While an estimated one million species face a risk of extinction, a United Nations biodiversity summit being held in Montreal this week says it’s working on a plan to preserve life on Earth.
Inside a downtown conference centre, thousands of representatives from civil society and governments are debating the details of a sprawling set of proposals spanning resource extraction, genetic engineering, and controversial financing schemes. Outside, thousands are sounding the alarm to denounce an approach they say in effect will fuel corporate profits but degrade biodiversity globally.
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed in 1993, and has been adopted by 196 countries. The United States is one of only four UN member states that has not opted in.
The CBD holds Conference of Parties (COP) meetings every few years, where decisions can influence legislation worldwide. The current COP session will run until December 19.
Experts and civil society groups denounced the CBD’s reliance on financing schemes like offsets, and worry that the growing presence of corporate lobbyists will result in loopholes, watered-down targets and dead-end technofixes. Critics also say parts of the framework ignore Indigenous title and create a “perverse conflict of interest” for governments who are heavily invested in resource extraction.
As many as 35,000 Montreal post-secondary students have voted to hold a one-day strike to protest the summit. Civil society groups are also mobilizing for demonstrations outside, amid a historically-heavy police presence.
The biodiversity framework being negotiated will try again where two previous sets of targets failed.
A new set of 21 targets for 2030 includes protecting 30 per cent of land and sea areas globally, halting or mitigating the spread of invasive species, and a major reduction in pesticides and plastic pollution.
Observers are skeptical in light of previous failures, but many point to alarming elements that could accelerate ecological destruction.