Nature pact a win despite flaws: minister

Australia’s environment minister says a new nature pact that will see 30 per cent of the planet protected is a historic win despite the deal’s shortcomings and uproar from some African nations.

Tanya Plibersek, who flew to Canada to attend negotiations on the deal, says the pact is high on ambition despite the fact “we didn’t get everything we want”.

The global agreement adopted at the UN-backed COP15 conference in Montreal enshrines the target of protecting 30 per cent of the world’s land and seas by 2030 – a target Australia has already committed to at home.

Currently, 17 per cent of terrestrial and 10 per cent of marine areas are protected.

The agreement also commits the world to a goal of halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030.

But despite a push from Australia, the final deal does not enshrine an immediate commitment to end extinctions, something Ms Plibersek has promised to achieve at home.

The deal also directs countries to allocate $US200 billion ($A298 billion) per year for biodiversity initiatives from both public and private sectors.

It was declared passed by China, which holds the COP15 presidency, despite objections from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the second-largest tropical forested country in the world.

A Congolese representative said more money was needed from developed nations, but China appeared to disregard those objections, declaring the deal done, sparking outrage from other African delegates.

Ms Plibersek didn’t directly refer to those tensions in her post-deal statement but did acknowledge: “We didn’t get everything we wanted. Others didn’t either. But with a bit of cooperation, compromise and common sense, we have achieved a lot for the world.”

She said Australia had “led the way in the negotiations” pushing for an ambitious agreement and declaring: “We can be proud.”

Conservation groups say the pact could be the kind of turning point for nature that the Paris agreement was on climate change action, but everything will ride on how it’s financed and implemented.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) lauded Australia’s leadership, saying Ms Plibersek pushed hard but could not convince other countries to immediately commit to ending extinctions.

“It is not acceptable for a framework on biodiversity to allow for extinctions to continue for another 28 years. Australia has a goal of no new extinctions – that’s a goal the world should have supported,” ACF chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said.

WWF-Australia says the pact’s explicit recognition of how nature-based solutions can help tackle climate change is a big win that should lead to smarter spending of climate funds in Australia and globally.

“Australia’s delegation pushed for ambition across protected areas, circular economy, and plastic pollution just to name a few,” chief conservation officer Rachel Lowry said.

“They didn’t always land what they asked for, but I had a number of international people say ‘Australia is back’ in recognition of their leadership.”

WWF warned the agreement’s goal of reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 could be undermined if weak language in critical areas, such as the protection of intact ecosystems and tackling unsustainable production and consumption, is not addressed at the national level.

“Biodiversity has never been so high on the political and business agenda, but it can be undermined by slow implementation and failure to mobilise the promised resources,” said Marco Lambertini, the director general of WWF International.

“It also lacks a mandatory ratcheting mechanism that will hold governments accountable to increase action if targets are not met.”


Tracey Ferrier
(Australian Associated Press)



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