Published:  01:59 AM, 17 October 2021

Kunming Declaration on Biodiversity at COP15

Kunming Declaration on Biodiversity at COP15

Biodiversity describes the variety of life across Earth, from frogs and fungi to forests. The more life there is contained in an area, the "richer" its biodiversity.Nature "sustains our entire society and economy", said environmental lawyer and executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Losing nature "reduces the ability of the planet to provide all these benefits to society".

Healthy ecosystems, interdependent webs of living organisms and their physical environment, are vital to all life on Earth. Our ecosystems provide us with clean air, fresh water,In a biodiverse ecosystem, if the environment changes and some organisms can no longer thrive, others can take their place and fulfill essential functions. It is often the most overlooked species that are the most important to healthy ecosystems.

Insects, for example, play an essential role in pollinating flowering plants - a third of the food we eat depends on animal, resources and medicine. Together, the community of plants and animals in an area - and the complex relationships between them - make up an ecosystem and perform functions that help make the planet inhabitable. In a biodiverse ecosystem, if the environment changes and some organisms can no longer thrive, others can take their place and fulfill essential functions.

It is often the most overlooked species that are the most important to healthy ecosystems. Insects, for example, play an essential role in pollinating flowering plants - a third of the food we eat depends on animal pollinators. Nearly half the world's human population relies directly on nature - from fish to forests - to live. The Earth has already had five mass extinction events and scientists believe we are in the midst of a sixth, with about one million species now on the brink.

Unfortunately, animal and plant species are going extinct at a rate not seen in millions of years. The losses are accelerating, scientists say, largely due to climate change, deforestation, pollution, overfishing and urban development. To limit the loss, the United Nations has urged countries to commit to conserving 30 per cent of their land - almost double the area now under some form of protection.

In the past 150 years of industrial activity and human development have thrown the relationships between plants and animals out of balance. Climate change is one result of this disruption. The Covid-19 pandemic, fuelled by a virus that jumped from wildlife to humans, is another.

Climate change is also making life harder for many species - pushing temperatures into new ranges, unleashing natural disasters, and transforming landscapes in ways that leave animals and plants struggling to adapt.Even without climate change, nature has been drastically altered by humans, with only 3 per cent of the Earth's land surface unblemished, according to an April study in the journal Frontiers.

In the oceans, more than a third of shark and ray species are on the brink of extinction, according to global conservation body the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Coral reefs are rapidly dying in marine heat waves and fish stocks are threatened by overfishing. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature blames the US$500 billion (S$677 billion) a year paid out in government subsidies to industries that pollute or degrade nature, including fossil fuels, agriculture and fisheries. For years, the World Trade Organisation has been stuck on a proposal to end the world's US$35 billion in fishing subsidies.

Experts have said it will take an estimated $1 trillion a year to build sustainable supply chains and help countries protect nature in other ways - far more than the $150 billion spent on such action in 2019.All the nations need to designate conservation areas and then enforce them. Only 17 per cent of the Earth's land areas and 7 per cent of the oceans now fall under some form of protection.

China is hosting the UN Conference on Biodiversity, known as COP15, in the city of Kunming from Monday, October 11 to Friday, October 15, with most discussions taking place online because of Covid-19 restrictions. The second part of COP 15 will be a face-to-face meeting in Kunming, China, from 25 April-8 May 2022.

The objective of the Convention is access to and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources linked to biodiversity, which at the same time guarantees that science, research and innovation can continue to bring full benefits that also support the implementation of the other objectives. The world together to demonstrate their commitment to achieving the 2050 vision of living in harmony with nature, achieving transformative change across our societies and putting nature on a path to recovery by 2030.

Already 70 countries have committed to the target, which would include about a third of the world's land animals and plants, according to the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People. The global leaders gather virtually to discuss protecting nature across the planet and experts say there is no time to lose.

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the launch of a 1.5 billion yuan ($232.47 million) fund to support biodiversity protection in developing countries. Xi was virtually addressing the COP15 biodiversity summit in Kunming, China, where diplomats, scientists, and conservationists are meeting with the aim of forging a global agreement to halt and reverse the destruction of nature."

Developing countries need help and support and solidarity must be strengthened to allow developing countries to benefit in a fairer way," He further announced a plan to consolidate a national parks system in China, the first batch of which would bring a land area of 230,000 square km (88,800 square miles) under protection.

This area is home to nearly 30 percent of the key terrestrial wildlife species found in the country. It's unclear if countries will announce new conservation pledges. U.S. President Joe Biden is working on committing to the U.N. campaign.US President Joe Biden is working on committing to the UN campaign.

A senior climate adviser at Greenpeace China, said the new fund "should jump-start an urgently needed conversation on biodiversity finance".COP15 needs to see donor countries from the developed world contributing in this regard. Much of that finance is expected to come from private capital and asset owners driven by regulatory pressures to invest.

China also wants ministers to adopt a "Kunming Declaration" on biodiversity. The latest draft calls for an "ambitious and transformative" new global biodiversity agreement and acknowledges pledges made by many countries to protect 30 per cent of their territory.People should see the meeting "as a once-in-a-decade opportunity to have the world agree on what needs to be done for nature", said WWF head of policy and research Guido Broekhoven.

The world's last targets for protecting wildlife were set in 2010 in Aichi, Japan, but none of the Aichi targets were met. Still, progress was made, including in the realisation that financiers and industry need to be involved. It is encouraging that investors are realising that the cost of inaction exceeds the cost of action. Now much stronger implementation, monitoring and review processes, including transparency on intended implementation, reporting, a global gap analysis and stock  take with ratcheting up of efforts if needed;

M S Siddiqui is a Legal Economist

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