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UN Biodiversity Talks Failed to Reach an Agreement on New Targets to Protect Wildlife

Officials from 195 countries gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the "post-2020 global biodiversity framework," a new mission and set of 21 goals ranging from expanding protected areas to halting species extinctions. However, they were unable to reach an agreement on any of the objectives or even the overall mission.

Abha Toppo
Deforestation in Palawan, Philippines
Deforestation in Palawan, Philippines

Two weeks of talks to draft a new global agreement to reverse the loss of wildlife and habitats have been labelled a "major disappointment" after countries failed to agree on any new biodiversity targets. Officials from 195 countries gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the "post-2020 global biodiversity framework," a new mission and set of 21 goals ranging from expanding protected areas to halting species extinctions.

However, they were unable to reach an agreement on any of the objectives or even the overall mission. As a result, the UN biodiversity summit in Kunming, China, to finalize the agreement will be officially postponed for the fourth time. It will now take place in late August, according to New Scientist.

An additional negotiating meeting will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, beginning on June 21 to try to reach a deal breakthrough. The draught of the Geneva agreement is littered with square brackets, indicating that countries have yet to agree.

"It's true that progress has been very slow," says WWF International's Guido Broekhoven. He expresses concern that key elements have not been agreed upon but claims that there has been some progress on the overall mission of the new deal, which is convergent on a "nature positive" commitment to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.

According to Sue Lieberman of the Wildlife Conservation Society, there are also encouraging signs that countries are close to reaching an agreement on a target of protecting 30% of the world's oceans and land by 2030.

This would be an increase from the current 16.4 percent for land and 7.74 percent for oceans. Another advantage is that countries now "own" the draft text and have a clear idea of what the final agreement might look like, according to Lieberman. "If one is charitable," she says, "one could say it's moving in the right direction."

According to Brian O'Donnell of the Campaign for Nature, an alliance of more than 100 conservation organizations, much of the Geneva talks became bogged down in countries airing their positions rather than trying to come closer together. "It's a major disappointment that we're two years into the process and still feels like we're a long, long way away from an agreement," he says.

The talks were marred by disagreements over new funding for conservation projects in low-income countries. The draft proposes that higher-income countries contribute an additional $10 billion per year to funding for environmental protection in poorer countries.

However, according to O'Donnell's research, the figure should be closer to $60 billion per year in order to be effective, while a group of countries including Brazil and India called for funding to eventually rise to $700 billion a year.

Overall, Broekhoven expresses concern about the "lack of urgency" in the discussions. O'Donnell believes that higher-level political engagement in Nairobi, including from heads of state, will be required to avoid a repeat of the "slog" of the previous two weeks.

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