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After year of inaction, international community meets to protect biodiversity

January 11, 2021

The international community meets Monday at a summit in Paris on biodiversity, dedicated to intensifying and launching new conservation plans after a year of almost total inaction.

Topics will also include preventing pandemics such as COVID-19, which jumped from the animal world to man.

Sponsored by France, the fourth edition of the “One Planet Summit” will be partly virtual and will feature the participation of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel; the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson; the Spanish Head of Government, Pedro Sánchez; the President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado; the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres; and Prince Charles of England, among others.

Along with climate change, the loss of biodiversity is one of the greatest challenges facing humankind in the coming years and both phenomena are related, according to scientists.

Between 1970 and 2016, the world lost more than two-thirds of vertebrates, with a brutal collapse in some regions, such as the tropics of Central and South America (-94%), according to an alarming report published in September by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Despite the need to act, the pandemic forced the suspension of two key international events last year: the Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in Marseille, France, and the COP15 in Kunming, China, whose objective is to design a global plan to protect and restore ecosystems by 2050.

Costa Rica’s lofty goals

With an eye on both meetings that have been rescheduled for later this year, Monday’s summit will focus on four themes: protecting terrestrial and marine ecosystems, promoting agroecology, mobilizing financing, and the link between deforestation, species and human health.

Launched in San José in October 2019, the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People will seek to convince new countries to join an initiative whose purpose is to protect 30% of the natural spaces of the Earth in 2030. At least 45 members have signed on.

Costa Rica wants to convince its peers to act faster and with greater commitment, following the example of the Coalition of Great Ambition that was behind the intense work that made possible the historic 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Coalition “will work hard this year” to “play a role” in international negotiations with a view to reaching a global agreement on biodiversity, Costa Rica’s Minister of Environment and Energy, Andrea Meza, told AFP.

According to the minister, despite the fact that the pandemic delayed negotiations, it also demonstrated “that when governments make decisions, there can be important effects focused on the commons and on people (…) with immediate results.”

France will also present a new group, the Coalition for an Exemplary Mediterranean Sea in 2030, which currently has six countries, including Spain, to promote sustainable fishing and maritime transport in that region, fight against marine pollution and preserve biodiversity.

Another coalition will have the mission of devoting 30% of its members’ public climate finance to nature-based solutions, to which an alliance of private investors could join.

Fight against zoonoses

The program of this one-day summit also includes the launch of PREZODE, an international research initiative dedicated to the prevention of zoonoses — diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans, as was the case with Covid-19.

For many experts, the destruction of ecosystems — mainly due to agriculture and urbanization — multiplies contacts between species, facilitating the transmission of diseases and infections. The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, will speak during the meeting.

The summit will be preceded by a forum devoted to the “Great Green Wall” of the African Union to combat desertification in the Sahara region. The objective will be to start financial commitments for a total of $10 billion.

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