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COP15: Brazil leads calls for Global North to pay more to protect biodiversity

Youth advocates from Brazil, China and the United States write about division over funding, which countries should pay for biodiversity protections and other updates from COP15 in Montreal

Markus Spiske / Unsplashed

Brazil: Brenda Izidio, Erisson Marques & Niklas Weins

At COP27 in Egypt, Lula da Silva made a powerful appearance to show that “Brazil is back” on the world stage, particularly for global environmental governance. Even though he will only officially assume the presidency in January, the transitioning government showed up to display support for climate problems, backed up by a strong presence of civil society organisations.

These past couple of days, at COP15, a UN climate conference focusing on biodiversity taking place in Montreal from December 7th-19th, Brazil is calling for more multilateral funding through a new fund. The country’s representatives have long criticised the existing mechanisms of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Its weaknesses have included a funding agenda which is delimited to “global” objectives rather than local ones, and past issues surrounding a lack of accessible communication and consultation with indigenous communities that are immediately affected by GEF-funded projects. In some cases, this lack of consideration has even resulted in GEF projects recommending the voluntary relocation of local community-members to outside conservation project areas. It is unsurprising and important that Brazil is now advocating for a real multilateralism, with a new Fund that would guarantee more equitable decision-making.

"But until now, we’ve only been able to produce pledges eyeing 2025"

Youth and indigenous organisations are participating actively in the process, backing the calls for a new Biodiversity Fund, instead of reforming existing ones like the GEF, due to its unfair processes. The Latin American youth constituency met on Thursday (15/12) to align their positions and equity issues, especially when it comes to Afro-descendant and indigenous people, which have gained a strong youth backing.

However, compared to COP27, the biodiversity convention in Canada has not received as much attention from Lula’s incoming government. Future Minister of Environment Marina Silva was expected to be representing the new government in Montreal. Yet preparations for the government transition have left the team without her, supported only by Braulio Dias.

In the meantime, if rich countries are not willing to make commitments, a new fund will not be coming with pledges. So far, many countries in the Global South feel that developed countries have contributed to a lack of trust and little commitment to reaching a compromise.

Some estimates consider that almost 1 trillion per year is necessary to implement the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. For action on this scale to be achieved, long-term fundamental reforms and an effective instrument must be agreed upon at COP15. But until now, we’ve only been able to produce pledges eyeing 2025.

China: Xie Zongxu

The target to protect 30% of land and sea is COP15’s equivalent of COP27’s focus on 1.5 degrees. Currently, only about 17% of the world's land area is under some kind of protection, and less than 8% of the global ocean area is protected.

As global temperatures rise, we need an immediate response. ​​Keeping warming below 1.5°C and halting biodiversity loss requires significant and urgent action on emissions reduction, but also nature conservation, and sustainable consumption and production.

Nature-based solutions (NbS) - rain gardens, green roofs, or any framework that is designed to be cost effective, supported by nature, and with the consent and involvement of local communities - offer the opportunity to address a range of challenges in an integrated manner. Planning with biodiversity conservation and identification of ecological zones will help increase ecosystem carbon sinks, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect biodiversity.

"Progress has been typically slow, and concerns remain from past experience, where commitments have not been met"

China has already taken the lead in the international arena in proposing and implementing an ecological protection red line system, identifying priority areas for biodiversity conservation, protecting important natural ecosystems and biological resources, and playing an active role in maintaining important species habitats.

But ecological and environmental problems are global problems. The 30% goal can only be achieved if all countries work together.

We need to emphasise "common but differentiated responsibilities". All states are responsible for addressing environmental destruction, but different historical contributions do exist.

Critically, governments must consider addressing structural inequalities in the economic system if we are to achieve the needed cooperation and communication on ecological conservation.

United States: Taylor Ganis

For the youth attending these conferences, watching global leaders and negotiators making the decisions that will impact our common future has been frustrating. Progress has been typically slow, and concerns remain from past experience, where commitments have not been met.

Financial barriers for many countries remain in the funding of biodiversity protection projects. For those of us in the Global North, we must acknowledge that ecological debt exists. World leaders must act accordingly to halt any further destruction and pay for the damages and harm that they have caused to the Global South.

The last time that world leaders gathered to create targets for biodiversity was in 2010. With us now facing an age of extinction, we cannot allow the global framework that is to come out of COP15 to be yet another failure to protect biodiversity. For the sake of our generation, I hope that the global framework being negotiated contains qualitative and quantitative targets and is met with urgency, as we have run out of time for delaying necessary and critical action.

Xie Zongxu is from the Global Alliance of Universities on Climate. Taylor Ganis is a Youth Advisory Council Member to the United Nations Ocean Decade.


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