As clock ticks for Montreal nature talks, UN official warns of ‘trust deficit’

Csaba Korosi (right) is the president of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, speaking at the opening ceremony of the high-level meeting of the COP15 Biodiversity Conference. Chairman Huang Runqiu, Minister of the Environment, was on the sidelines in Montreal.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The ongoing tension around public financing to save nature stems from a “trust deficit” as wealthier countries have failed to honor financing commitments to developing countries in the past, according to the UN deputy secretary-general.

Amina Mohammed was at the COP15 nature talks in Montreal this week as talks neared the finish line on Monday, but it was uncertain whether a new biodiversity agreement would be reached.

The top goal of protecting 30 percent of land and sea areas by 2030 has yet to be agreed, with some developing countries and indigenous communities saying they fear they will be forced from land they have protected for decades.

But the struggle between richer and developing nations to fund nature conservation, an estimated $700 billion a year, may be a more difficult divide to bridge.

Over the past few years, Mohammed said, there has been a sense of distrust as rich countries have failed to deliver on their financial commitments, especially on climate action and adaptation.

Every country must do what it can to overcome this “trust deficit”, she said, because allowing nature to be destroyed at the current rate would lead to the decline of humanity.

“Ambition for biodiversity concerns all of us,” Mohamed said. “They’re commitments we all need to make because it affects us as human beings. If we don’t protect our biodiversity, there won’t be us.”

The Montreal summit, the 15th meeting of the parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, aims to be the last to agree on a new global biodiversity framework aimed at ending the destruction of ecosystems and wild species and beginning to restore them.

The previous framework, negotiated in 2010, failed mainly due to lack of funding and accountability, with few measurable targets to monitor progress.

The Montreal talks began on Dec. 6 and are expected to conclude on Monday.

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