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Leon Kaye headshot

UN Punts on ‘30x30’ Plan for Biodiversity

By Leon Kaye

Simien Mountains National Park, northern Ethiopia

You might be familiar with the ongoing COP (Conference of Parties) talks that have long striven to reach global consensus on climate change goals, from the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015 to last year’s meeting in Glasgow — and set to continue this year in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. But among the various “COPS” run by different segments with in the hydra otherwise known as the UN, there’s a separate series of talks underway led by the UN’s Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), with its own COP-15 talks scheduled for Montreal this fall. Its overarching goal, among many: a global “30X30” pact that would ensure that at least 30 percent of the world’s land and sea area important for biodiversity are protected by 2030.

For supporters of such a biodiversity framework, this is about more than forest conservation, environmental remediation and the prevention of another mass extinction — such talks are also crucial for the survival of many nations’ Indigenous populations, a group of people who have long been ignored and even shafted by the global business community, alongside many international agreements inked over the years.

Preliminary talks wrapped up over the weekend in Nairobi, Kenya, and negotiators congratulated themselves for their work to “converge towards consensus,” which from their perspective, resulted in the success of participating governments’ push of an “advance text of [a] landmark global agreement” that would “bend the curve” on biodiversity protection.

A curious thing happened, or didn’t happen, over the past several days in Nairobi. If there were a bending of the curve on biodiversity, it was no “Bend It Like Beckham” and more like the meek flick of a golf ball. The aforementioned press release made no mention of a 30 percent biodiversity conservation goal by 2030. Negotiators said they discussed the protection of biodiversity at all levels, but again, there is still no concrete goal.

(A side note about UN COP talks: They work a lot like the entertainment industry’s awards season — just as there is a long string of awards events and film festivals in cities like Toronto, New York and London before the finale known as Oscars night in Los Angeles, UN COP meetings require preliminary meetings worldwide before the actual main event in the chosen host city.)

And not to mock the UN’s ongoing love affair of acronyms, but it is only appropriate that these talks occur under the framework of the UN’s “CBD,” as anyone who is passionate about biodiversity loss and its implications will want to apply and ingest copious amounts of the real CBD, as at least two major environmental nonprofits didn’t mince words when it came time for them to assess what happened with the preliminary COP15 biodiversity talks.

In politer terms, the nonprofits' leaders explained that Mother Nature got a sense of how the talks went, and she’s really pissed.

“While we appreciate the long hours and hard work of delegates, we cannot sleepwalk into the largest extinction crisis seen in centuries; one we cannot easily reverse without bold and significant system change,” said The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Linda Krueger. “Let’s not forget that words only count when they stop trees being cut down, soils depleted, ensure that people and their rights are respected, and we can guarantee clean air, water, land, species and ocean conservation. We’ve been kicking the biodiversity ball for too long and this process is going off the rails.”

TNC is particularly miffed that the Nairobi talks resulted in no significant discussion of that 30 percent biodiversity figure.

While TNC summed up this latest round of biodiversity talks as a “shameful lack of progress,” WWF, while a little more muted in its criticism, didn’t exactly offer the UN heaps of praise, either. In fact, WWF called out UN/CBD for the lack of any leadership.

“A target of halving the footprint of production and consumption by 2030 is essential, but is being held hostage by a small number of blockers more interested in defending short-term vested interests,” concluded WWF’s Lin Li.

Marco Lambertini, WWF’s director general, also wasn’t having it, adding, “In the face of catastrophic nature loss and the tragic consequences this is having on humanity, countries are failing to show the necessary urgency — it’s been groundhog day in Nairobi, with all the crucial decisions again kicked down the road.”

Less than five months remain if the 30X30 framework is to be etched on paper: The formal talks in Montreal begin on December 5.

Image credit: Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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