“Instead of going forward, we are going backwards”

This COP15 was supposed to deliver the equivalent of the Paris climate agreement, but for biodiversity. Are we on track for that?

Stuyck: “Unfortunately not. The intention was that countries would agree on concrete goals to reverse the loss of species and nature, so that by 2030 we would live in a ‘nature-positive’ world, in which biodiversity is better off than today. The agenda at the start of the summit was quite ambitious, but has only been watered down along the way.

“On Thursday (today) the environment ministers will arrive, and we are nowhere yet. Nearly 1,400 passages in the text are still under discussion. The fact that, apart from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, no head of government is present, also shows that the theme of biodiversity is not being taken seriously enough.”

One of the central objectives was to protect 30 percent of nature by 2030. Will that work?

“That is not certain yet. We are now at about 12 percent protected nature. According to nature organizations and scientists, that 30 percent is the minimum necessary to stop the further decline of species. But countries do not want to run the risk of jeopardizing their economic development by protecting too much nature. For example, you can no longer make soy or palm oil plantations from rainforest that you protect. While economic development is of course also possible without further damage to nature.”

An important point of discussion is how much industrialized countries are willing to pay to developing and emerging countries in exchange for the protection of their rich biodiversity.

“It is normal that countries with the highest biodiversity demand compensation to protect it. However, several rich countries resisted this, not realizing that they were looking at the branch on which they themselves are sitting. Our economies also depend on well-functioning ecosystems. We calculated that there is a gap of $700 billion between what goes to biodiversity conservation now and what is needed to turn the tide. That seems like a lot, but it’s only a pittance of what doing nothing can cost.”

To what extent are the causes of biodiversity loss being addressed?

“The goal of reducing the negative impact of economic development on biodiversity by half by 2030 is hanging by a thread. And unfortunately, the ambition to reduce harmful subsidies is also being questioned. Fragmentation of nature and the conversion of nature into agricultural land is the main driver of biodiversity loss. In that respect, stopping and reorienting money flows that contribute to the conversion of rainforest into plantations is a no-brainer.

“But it seems that any reference to agriculture and fishing will disappear from the text. In that respect, we are moving backwards compared to the previous targets from 2010, instead of moving forward.”

None of those previous goals were achieved. Have we learned from that?

“The problem with the previous targets was that they were too vague and non-committal, and countries were not required to report on their compliance with their commitments. For the time being, we seem to be repeating the same mistakes due to the watering down of the original text.”

What if the top is a flop?

“One million species are threatened with extinction, and nature continues to deteriorate every year. However, nature can recover if you give it a chance. If no agreement is reached or targets are few and far between, we will lose valuable time and risk passing the point where recovery is no longer possible. Failure now means that the road to recovery becomes more difficult and the impact for all of us all the greater.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *