UN gathering gears up for push to save planet’s biodiversity

Mar 14, 2022, 4:45 AM | Updated: 5:04 am

GENEVA (AP) — Nearly all the world’s countries kicked off a U.N.-backed meeting Monday aimed at preventing the loss of biodiversity — seen as critical to avoiding the extinction of many vulnerable species, the emergence of pathogens like the coronavirus, and the damage to both lives and livelihoods of people around the world, Indigenous peoples in particular.

The two-week meeting of over 190 countries on the Convention on Biological Diversity, after a two-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be the last gathering of its kind before a major conference in the coming months in Kunming, China, that will try to adopt an international agreement on protecting biodiversity.

“We have this one goal, which is to bend the curve on biodiversity loss and really to build that shared future to live in harmony with nature in the long term,” the convention’s executive secretary, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, told reporters Monday.

Possible diplomatic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine lurked in the background — potentially denting any prospects of global unity on the issue. Russian delegates who had planned to attend had their travel plans canceled amid the closure of much of Europe’s airspace to flights from Russia after the invasion, organizers said, expressing hopes that Russian diplomats based in Geneva would nevertheless participate.

An intergovernmental, science-based assessment of biodiversity worldwide three years ago cited a decline of nature at unprecedented rates and an acceleration of the extinction of species — with up to a million species facing possible disappearance in the coming decades.

The U.S.-based Campaign For Nature says a major theme in Geneva will be a target to protect and conserve at least 30 percent of the world’s lands, inland waters and oceans to help stanch habitat loss, the “overexploitation” of nature by people and businesses, and the emergence of pathogens that thrive off upheaval in the environment.

Convention managers point to five drivers of biodiversity loss: Changes to the use of land and sea; unsustainable exploitation through activities like agriculture; climate change; pollution; and the spread of invasive alien species into new habitats. Indirectly, it says, unsustainable production and consumption also play a role.

Mrema said one key issue will be efforts toward repurposing and redirecting harmful subsidies — to the tune of some $500 billion per year currently — and how “these financial flows can move away from nature-negative to biodiversity-positive outcomes.” A draft proposal for the framework to be adopted in China would aim to require that $700 billion would be put into sustaining or improving biodiversity. The issue of reducing pollution from plastics is also part of the draft, she said.

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UN gathering gears up for push to save planet’s biodiversity