Negotiations start on global ‘Paris-style’ deal to avert Earth’s sixth mass extinction

The plan will aim to protect a percentage of the Earth's land and sea

Government ministers from across the globe will this week discuss a draft plan aimed at halting the collapse of nature by 2030, a deal likened as the Paris Agreement for biodiversity.

Last month, the UN’s 20-point draft plan surfaced, outlining commitments to protect at least 30% of the planet. It states that a third of the world’s oceans and land should be protected to reverse biodiversity decline. Doing so, the report states, is vital to the survival of humankind and will avert Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

The meeting is taking place in Rome, rather than in Kunming, China due to the coronavirus outbreak. After this week’s discussions, government ministers and nature experts will gather in Kunming in October, where nations are expected to formally adopt a global biodiversity framework.

A statement was signed last week by 23 diplomats – including former British foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind – to back the draft proposals, which also include commitments to better control invasive species and reduce pollution from plastic waste.

‘Weak and inadequate’

Despite support for the draft framework, Friends of the Earth (FOtE) does not believe that the 20-point plan will protect vulnerable communities or do enough to halt wildlife extinction.

Friends of the Earth International’s forests and biodiversity coordinator Nele Mariën said: “The current draft plan is hopelessly weak and inadequate. It won’t prevent the sixth mass extinction or build a fairer and safer future. It requires binding rules to ensure we start living within planetary boundaries, reduce inequality, address corporate conflict of interest and ensure rights for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. In short, we need system change.”

Specifically, FOtE is concerned that the draft iteration of the plan fails to address the over-consumption of resources by wealthier nations, lacks legally binding enforcement mechanisms, allows for the destruction of nature in some locations to be offset by growth elsewhere and fails to put communities – notably Indigenous Peoples – at the heart of nature protection.

The group also slammed the fact that parts of the 20-point plan aren’t an improvement on the global biodiversity agreement set in 2010. The Aichi targets also featured 20 biodiversity ambitions that expire this year. Nations have largely been unable to meet the Aichi targets.

Elizabeth Maruma Mremathe acting executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the group that has established the draft proposals, has implored governments to ensure 2020 is not just another “year of conferences” on the ongoing ecological destruction of the planet, urging countries to take definitive action on deforestation, pollution and the climate crisis.

The British government has commissioned Sir Partha Dasgupta, a professor at Cambridge University, to write a report on the economic case for biodiversity. It is hoped it will lead to a biodiversity study that is as influential as the Stern review on climate change.

Matt Mace

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