UN urges nations to spend more on species protection as new pact talks begin

The first part of the COP15 biodiversity negotiations begin in Kunming on Monday, with the aim of generating momentum for a post-2020 agreement to reverse habitat destruction.

The global community must invest much more and raise the scale and speed of its pledges to protect nature and prevent species loss, a senior UN official said yesterday on the eve of a new round of global biodiversity talks.

The first part of the twice-postponed "COP15" biodiversity negotiations begin in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming today, with the aim of generating momentum for an ambitious post-2020 agreement to reverse decades of habitat destruction caused by human encroachment and climate change.

David Cooper, deputy executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, told a briefing that ministers attending virtual meetings this week needed to show more ambition and give "clear political direction" to negotiators, who will thrash out a final deal in Kunming in May next year.

Environmental groups say there is no time to lose when it comes to protecting habitats and slowing extinction rates, especially after governments failed to complete any of the 2020 biodiversity targets agreed in Aichi, Japan, a decade earlier. However, Cooper said the level of urgency was still not enough. "Currently, most countries are spending orders of magnitude more funds subsidizing activities that destroy biodiversity than we are spending on conserving it – this will have to change," he said.

The UN wants countries to commit to protecting 30 percent of their land by 2030. Cooper said that it was important all countries protected more of their ecosystems, but that would not be enough in itself to fix biodiversity loss, saying more commitments were required to manage the other 70 percent.

He said the pandemic had injected new urgency into biodiversity protection, but warned that this was not yet reflected in "business-as-usual" post-COVID-19 stimulus measures.

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