Almost 200 countries meet at the World Biodiversity Conference in Montreal to stop the decline of nature by 2030. What are the goals? Where are the points of contention?
30 percent of the earth’s surface and 30 percent of the oceans are to be protected by 2030. That is the catchy main goal of this year’s United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, which is about stopping the rapid decline in wild animal and plant species. There are also numerous other goals that will be discussed at the conference: the use of pesticides should be reduced, plastic pollution should be eliminated and state subsidies that have a negative impact on biodiversity should be reduced.
Switzerland at the bottom
But who should provide how much sea and earth surface? Countries like Brazil have so far resisted putting large parts of the Amazon under protection, and in Africa, too, the strong population growth is making it increasingly unlikely that large areas of land will be put under protection.
It is likely to be even more difficult in highly developed countries such as Switzerland to significantly increase the nature conservation area. Various projects for new nature parks have been rejected by the population in recent years.
Depending on the method of calculation, 9.1 to 13.4 percent of the country’s area is under protection in Switzerland. This puts our country at the bottom of the table in Europe. Nevertheless, as part of the so-called “high ambition coalition”, Switzerland is committed to ensuring that 30 percent of the world is under protection by 2030. This should be possible with two tricks.
What counts as a protected area?
The number one trick is that not every country has to meet the 30 percent target. Some countries should contribute more, others less. However, the question arises as to how this is distributed and how the really important areas can be protected and not just large areas in desert areas or in the tundra.
25 percent of animal and plant groups are endangered
The World Biodiversity Council collects scientific data on the state of biodiversity worldwide. The overview of thousands of studies shows that on average 25 percent of the animal and plant groups studied so far are endangered. This means that around one million animal and plant species are on the verge of extinction.
Even in the case of species that are not threatened with extinction, the researchers are finding in many cases a sharp decline in the number of individuals, for example insects or birds. If too many species become extinct, the ecosystems will eventually stop functioning. This then also has a direct impact on us humans: with a sharp decline in pollinating insects, for example, the production of fruit decreases and when the number of tiny soil organisms dwindles, the fertility of the soil deteriorates.
Trick number two: Not only strictly protected areas such as national parks or bird sanctuaries are included, but also areas in agricultural areas that are used but offer ecological added value. However, this raises the question of how great the ecological value of a compensation area on a field is if this area can be plowed up again after eight years of the contract.
Finances as a possible gap fungus
Just as at the UN climate conference that has just ended, one of the most discussed questions is that of compensation: how will the poorest countries be compensated if they protect their biodiversity hotspots and thus at least partially forego possible economic development?
Why a Chinese Conference in Canada?
Actually, the biodiversity conference should have taken place two years ago in the Chinese city of Kunming. However, it was postponed twice because of Corona and is now not taking place in Kunming, but in Montreal, Canada, again because of the Chinese Corona policy.
Canada has offered to host and is responsible for the infrastructure. However, the Biodiversity Conference will continue to be chaired by China. This constellation could have a negative impact on the conference, as various observers fear: On the one hand, China is not considered particularly ambitious when it comes to biodiversity and, on the other hand, China and Canada are at loggerheads over various diplomatic incidents.
The expansion of the so-called Nagoya Protocol, which regulates how the country of origin of this plant is involved and compensated when a plant is used for pharmaceutical purposes, will also give a lot to talk about. What if only the digitized DNA sequences of the plant are used instead of a physical sample? This question could become the cleavage of the conference. The dispute over money threatens the fight to push the preservation of biodiversity into the background.