people see nature as having an intrinsic value. But the loss of nature has a direct catastrophic impact on humanity too.

"The World Economic Forum [put] a value on the loss of nature as $44 trillion in terms of what we've lost so far," said James Watson, a Professor of Conservation Science from the University of Queensland.

James Watson, UQ
Dr James Watson is hopeful the new agreements will be easier to enforce.(

Supplied: James Watson

)

So what is COP15?

With so much attention on the upcoming climate conference (COP26) in Glasgow, the thought of another summit might be confusing.

The Glasgow meeting in November is the Conference of Parties to the UN's climate change convention.

COP15 is the Conference of Parties to the UN's biodiversity convention: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Every UN member country has signed and ratified the convention except the United States.

COP15 is being hosted by China, but will be a mixture of in-person and virtual meetings. The meeting was meant to go ahead in 2020, but, well, 2020 happened. It will launch this week with further negotiations to occur in April and May next year.

Just as the Paris Agreement, ratified in 2015, governed how the world would deal with climate change between 2020 and 2030, the Kunming Declaration will aim to govern how the world deals with the biodiversity crisis in the same period.

The new agreement will replace the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which included ending illegal fishing and stopping the extinction of known threatened species.

Professor Watson said none of the 20 targets was met. 

What will be agreed to?

The final agreement is yet to be seen and won't be finalised until the next meeting, in April 2022.

But the world will sign up to 20 targets as part of a "framework". Among the draft targets and milestones for 2030 so far are:

  • 30 per cent of land and sea areas to be protected
  • Invasive species spread reduced by 50 per cent
  • Pollution from all sources reduced to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity
  • Extinction rate stopped from accelerating

On top of that, parties will also be asked to sign an overarching document that sets the broader agenda for the framework called the Kunming Declaration.

The latest draft of the declaration includes a commitment for each country to ensure that global biodiversity is "on a path to recovery by 2030 at the latest".

Nathaniel Pelle from the Australian Conservation Foundation said that's a great step forward.

A man on a boat looking out into the distance.
Nathaniel Pelle said world leaders needed to reverse the destruction of nature.(

Supplied

)

But he wants it to go further. 

"We want [all parties] including Australia to agree to a global mission to reverse the destruction of nature, to set the world on a path to be 'nature positive' or to be in better health than we are now by 2030."

Will the agreement help nature?

Professor Watson said there were two reasons why the Aichi Targets failed so badly.

The first is that countries signed up to it but just didn't bother to act on it. The second was that there was no good way to measure progress, he said. 

It's one of the reasons he has some hope that the Kunming Declaration will be different. 

According to Professor Watson, measuring the final targets will depend on how the negotiations go at the meeting. But whatever happens, he said, satellite technology had come so far that measurement would be easier.

"We'll be able to see because satellites don't lie," he said.

But not everyone is optimistic. 

Environmental lawyer Michelle Lim, from Macquarie University, said she was worried that as none of the targets are binding, countries were likely to ignore them again.

An asian woman in a suit.
Dr Michelle Lim said the Kunming Agreement would not be like the Paris Agreement.

"Almost every single article of the convention is qualified in terms of 'as far as possible' and 'as appropriate', or 'subject to national legislation'. And there's even a specific article clearly stating the sovereign right of states to do essentially what they like within their sovereign territory," Dr Lim said. 

For that reason, Dr Lim baulks at descriptions in the media of the agreement forged in Kunming as akin to the Paris Agreement.

"In terms of the enforcement mechanisms, or the coercion exerted by international law to meet particular targets, that's much stronger in the Paris as compared to what's occurring here."

What's Australia's role in all this?

There's a lot at stake for Australia. 

It is ranked third in the world for the most species extinction and number one when it comes to extinctions of mammals. More than a third of all mammal extinctions since industrialisation have occurred in Australia.

A study this year found that 19 ecosystems in Australia are now "collapsing" — including the crucial Murray-Darling Basin and the Great Barrier Reef.

Sunset over a bend in the majestic Murray River at Murtho, with red tall cliffs
The Murray River near the Murtho Murray-Darling Basin. (

ABC News: Jessica Schremmer

)

While that's bad for the non-human species that live in those ecosystems, it is also devastating for the nation.

Australians depend on forests for drinking water, on river systems for food production and places like the Great Barrier Reef are crucial for parts of our economy. 

Meanwhile, Australia has cut funding for nature protection and restoration by about 40 per cent since the Coalition came to power in 2013, according to analysis by the Australian Conservation Foundation.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the government disputed that interpretation of the budget.

But Nathaniel Pelle wants Australia to do more.

"Over 90 countries have signed the leaders pledge. Sadly, Australia isn't one of them," he said.

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2021-10-10 18:46:03Z
CAIiEHSirBXYSY-sX1AbGPOIVXYqFggEKg4IACoGCAow3vI9MPeaCDDciw4

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