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First Cop15, now the high seas treaty: there is hope for the future of the planet | police15 Story-level

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LLast Saturday in New York, exhausted negotiators reached a historic agreement on the protection of life on Earth: the high seas treaty, the second major environmental agreement in just three months after Cop15, the biodiversity summit in Montreal . The moment, which spanned nearly two decades, overwhelmed conference president Rena Lee, who wept as she announced a deal had been reached.

At least on paper, countries have almost a complete strategy for action on the three planetary crises of our era: the climate emergency, the loss of biodiversity and pollution. Governments are still negotiating a UN deal on plastic pollution, with another round of talks scheduled for Paris this year. But world leaders, businessmen, all of us, know what we must do in the coming decades to avert disaster.

With more urgency than ever, governments must keep their word and deliver on what they have promised. Maintaining a livable planet for future generations is at stake, says the UN’s acting head of biodiversity David Cooper, who expressed cautious optimism that momentum was building, while noting that not enough is being done.

“Politicians are catching up with much of the public on this. Because people – and particularly youth and indigenous people – see what is happening and see what their future will be like without taking these actions. They have been putting pressure on governments to act and I think what we saw in Montreal and again in New York is a result of that pressure. I think it’s very encouraging, despite all the other stresses we have in the world,” he says.

The conference chairperson, Rena Lee of Singapore, broke down in tears when she announced that an agreement had been reached on the protection of the oceans. Photographer: Mike Muzurakis/IISD/ENB

“[Delivering on the agreements] it’s really the difference between a planet that is habitable in many parts of the world and one that is barely habitable for people,” he adds. “To some extent, momentum was set in Montreal at Cop15, particularly with the goal of protecting 30% of land and sea. But we need agreements like the high seas treaty to meet that goal.”

Here are the main points of the once-in-a-decade deal to halt the destruction of Earth’s ecosystems, called the Kunming-Montreal Global biodiversity framework:

30×30
The most high-profile target at Cop15, the final wording commits governments to conserving nearly a third of Earth for nature by 2030, while respecting indigenous and traditional territories in the expansion of new protected areas.

Indigenous rights
Indigenous peoples are mentioned 18 times, which some activists are pointing to as a historic victory. The language in the text is clear: Indigenous-led conservation models must become the norm this decade.

Subsidies
The final text says harmful subsidies should be reduced by at least $500bn a year by the end of the decade. It does not specify whether they should be eliminated, phased out or reformed, but this is recognised as one of the strongest parts of the agreement.

Business
Although the language was watered down in the final text, target 15 requires governments to ensure that large and transnational companies disclose “their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity”.

Digital biopiracy
Digital sequence information (DSI) refers to digitised genetic information that we get from nature, which is frequently used to produce new drugs, vaccines and food products. It was agreed to develop a funding mechanism on DSI in the coming years, which has been hailed as a historic victory for African states, who called for its creation before the summit.

A link to all of the documents agreed at Cop15 can be found here.

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Questions and answers

A guide to the Cop15 agreement by nature

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These are the main points of the only agreement in a decade to stop the destruction of Earth’s ecosystems, called the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework:

30×30
The highest profile target at Cop15, the final wording commits governments to conserving nearly a third of Earth for nature by 2030, respecting indigenous and traditional territories in expanding new protected areas.

indigenous rights
Indigenous peoples are mentioned 18 times, which some activists say is a historic victory. The language of the text is clear: indigenous-led conservation models must become the norm of this decade.

subsidies
The final text says that harmful subsidies must be cut by at least $500 billion a year by the end of the decade. It does not specify whether they should be phased out, phased out, or reformed, but this is acknowledged to be one of the strongest parts of the agreement.

Business
Although the language was softened in the final text, target 15 requires governments to ensure that large and transnational companies disclose “their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity”.

digital biopiracy
Digital Sequence Information (DSI) refers to the digitized genetic information we obtain from nature, which is often used to produce new medicines, vaccines, and food products. It was agreed to develop a funding mechanism for DSI in the coming years, which has been hailed as a historic victory for African states, which called for its creation ahead of the summit.

A link to all The documents agreed at Cop15 can be found here.

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Other senior UN figures have greeted the deals with cautious optimism, acknowledging the spirit of multilateralism amid tensions between major economic powers and the invasion of Ukraine.

“I think on the pollution side, as well as on the biodiversity side, there is an approach that we haven’t seen in decades. I welcome that,” says Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN environment program. “It’s never enough. We’re on a climate trajectory that’s not good.”

But he adds: “What’s really exciting is that we can get to the end of the road on some of these critical issues. Loss and damage, it’s been on the docket for a while, it was agreed upon despite the complexity. Jump-start and advance negotiations on plastics: we have the second round in Paris in May – it was very difficult but we managed [the process going]. Divisions crop up all the time, but we’ve made real progress in recent years.”

Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment Huang Runqiu, center, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Cop15 Executive Secretary, and David Cooper, Cop15 Deputy Executive Secretary at the closing of the first stage of Cop15 in Kunming, 2021.
Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu, Cop15 Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema and Deputy Executive Secretary David Cooper in Kunming, 2021. Photo: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

It is easy to dismiss multilateral efforts on the environment. Many aim to avert dire realities that we hope never come to pass, often bringing destruction in the short to medium term as part of the deal, while humanity slowly responds.

The maddening pace of change is compounded by increasingly alarming scientific assessments of the planet’s health, with experts warning that more than 1 million species are in danger of extinctionthreatening the function of the ecosystems that sustain human civilization.

Overfishing, plastic pollution and the continued consumption of fossil fuels are some of the drivers of environmental losses. Now many governments are at least acknowledging the scale of the problem.

While action on climate, biodiversity loss and pollution has a history of half-delivering promises, the world has successfully come together on some issues, including the 1987 Montreal Agreement. protocol on the ozone layer, which continues to recover successfully. In January, UN Secretary General António Guterres said it was “an encouraging example of what the world can achieve when we work together.”

Li Shuo, a Greenpeace East Asia policy adviser who has attended Cop15 in Canada and the high seas negotiations in New York, said China will have a key role to play in enforcing international agreements. Beijing chaired the biodiversity summit in Canada and, in partnership with Canadians, helped bring the talks to a successful conclusion despite a series of tensions.

The high seas treaty will provide a legal framework to establish vast marine protected areas to protect against the loss of wildlife and share the genetic resources of the high seas. Photographer: Ocean Voyages Institute/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

The high seas treaty “brings marine protection into the 21st century,” Li says. “Building on the recent success of Cop15 on biodiversity, the high seas treaty will help meet the 30×30 target. This success indicates that environmental progress and multilateralism can still succeed despite challenging geopolitical conditions. China is a critical country in these negotiations. Their willingness to improve marine governance is a key element in unlocking the deal.

“I feel very privileged to have been able to experience what one veteran observer told me was the most exciting moment in ocean law-making in decades. This is actually a very consistent story: an arc from Montreal to New York. The global community is capable of strengthening the governance of biodiversity on land and in the sea. It is a very exciting time despite challenging geopolitics,” he says.

Find more age of extinction coverage here and follow biodiversity reporters. Phoebe-Weston other patrick greenfield on Twitter for the latest news and features

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