Disagreements between developed and developing countries over who should pay to protect the Earth’s ecosystems threaten to derail a UN biodiversity summit after a group of developing countries left discussions overnight.
Following the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt last month – where countries agreed to set up a new fund to offset losses and damage from global warming in vulnerable countries – countries in the Global South walked out of the Cop15 talks on Wednesday due to disagreements over funding.
The host of Cop15, China, on Wednesday organized crisis talks with delegation leaders to try and resolve the issue as back-to-back strikes continued over whether wealthy countries like China and Brazil should get more biodiversity aid.
“Nothing moves until the finances move,” said an observer close to the talks.
Some countries in the Global South want to create a new biodiversity fund as part of the final deal in Canada, alongside increased funding from wealthier nations. But wealthy donor countries in Europe and the Global North oppose the creation of a new fund. They say China, Brazil and other major economies that have grown significantly over the past 30 years since the UN environmental accords were signed should contribute much more.
Funding from UN biodiversity donors is currently targeted at key regions to protect vital ecosystems and halt ongoing damage. China, Brazil, India, Mexico and Indonesia are the top five historic recipients of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and are expected to be in the top five in the next $5.3bn (£4.3bn) funding cycle from 2022-2026 stand. Many biodiverse nations from Africa, Asia and Latin America argue that they should be given more money to pay for conservation.
“The developing world is really upset. The talks have reached a critical point. Developed countries must provide more money,” said a negotiator who attended the strike.
Another source said: “Talks were making slow but steady progress through a resource mobilization strategy. We discussed the most controversial issue, whether we would set up a new biodiversity-specific international fund. It was late and the real business of the night was already over. But the strike sends a clear message that we must work harder to listen to each other’s realistic red lines and try to compromise.
“Brazil and China are the largest recipients of GEF funds. Donor countries find it hard to swallow that so much of our foreign aid goes to them. So we’re talking about broadening the donor base, ie putting parties like Brazil and China on the donor list instead of on the recipient list.
“There’s no doubt that the Brazilians are enjoying the ride, making it harder to work together and maybe even actively trying to bring the whole thing down. The Brazilian argument for a new fund is motivated in part to ensure they develop a new system and never have to pay.”
Oscar Soria, campaign director for activism organization Avaaz, who is in Montreal for the talks, said the strike shows developing countries are fed up with rich nations’ behavior on biodiversity funding.
“Without money, it becomes a tenuous business and Montreal will be the next Copenhagen. The developing countries left the meeting because they believed that it was impossible to move forward in the discussions because the developed countries were not willing to compromise, and they called on the parties obstructing the discussions to reflect on their positions, to advance at another point.
“After weeks of pretending that discussions could move forward without adequately addressing the issue of financial resources, the parties are finally done pretending. The game has finally started,” he said.