The UN biodiversity summit, known as COP15, held at Montreal, Canada has received barely any attention if compared with the Sharm El-Sheikh COP27. But the outcome of the COP15 is as much a breakthrough deal as that of the COP27. If the landmark deal on ‘Loss and Damage’ fund for the vulnerable countries is the high point of the climate conference in the Egyptian resort town, the Montreal biodiversity summit also sets goals and targets to halt and reverse global biodiversity loss at the end of the decade. By that time, the developed countries have agreed to mobilise a fund of $30 billion for the developing countries for use in conservation of biodiversity.
Why is biodiversity proving so crucially important? The planet has been experiencing the largest loss of life since the end of the dinosaur era with one million animal and plant species facing threat of extinction. It is because of the disaster staring in the face of human civilisation, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres observes at the inauguration of the COP15, “Without nature, we have nothing”. He goes on elaborating how multinational corporations are emptying the world of its ‘natural gifts’ and making ecosystems their ‘plaything of profit’ to the extent that wealth and power gets concentrated in the hands of a few superrich. Other independent experts working with environment and biodiversity echoes his sentiment when they view such environmental encroachment as violation of human rights.
That the human species is the top predator and responsible for spoiling. destroying and distorting Nature, environment and killing other species without being accountable to any court, is barely admitted. No other species has been as mindless as the ‘most rational animal’ to make another its sport. During the British rule government officers, local maharajas, kings and zamindars went on tiger hunting sprees and exhibitionism of their bravery by giving wide publicity of their pictures with the hunted games such as tigers, leopards and Asiatic lions.
That many of the children from poor background often inflict cruelty to kitten and puppies instead of cuddling those beautiful creatures is a mindscape legacy inherited from their cruel or mindless elders. They themselves have not received the affection and love they deserve and there is no question of telling them that the poor four-footed creatures must be treated with compassion. In rare cases, though, children are seen to make a cat or a dog their all-time companions.
That tradition of hunting expedition has been brought to an end thanks to some of the noblest hearts who could see the danger of the dwindling biodiversity of Nature. People and communities have come a long way off from that mental landscape but still unprovoked hostility towards or making of ‘what is fun to mindless people is death to’ many a species goes on unabated. Clandestine killing of rare animals and those in the red list of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) for profit, meat, medicine and aphrodisiac body parts could not be made a thing of the past. The black economy prospers while different species find themselves on the verge of extinction. This is how a million animal and plant species have been brought to the brink of existence.
Thus the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) shaped at the Montreal biodiversity summit after two weeks of intense negotiations holds the promise for not only putting in place powerful deterrent to the extermination of species but also reverse the biodiversity loss. This means the nearly 200 countries which have agreed to a set of goals and targets will have to prepare national policies and programmes aimed at protecting the threatened species. Clearly, the number one challenge will comprise not only to conserve the existing habitats but also create new ones in places of the lost pristine sanctuaries.
Much as the highly populous nations like Bangladesh may try, this is impossible so far as the recreation of the lost habitats are concerned. The best option will be to substitute the lost ones with the likes of those in as convenient places as possible. Yet development of the Sitakunda as a habitat for wild flora and fauna can be an example of such efforts. Observers have expressed their hopes that this time the mission bolstered by measurable targets and an ‘enhanced implementation mechanism’ the Montreal GBF has a chance of succeeding unlike its predecessor, the Aichi targets agreed at COP10 in 2010.
The oft-repeated target of ’30×30′ which means 30 per cent of the land and 30 per cent of the ocean will be conserved by the year 2030, has been set after two weeks of at times heated but patient negotiations. Here the tussle was over ratcheting up GBF’s ambition by the developed world and the demand by the developing world for enough fund to implement the targeted programmes. So the plan for mobilisation of $30 billion, as agreed, by the scheduled period is key to realising the envisioned objectives.
Now the implementation process of GBF is non-binding and voluntary like the Paris Agreement on climate change. The plan is to report on, review and voluntarily ramp up their respective biodiversity loss by the countries signatory to the agreement. The outcome obviously depends on how the countries turn promises into action.