COP15: States promise to protect 30% of the planet to halt biodiversity loss

The COP15 on biodiversity held in Montreal (Canada) ended in the early hours of Monday. The 196 member states have aligned themselves around a goal that will help protect nature from the major crisis of loss of species and ecosystems that the planet is facing.

Specifically, 4 goals were achieved with 23 goals for 2030. One of these was the agreement to protect 30% of the planet – land and ocean – by 2030, with an emphasis on areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services. This is in line with scientific evidence indicating that having at least 30% nature conservation gives the planet an opportunity to recover and prevent the extinction of millions of species.

Director of WCS Chile and Doctor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of the University of Chile, Bárbara Saavedra, explains that the result of COP15 is an important step for the protection of biodiversity and that it replaces the Aichi Goals, the 2011-2020 plan for biological diversity adopted at the Convention for Biological Diversity in 2010 in Japan.

“Basically, it replaces all the Aichis that had worked for the last few decades, of which none were made. It was a huge failure. What this deal has, which is very important, is a very clear goal, it’s about reversing the pattern of loss of biodiversity by 2030 and advance to 2050 with what is defined as a recovery of biodiversity”, says the director of WCS Chile.

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Along the same lines, Olga Barbosa, research associate at the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB) and PhD in Ecology at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, says that although international agreements are relevant for the conservation of biodiversity, states play a key role at the local level.

“Very good arrangements have been made lately and I think the Chilean Environment Minister has done a great job with his team, but after these events there is always a lot of effervescence, however, after that we have to see how it ends. .. it’s starting to take shape,” says Barbosa.

“It is extremely important that the countries themselves commit themselves. If we in Chile have not made an agreement or agreement at the international level, we could still do a lot to protect our ecosystems. Chile has a lot to do whether it signs or not this agreement,” he adds.

In this sense, the Minister of the Environment, Maisa Rojas, warned that “we had one last chance to protect biodiversity. We are facing a very complex and serious species loss for the world.”

“Ecosystems are the livelihood of the people and species that inhabit the planet, so for
to ensure a habitable future we must raise awareness on the part of the state, the private sector, society
civil society, the academic world and all of society in general,” added the minister, who was at the negotiations in Canada.

Although Chile has been recognized with regards to biodiversity conservation in terms of areas to be conserved, the country has about 22% of the protected land area and 42% of the Exclusive Economic Zone under some form of protection, Bárbara Saavedra says that it is not enough just to protect biodiversity in Protected Areas, but that protection outside of these areas must also be included.

“We have half of our ecosystems degraded and normally the emphasis is on Protected Areas, and what’s outside of Protected Areas, which are ecosystems degrading, is complementary to each other. For this it is important to invest funding and bring biodiversity back to those places and the biodiversity loss must be brought to zero, i.e. any development that is done does not have an impact on biodiversity, and this is done in things like offsets, integrated projects,” explains Saavedra.

Olga Barbosa agrees with Saavedra’s opinion and says that “most people think that conservation only happens in Protected Areas and no, modern conservation is the one that works outside these areas and also doesn’t talk about not touching If we started using it in every one of our spaces, you’d realize that it’s not a problem and that it’s necessary and that it’s a lot easier to do than people think.”

“The good thing about this agreement is that it puts specific tools on the table to be able to implement it. One of these concerns, for example, the phasing out, by 2030, of subsidies that damage biodiversity, which are known as perverse subsidies, and we have a few,” adds Saavedra.

In this sense, the agreement foresees the disbursement of at least 20 billion dollars of international aid annually for biodiversity by 2025 and at least 30 billion by 2030.

“The document pledges to mobilize several trillion dollars annually at that level over the next few decades. One of the most important economic activities that we need to strengthen is the biodiversity conservation activity and that does not exist to this day. We see that the conversation is a burden for countries and it is the opposite: it is the best investment we can make”, underlined the doctor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of the University of Chile.

Furthermore, within the agreements reached in the historic Montreal document – ​​where China held the presidency of the summit – the objectives for the protection of wetlands and tropical forests are also included; maintain, enhance and restore at least 30% of degraded terrestrial, inland water, coastal and marine ecosystems; stop the extinction of species; the concept of “sustainable use” is included in the care of ecosystem services; the rights of indigenous peoples are recognised; and the delivery of financial resources for the protection of biodiversity, among other points.

An unpaid debt for biodiversity

In Chile, one of the main criticisms that come from science towards the management of biodiversity protection and conservation is the lack of a Service for Biodiversity and Protected Areas. Indeed, the creation of this institution has been under discussion in Congress for more than ten years.

“The most important thing for our country is that today the biggest debt we owe is that all these agreements that have to do with biodiversity urgently require the approval of the law establishing the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Service, which is to be waiting time must be approved by Congress for more than 12 years. Everything we are talking about has to do with conservation management and we do not have any entity or state that mandates it,” says Bárbara Saavedra.

In this sense Olga Barbosa adds that “the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Service, and also this international agreement, what they are pushing is that we look beyond the Protected Areas, they are not proposing to transform 30% of the planet into Protected Areas, they are suggesting that once and for all, thinking about climate change, we think that every action outside or inside the Protected Area has a gigantic impact”.

Climate change and biodiversity loss

Finally, the director of WCS Chile adds that the conservation and protection of biodiversity are linked to the fight against the climate crisis.

“It has been shown that 37% of the solution to climate change comes from nature conservation through ecosystems such as peatlands, macroalgal forests, wetlands, forests and steppes. They are the most efficient and cheapest at capturing carbon from the atmosphere and leaving it captured in living systems. Investing in biodiversity conservation with a climate change approach is very powerful,” he says.

“By conserving biodiversity there are other benefits besides climate change mitigation, such as the restoration of hydrological cycles, protection from events such as heat waves and spaces for indigenous cultural identity,” he concludes.

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