By Emma Farge
GENEVA – Negotiations on an ambitious biodiversity deal to halt or reverse nature loss drew to a close in Switzerland on Tuesday, with countries expected to agree to little more than further talks in June.
The Geneva meeting of around 1,000 negotiators from 164 countries was meant to be the last before the postponed U.N. Conference on Biodiversity in the Chinese city of Kunming where countries are due to ratify a deal to protect some 1 million plant and animal species threatened with extinction.
The framework has the potential to be the biodiversity equivalent of the 2015 Paris climate deal but campaigners have bemoaned glacial progress in the talks that on Tuesday are expected to approve another round of negotiations in Kenya in late June, a document showed.
Greenpeace East Asia senior policy adviser Li Shuo said the process was “on shaky ground”.
“This process has so far been ill-designed and underwhelming,” he added.
A draft text yet to be formalised showed a large portion of the framework’s 21 targets still in square brackets, indicating a lack of formal agreement. On the main mission of halting and reversing biodiversity losses, negotiators could not decide whether they were aiming for 2030 or 2050, the document showed.
“It’s been incredibly frustrating,” said one delegate who declined to be named since the negotiating sessions are confidential.
Others described lengthy meetings that often lasted until the early hours of the morning during the fortnight of talks that were the first in-person meetings for two years because of COVID-19 delays.
One positive outcome, even if not formalised, is that participants said there was convergence around the idea of protecting 30% of land and sea areas globally by 2030. One of the co-chairs told Reuters he saw support for that target from China, the talks’ president, for the first time.
However, some participants have called for greater ambition from China, with some voicing frustration about the lack of clarity on the Kunming summit timing as it faces a fourth delay due to the pandemic.
China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment did not respond to a request for comment and Chinese officials in Geneva declined an interview request.
“They have been listening but we hope for more engagement and ambition,” Brian O’Donnell, the director of the Campaign for Nature told Reuters.