After developing country walkout, ministers arrive to rescue nature talks

Tensions are running high at the Cop15 biodiversity summit over a finance gap estimated at $700 billion per year

Cop15 delegates in Montreal clash over finance negotiations

Delegates are discussing a 10 year plan to reverse nature destruction in Montreal. (Photo: UN biodiversity)


As the UN biodiversity negotiations in Montreal enter their final stages, government ministers arrive today to resolve tensions over how much funding will go to developing countries. 

At around 1am on Wednesday, more than 60 developing countries including India, Indonesia and all African countries walked out of the negotiations on finance. They claimed there was a lack of commitment from developed countries to fund efforts to protect nature. 

“We feel that resource mobilization has been left behind,” one delegate who walked out told CTV News. “It’s everyone’s problem, but we are not equally responsible for the drivers that have led to the destruction of biodiversity.”

Rising tensions have put talks “on the edge of a full breakdown,” WWF campaigner Innocent Maloba said. So ministers will have to rescue a last-minute agreement before the talks end on Monday.  

Cop15: Governments split on ditching nature-harming subsidies in Montreal

During the high-level plenary, which marks the last part of the negotiations, hosts Canada said they were “ready to engage on discussions on the scale of funding” needed to achieve a successful agreement. 

“Many of you have made it clear that ambition must be supported by an increase in funding, as well as improvements in the predictability, transparency, comprehensiveness and accessibility of funding,” said the country’s environment minister, Steven Guilbeault.

China is co-hosting the talks, which were originally supposed to be in the city of Kunming. Its government was less specific about the actions needed.

During the plenary, the country’s president Xi Jinping sent a video message urging countries to “push forward the global process of biodiversity protection, turn ambitions into action” and “support developing countries in capacity building”.

Where is the money? 

Countries are negotiating a plan to reverse nature destruction this decade. A 2017 study shows that immediate action is needed to halt mass extinctions, which threaten essential ecosystem services for humanity.

To achieve this, finance “is critical”, but negotiations around it have stalled and they currently have more issues up for debate than other sections of the text, observers said.  

As in prior Cops for both climate and biodiversity, the hardest parts get left to the very end,” said Mark Opel, finance lead for the observer NGO Campaign for Nature. 

The world needs to mobilize around $700 billion per year to reverse the destruction of nature, a 2019 report by The Nature Conservancy, the Paulson Institute and the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability estimated.

The latest draft of Montreal’s “nature pact” proposes $200 billion in direct funding and $500 billion by eliminating and redirecting subsidies that harm nature, for example by promoting overfishing, monocultures or fossil fuel expansion.

Brazil and African countries have pushed to create a new fund for biodiversity separate from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the leading UN financial mechanism for nature. 

UN nature pact nears its ‘Copenhagen or Paris’ moment

One Latin American negotiator told Climate Home many developing countries have faced difficulties accessing GEF funds.

Developed countries want to strengthen the GEF and mobilise non-government sources of funding instead of creating a new fund. “We need to unlock private and philanthropic support, development bank modernisation and subsidies realignment,” said Guilbeault. 

Realigning subsidies plays an important role in getting new funds for biodiversity but negotiations around this topic have also proved difficult. The world spends an estimated $1.1 trillion per year subsidising nature-harming activities. 

Maloba said funds from developed countries would be crucial for a successful outcome in Montreal. “It is particularly concerning that donor countries don’t look to be ready to step up on international biodiversity finance, despite some welcome commitments in the lead in,” Maloba said. 

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