World Summit on Nature COP 15 begins: "Montreal could be our last chance"

Nature is on the retreat worldwide.

World Summit on Nature COP 15 begins: "Montreal could be our last chance"

Nature is on the retreat worldwide. Not only because of climate change, but because humans are destroying the habitats of animals and plants - and thus their own livelihoods. How the rudder could still be turned around in the next two weeks.

Approximately every ten minutes, somewhere on this planet, a species of animal or plant is irretrievably lost. She tears a hole in the web of life, which is becoming more and more brittle at unprecedented speed. It is we humans who are putting this network to the ultimate test. We are penetrating ever further into the habitats of animals and plants. We turn forests into timber factories, meadows into agricultural deserts, arable land into settlements. The consequences of the climate crisis are also changing living conditions faster than ecosystems can adapt. One million of the approximately eight million species worldwide are now threatened with extinction.

The climate crisis and the loss of biological diversity are closely linked. We cannot fight one crisis and ignore the other. Healthy ecosystems such as forests, wetlands and floodplains bind carbon dioxide and store it for the long term. They act as a buffer against flooding, provide cooling when it is hot, ensure the fertility of the soil and protect against drought. Conversely, their destruction releases large amounts of carbon that they have bound over millions of years. If we don't restore and protect our ecosystems now, we won't be able to meet the 1.5 degree cap.

Germany and the EU Commission, together with partners, are committed to the faster implementation of such natural climate protection measures. We will continue to strengthen these, for example with the German action program for natural climate protection and through international initiatives.

The world climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh was a harbinger of another summit: the World Conference on Nature (CBD COP), which is currently taking place in Montreal, Canada. At this conference, 196 countries are expected to reach an agreement on biodiversity (the "Global Biodiversity Framework"), which should help to combat the loss of biodiversity and the causes of it, and to restore nature comprehensively.

In Montreal, Germany and the EU Commission are working together to ensure that ambitious goals are decided there - long-term and medium-term up to 2030 - underpinned by effective and improved mechanisms for monitoring and implementation. When global efforts are not enough, an ambition-raising mechanism needs to correct course. National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAP) need to be further developed. The EU has already started implementing its own biodiversity strategy for 2030 and Germany will revise its National Biodiversity Strategy.

In Montreal, we advocate three core goals: The first goal is commitments to ensure the sustainable use of biological diversity and ecosystems. These include ecological and biodiversity-friendly farming methods in agriculture, reducing pollution from nutrients and pesticides, ending deforestation and greater implementation of the circular economy. All sectors of our economy must be brought into line with the protection of biological diversity.

The second objective relates to conservation and restoration measures and to the drivers of biodiversity loss. By 2030, we want at least 30 percent of land and sea to be protected in protected area networks or other effective conservation measures, especially in areas that are particularly important for biodiversity and ecosystem services. This does not mean that all economic activity in these areas has to be stopped. Protection can also be achieved through sustainable and nature-friendly use, for example in biosphere reserves. The areas should not only exist on paper. That's why we need clear guidelines for effective management and sufficient mobilization of resources. And of course the rights of the local and indigenous population must be respected.

Damaged ecosystems such as overexploited forests, agricultural areas, marine areas or drained moors urgently need to be restored. That means stepping up global action to restore at least 3 billion hectares each of land and sea. That corresponds to about 20 percent of all ecosystems on land and 10 percent in the seas. Europe is leading the way and is currently negotiating a binding law to restore terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

Protecting and restoring ecosystems has costs. Therefore, the third key objective for Montreal is to mobilize funds nationally and internationally, from public and private sources. We must align public and private financial flows with biodiversity goals and eliminate harmful subsidies. The EU has already committed to doubling its support for international action to protect biodiversity to €7 billion between 2021 and 2027. As a result, Germany has committed itself to an annual provision of funds of at least 1.5 billion euros, which should be made available from 2025 at the latest. We call on all other donor countries to join us.

There is another important issue that the Montreal COP must address: the use of genetic resources for research and development, for example for the development of medicines. It is now common practice in science for certain branches of research to draw directly on digitized information about the DNA sequences of plants, animals and microbes. This information is stored in electronic form and can be accessed via public, freely accessible databases. This has raised the question of whether the current Biodiversity Convention system for regulating access to, use of, and benefit-sharing of physical samples needs to be changed. We strive for a clear, pragmatic and practical solution that offers legal certainty, maintains open access for science and takes into account benefit sharing.

We live in a time of multiple, parallel crises. Russia's brutal war of aggression against Ukraine, its dramatic consequences for energy supply and food security and the drastically increased energy and food prices are acting as a rift - for our societies as well as for the world community.

In Montreal we have the chance to show that, despite everything, we are able to work together to protect our natural resources. We must not let this chance slip by. Waiting or ducking would have fatal consequences, because COP 15 could be our last chance. She must herald a new era in which the destruction of nature will be stopped. It's time we stopped stealing our children's future and started healing wounds.

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