As the work of COP15 on biodiversity will begin on Wednesday, Antonio Guterres once again wanted to sound the alarm. Humanity has become a “weapon of mass extinction” and it is time to end our “war on nature”, he said on Tuesday.
The UN secretary general criticized “our boundless appetite for uncontrolled and unequal economic growth”, during the curtain-raiser of this conference in Montreal, which he sees as “our chance to stop this orgy of destruction”. .
One million species threatened with extinction
Since taking office in 2017, Antonio Guterres, former Portuguese Prime Minister, has made climate change his priority. His fiery denunciations during the solemn opening of the COP15 meeting show that the fate of threatened plants and animals and natural environments is close to his heart. He spoke in the wake of the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, whose intervention was interrupted by the tambourines of a dozen representatives of a local indigenous people.
The challenges facing COP15 are considerable: a million species are threatened with extinction, a third of the land is seriously degraded and fertile soils are disappearing, while pollution and climate change are accelerating the degradation of the oceans.
More than 190 countries are meeting from December 7 to 19 to try to seal a ten-year pact for nature and thus avoid a sixth mass extinction. But the outcome of the negotiations, covering around twenty objectives intended to safeguard ecosystems by 2030, remains uncertain.
“We are committing suicide by proxy”
“Today we are not in harmony with nature, on the contrary we are playing a very different melody”, a “cacophony of chaos played with instruments of destruction”, summed up the UN Secretary General. “At the end of the day, we are killing ourselves by proxy,” he added, with repercussions for jobs, hunger, disease and death. Economic losses due to the degradation of ecosystems, meanwhile, are estimated at 3,000 billion dollars per year from 2030.
Among the twenty objectives under discussion, the flagship ambition, nicknamed 30×30, aims to place at least 30% of the land and seas of the globe under minimum legal protection by 2030, compared to 17% and 10% respectively in the previous agreement in 2010. It will also discuss harmful subsidies to fishing and agriculture, the fight against invasive species and the reduction of pesticides.
But once again, the question of the financing of these measures could be a sticking point. The lack of political leadership could also be felt: apart from the Canadian Prime Minister, no head of state or government is expected in Montreal, while there were more than 110 in Egypt in November for COP27.