More than 100 countries pledged Wednesday to put habitat conservation at the center of their government decision-making, but they stopped committing to specific goals to prevent mass extinctions.
Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu told delegates at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming city that the declaration they accepted was a document of political will and not a binding international agreement.
The Kunming Declaration calls for “immediate and integrated action” to reflect biodiversity considerations in all sectors of the global economy, but on key issues – such as conserving wealth in poor countries and committed to biodiversity-friendly supply chains – after left for discussion.
With the loss of plant and animal species now at the fastest rate in 10 million years, politicians, scientists and experts are trying to lay the groundwork for a new agreement to save biodiversity.
In a previous agreement signed in Aichi, Japan, in 2010, governments agreed on 20 goals to slow biodiversity loss and protect habitats by 2020, but none of those goals were met.
At the heart of efforts to save nature is a call by the United Nations for countries to protect and conserve 30% of their territory by 2030 – a goal known as ’30 by 30′, which the conference acknowledged, However, it was not clear to what extent host China supported it.
“The announcement made reference to the ’30 by 30′ target, but did not indicate whether Beijing is with it,” said Li Shuo, senior climate adviser at environmental group Greenpeace.
A 30% pledge could prove too much for land-stressed China, which has about 10,000 nature reserves covering 18% of the area.
“There are academics who say they think 24%, 25% may be reasonable, but even reaching 18% was challenging, so 30% might be difficult,” said Alice Hughes, A conservation biologist attended the talks on behalf of the Beijing-based China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation.
He said a one-size-fits-all target would also be inappropriate for countries such as Indonesia and Brazil, where the 30% target would actually allow for more deforestation.
Elizabeth Maremma, acting secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity, downplayed the importance of adopting the specific 30% target.
“We need to keep in mind that we should focus on biodiversity outcomes rather than endemic area,” she told Reuters.
In addition to the question of targets for protection, some activists have complained that disagreements over the wording of the declaration had diverted the attention of delegates to the need for immediate action.
The first draft of the manifesto, released in August, contained political slogans linked to Chinese President Xi Jinping, causing tension and underscoring what some critics said was China’s inexperience in completing international agreements through conclusions .
After a response from more than 40 countries, Xi’s slogan “Beautiful waters and lush mountains” was dropped from the text, although the Chinese concept of “ecological civilization” was retained.
There were complaints, in particular from Japan, that China pushed forward the announcement without adequate discussion, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.
“Basically they felt there was insufficient time to consult on some of the announcements,” Hughes said.
Huang told delegates that China followed the same procedures it used to adopt previous biodiversity agreements.
However, Li said it remains to be seen whether China has the experience to push through a new agreement during the second phase of talks next year.
“Our global biodiversity crisis is urgent but so far the progress of biological diversity has been very slow,” he said.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)