African dissent from biodiversity protocol

Rift Valley

The UN Biodiversity Conference, or COP15, concluded Dec. 19 in Montreal,¬†with what is being hailed as a¬†landmark agreement to address the current¬†unprecedented¬†loss of species, now termed the planet’s¬†sixth mass extinction.¬†The centerpiece of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, conceived as a match to the¬†Paris Agreement on climate change, is the so-called “30×30” pledge‚ÄĒwith countries committing to protect 30% of their territory for habitat preservation by 2030.

The deal is to roughly double overall biodiversity financing to $200 billion a year from all sources‚ÄĒgovernments, the private sector and philanthropy. It earmarks up to $30 billion per year to flow from wealthy¬†countries¬†to poor ones to assist in conservation programs. But the¬†financial commitments are not binding, and were assailed by many countries in the developing world as inadequate. The bloc of African, Southeast Asian and Latin American governments known as the¬†Like-Minded Mega-Diverse Countries (LMMDs) stressed that those countries with the greatest biodiversity are also among the world’s poorest.

The summit¬†was originally set to be held in Kunming, capital of China’s¬†Yunnan province, in October 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.¬†Chinese environment minister¬†Huang Runqiu presided over the conference despite the venue change. And he especially won opprobrium from African countries for pushing through the pact over their objections.

Following an all-night session,¬†Huang finally brought down the gavel and declared the deal finalized in the early hours‚ÄĒminutes after the delegation from the¬†Democratic Republic of Congo¬†pressed outstanding criticisms. This was decried by the DRC, Uganda and other African delegations. A representative from Cameroon protested: “What we saw was a force of hand.”¬†(UN News, Climate Home News, Carbon Brief,¬†Al Jazeera, NYT, BBC News, CBC)

Photo of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley via Pixabay