Sunlight illuminating coral, Great Barrier Reef © Troy Mayne

Sunlight illuminating coral, Great Barrier Reef © Troy Mayne

World reaches historic deal to reverse nature loss, but urgent action and funds needed to deliver

20 Dec 2022

Keywords
  • biodiversity
WWF-Australia has welcomed a historic global deal to halt and reverse nature loss at the UN’s COP15 biodiversity summit.

Nearly 200 countries including Australia adopted the Kunming-Montreal Agreement after nearly two weeks of negotiations in Montreal.

The agreement commits the world to a goal of halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 and conserving at least 30% of land, freshwater and sea.

WWF-Australia’s Chief Conservation Officer Rachel Lowry, who has been observing negotiations in Montreal, said the deal could be nature’s equivalent of the Paris climate agreement.

“This can be our 1.5 degrees - our moment to turn things around and give nature a fighting chance at recovery,” said Ms Lowry.

“The 30% protection of land and sea, which now also includes inland waters, sets a new ambitious global goal for protected areas, and one Australians can feel proud our nation took the lead on helping secure.

“The explicit recognition of how nature based solutions can help tackle climate change is also a big win, and should lead to smarter spending of climate funds in Australia and globally.”

The final agreement also commits to halting the extinction of known species, and by 2050 reducing tenfold the extinction risk and rate of all species (including unknown).

“A number of targets were hotly contested. Australia pushed hard for the zero extinction target to commence imminently, in line with our new domestic target, however 2050 was the compromise,” said Ms Lowry.

“It was heartening to watch Australia take a lead role on the global stage. Australia’s delegation pushed for ambition across protected areas, circular economy, and plastic pollution just to name a few. They didn’t always land what they asked for, but I had a number of international people say ‘Australia is back’ in recognition of their leadership.

“However it’s important to remember this deal is one of many mechanisms that will drive ambition over the next decade. Key agreements contributed from the business sector, such as required disclosures, will help provide additional momentum.

“Global leadership is still very much needed to call for better, faster. And to prioritise the funds required to demonstrate that we really can halt and reverse the decline of nature.”

WWF also warned the agreement’s goal of reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 could be undermined if weak language in critical areas, such as the protection of intact ecosystems and tackling unsustainable production and consumption, is not addressed at the national level.

“The agreement represents a major milestone for the conservation of our natural world, and biodiversity has never been so high on the political and business agenda, but it can be undermined by slow implementation and failure to mobilise the promised resources,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International.

“It also lacks a mandatory ratcheting mechanism that will hold governments accountable to increase action if targets are not met.

“We must now see immediate implementation of this agreement, no excuses, no delays - nature and all of us who rely on it for our livelihoods, economies and wellbeing have waited long enough, it’s time for nature to thrive again. Governments have chosen the right side of history in Montreal, but history will judge all of us if we don’t deliver on the promise made here.”

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