For humanity grappling with climate change, December 19, 2022, will go down as a milestone. It was on that day that over 190 nations approved a landmark UN Biodiversity Agreement in Montreal that seeks to protect 30 per cent of Earth’s lands, oceans, coastal areas and inland waters by 2030. Among a host of other measures, the collective commitment was towards safeguarding biodiversity.

At Montreal, it was further decided to reduce by $500 billion, the annual government subsidies harmful for the environment. Apart from that, the meet adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, covering stiff general goals and targets by 2030.

With so many nations approving it, the Convention on Biological Diversity had near universal participation and the convergence of ideas to chart out a holistic agenda augurs well for the planet.

The biodiversity framework hopes, in the coming years, to prioritise ecologically representative protected areas and recognise indigenous and traditional territories and practices. The meet also decided to cut global food waste by half and significantly reduce over-consumption and waste generation.

Funding for change

Laying special emphasis on finance, the meet decided to mobilise at least $200 billion per year by 2030 in domestic and international biodiversity related funding from both public and private sources. It was also decided to raise annual international financial flows to $20 billion by 2025 and $30 billion by 2030 from developed countries to least developed countries, small island developing states and countries with economies in transition.

The Montreal meet warned, “Without such action, there will be a further acceleration in the global rate of species extinction, which is already at least tens to thousands of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.”

Towards closer monitoring of the commitments, the agreement obligates countries to monitor and report, every five years or less, on a large set of headline and other indicators related to progress against the set conservation goals and targets.

Safeguarding biodiversity

While focussing on safeguarding biodiversity, targets were set to protect vital ecosystems, including rainforests, wetlands and the rights of indigenous peoples. Though an estimated 17 per cent of world’s terrestrial and 10 per cent of marine areas are under protection, it was high time to increase the spread. On the Agreement, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “We are finally starting to forge a peace pact with nature.”

The accent will be on maintaining and restoring ecosystems, halting species extinction, taking care of genetic diversity, and ensuring the benefits of resources from nature are shared fairly. The goals set include the need to halt the human-induced extinction of threatened species; ensuring biodiversity is sustainably used and managed; sharing the benefits of resources and guaranteeing there is adequate finance for conservation programmes.

The meet approved measures to arrest the ongoing loss of terrestrial and marine biodiversity and related agreements on its implementation, including planning, monitoring, reporting and review, and resource mobilisation. It also pledged to help nations build their capacity to meet obligations apart from digital sequence information on genetic resources.

As experts continue to deliberate, it is estimated that over 90 per cent of marine species are yet to be described and many may go extinct due to human activity before they are discovered. Knowledge of deep-sea species biodiversity is an obvious first step to effective protection of both the species and the associated ecosystem processes.

Scientists warn that deep sea species are increasingly exposed to pollution and habitat destruction. Global warming, ocean acidification and resource depletion could lead to dramatic changes in deep-sea biodiversity with unpredictable consequences for the planet.