But Greenpeace’s Li said their coordination at the final negotiations in the Canadian city of Montreal – the seat of the UN biodiversity secretariat – defied expectations.
“Both countries set a good example of nations putting their political differences aside for the global environmental agenda,” he said.
“Collaborating further in the implementation … will not only enhance their joint legacy but help improve their bilateral relationship,” he added.
POWER OF ‘FEAR’
The previous global biodiversity accord adopted in 2010 in Aichi, Japan, set 20 targets to stem biodiversity loss by 2020, but none of those were fully met.
While Aichi helped galvanise action by many countries, governments ultimately did far too little to stop the destruction of ecosystems and species, said Susan Lieberman, vice president of international policy at the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Marco Lambertini, special envoy for WWF International, said past nature deals had been struck when awareness of the threats to biodiversity was limited – but that has changed.
Evidence of the damage caused by human activities is now overwhelming, and there is growing understanding of how the degradation of nature affects plants, animals and our own lives, be it health or the economy, he added.
“I grew up in a society where people were looking at the destruction of nature as something to be sad about,” Lambertini said.
“Now people are looking at (it) as something to be worried about. Fear is probably the most powerful evolutionary pressure,” he added.
The Montreal nature deal includes more ways to measure progress and hold governments accountable for their promises than previous agreements, he said.
The only Aichi target that was close to being achieved, he noted, had measurable figures – protect or conserve 17% of all land and inland waters and 10% of the ocean by 2020.
The Montreal pact, in addition to the 30% conservation goal, also contains a pledge to restore at least 30% of degraded land, inland waters, and coastal and marine ecosystems by 2030.
But with less than eight years to meet this decade’s COP15 targets, countries must immediately start preparing their national biodiversity plans, which are due to be submitted in 2024, said Toerris Jaeger, executive director of the Oslo-based Rainforest Foundation Norway.
“If they collectively fall short of the COP15 targets, the plans need to be further updated and ambitions increased accordingly,” he added.
The need for more financing from rich countries to help poorer nations meet the new targets agreed at COP15 was a sticking point in efforts to hammer out the biodiversity pact.
The Montreal talks ended with some drama as the final deal was passed following objections from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which later appeared to downgrade its stance to “reservations” on financing and resource mobilisation.
The success of the COP15 deal will depend on sustaining political pressure and ensuring donors – both governments and philanthropists – deliver on their financial pledges, said Charles Barber, a senior biodiversity advisor at the World Resources Institute, a US-based think-tank.
Combining efforts to boost action and funding for climate, forest and biodiversity protection will be important, he added, pointing to a rainforest summit planned for March to be led by French President Emmanuel Macron and Gabon President Ali Bongo.