Nation That Balked at Landmark COP15 Deal Changes Tune

Biodiverse Democratic Republic of Congo now says it's on board
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2022 2:38 PM CST
Updated Dec 20, 2022 9:20 AM CST
Every Nation Just Signed Landmark Biodiversity Deal, With One Big Exception
Huang Runqiu, left, President of the COP15 and Minister of Ecology and Environment of China listens as Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, speaks during a press conference at the COP15 summit on biodiversity, in Montreal, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022.   (Peter McCabe /The Canadian Press via AP)
UPDATE Dec 20, 2022 9:20 AM CST

A historic deal signed Monday at the UN's COP15 biodiversity summit had a lone objector: Eve Bazaiba of the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose objection was ignored by COP15 President Huang Runqiu, China's environmental minister. Now, Bazaiba is walking back her objection, easing fears of a legal challenge to the agreement. Reuters reports that Bazaiba still has "reservations" on how the plan will be funded and resources mobilized, but she's now on board with the deal after what the Guardian calls "intense negotiations on the plenary floor between the big three rainforest nations—Brazil, Indonesia, and the DRC." Huang even went over to shake Bazaiba's hand later Monday evening, in what the Guardian notes appeared to be an apology for his earlier rejection of her objection. "The plenary applauded. Merry Christmas everyone," wrote Guardian reporter Patrick Greenfield.

Dec 19, 2022 2:38 PM CST

What do the United States and Holy See have in common? They're the only countries not directly part of a landmark deal made Monday in Montreal, host of the UN's COP15 biodiversity summit. Per the New York Times, the deal "lays out a suite of 23 conservation targets," the most prominent being "30 x 30," which aims to protect species in 30% of both land and sea by 2030. Currently, just 17% of land and 8% of seas are legally protected. Most environmentalists expressed authentic optimism, with Brian O'Donnell of the Campaign for Nature calling it "a scale of conservation that we haven't seen or attempted before."

It's not the first attempt to stem an intensifying environmental crisis, but things have only gotten worse since the last deal 10 years ago. Per the Guardian, climate change, acidifying and increasingly plasticized oceans, and population growth are all leading to a human-induced mass extinction on a level unseen since dinosaur days. Plummeting insect numbers are one harbinger of the predicted collapse of a million species in the not-distant future. On the bright side, negotiators at this year's summit "learned from their mistakes" in decades past and crafted a pact with measurable targets and a monitoring regime, including a "report card."

story continues below

Also, the deal includes what one activist called "groundbreaking" provisions to protect indigenous groups, "who have an outsized role protecting the world's biodiversity," as CNN puts it. Money was a major sticking point in what by all accounts was a grueling process "long and littered with delays," including a change of venue from China to Canada due to the pandemic. Also per the Guardian, the "extraordinary plenary" included a dramatic last-minute attempt by Congo's representative to block the deal, but China's environment minister—who also served as the summit's president—ignored it and struck the gavel around 3:30am amid verbal complaints from several African delegates but applause from most others. In the US, Republicans have successfully blocked efforts to join such treaties. (More biodiversity stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.