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Global Rescue Plan to Stop Mass Extinction 'Hopelessly Weak and Inadequate'

"We need an urgent plan to save humanity and this is not it."

Hundreds of activists and campaigners gather in London's Parliament Square for 'Extinction Rebellion' protest against the inaction of the British government in the face of climate change and ecological collapse

Hundreds of activists and campaigners gather in London's Parliament Square for 'Extinction Rebellion' protest against the inaction of the British government in the face of climate change and ecological collapse. (Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

As global governments gathered at a conference in Rome Monday to advance a framework for protecting the planet's biodiversity, environmental and human rights advocates warned that the draft text that has emerged from meetings so far is "hopelessly weak and inadequate."

The draft document for "living in harmony with nature," first unveiled in January, is being considered at the Feb. 24–29 meeting of the Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. It will form the basis for a 10-year strategy and replace the "Aichi Targets," which expire this year.

The meeting comes amid increased worldwide concern about the ecological crisis, with recent research warning the climate crisis could wipe out 30% of the world's plant and animal species by 2070, disasters like the recent Australian wildfires taking a devastating toll on wildlife and ecosystems, and more evidence that human activity is driving nature towards collapse.

Agence France-Presse reported Monday:

The 12-page document, which focuses on goals to be met by mid-century and envisages a stock-take in 2030, should be adopted at the COP15 summit on biodiversity in October. [...]

Negotiators in Rome are focusing on ways to reduce threats to biodiversity, including officially protecting at least 30 percent of land and marine areas and a 50 percent cut in pollution from fertilizers. It also calls for stricter regulation on plastic pollution and acknowledges the role that the preservation of nature can play in the battle against climate change.

According to Nele Mariën, forests and biodiversity coordinator at Friends of the Earth International (FOEI), the document leaves much to be desired. 

"The current draft plan is hopelessly weak and inadequate. It won't prevent the sixth mass extinction or build a fairer and safer future," she said. 

Mariën's group sees a number of problems with the plan, including that it calls for even weaker targets than the non-binding targets governments set out in 2010. Specifically, says FOEI, the draft:

  • fails to address the root causes of the collapse of nature—the over-consumption of resources by wealthier countries, industrial agriculture, and an economic system that drives further destruction and greater inequality. This requires a just transition everywhere, with obligation for finance from wealthy countries to the global South.
  • lacks legally binding mechanisms to enforce an agreed plan. The main failure of the existing plan was that governments mostly ignored it without repercussions.
  • introduces weaker targets than the existing plan.
  • does not have a plan to halt damaging practices such as mining, commodity crops or pesticide use.
  • allows for nature to be destroyed as long as it is saved elsewhere—which would lead to corporations putting a price on nature and offsetting their damage by paying to save it in another place. This will inevitably lead to a financial market in saving and destroying biodiversity and ignores the vital role of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in defending ecosystems.
  • fails to put communities—and especially Indigenous Peoples—at the heart of nature protection. Likewise, mentions of justice, equity and poverty reduction are missing, as is any obligation for wealthy countries to provide resources to support the Global South.

"Time has almost run out. We need an urgent plan to save humanity and this is not it," said Friedrich Wulf, international nature campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.

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Human rights organization Forest Peoples Programme also expressed concerns with the document and outlined those issues Monday in a Twitter thread:.

An improved framework for averting mass extinctions, according FOEI and other groups that form the CBD Alliance, could be forged. Such a plan would have:

  • A rights-based approach, full and equal participation for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, global equity and financing.
  • Mainstreaming of biodiversity across the “whole government” at national level.
  • Accountability, compliance and enforcement measures
  • Promotion of agroecology and community-based solutions, integrated into proper conservation plans.

The advocacy groups' warnings come a week after nearly two dozen former foreign ministers from various countries urged global negotiators urged world leaders to act "boldly" to avert further loss of nature.

"The world has a moral imperative to collaborate on strong actions to mitigate and adapt to the current climate change and biodiversity crisis. Ambitious targets for conservation of land and ocean ecosystems are vital components of the solution," a statement from the diplomats said.

"Humanity sits on the precipice of irreversible loss of biodiversity and a climate crisis that imperils the future for our grandchildren and generations to come," they wrote. "The world must act boldly, and it must act now."

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