SA to push for more financial clout at COP15 talks to help tackle conservation crisis

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Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Barbara Creecy.
Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Barbara Creecy.
  • The UN's biodiversity conference, or COP15, kicks off in Montreal, Canada, next week.
  • SA will call for more financial resources for nature conservation, including the reform of multilateral development banks, as it did during climate negotiations.
  • But Minister Barbara Creecy fears that there may be a lack of ambition in the new conservation deal as the world grapples with geopolitical issues.
  • For climate change news and analysis, go to News24 Climate Future.

South Africa will call for more financial resources and technical assistance for conservation efforts at this year's UN biodiversity conference, Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said.

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity's 15th Conference of Parties (or COP15) will be hosted in Montreal, Canada, between 7-19 December. The summit will see governments from around the world come together to agree on a set of goals to pursue in order to drive nature conservation.

This week, during a public consultation on South Africa's position for this year's summit, Creecy explained that talks would be taking place within a "difficult geopolitical climate" which is impacted by the Russia/Ukraine war and a growing trust deficit between developed and developing countries.

Creecy said these factors wouldn't prevent an outcome from the meeting – but it means that talks will not be taking place in "the most relaxed" circumstances. There is a risk that there may not be highly ambitious outcomes for addressing biodiversity loss.

READ | Twin crises: experts say nature and climate can't be siloed

South Africa is part of the African Group of Negotiators. South Africa has a "special role" to play in negotiations, seeing as it is one of 17 mega-biodiverse countries in the world. This means the country hosts a large number of different living species. Among the key issues that are important to South Africa and the rest of the African continent is the adoption of a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) – or strategy for nature conservation.

"We understand that if we continue in the current way the world is proceeding, we will see the mass extinction of species later in this century," Creecy said. This is why it is important for the GBF to be ambitious and based on the "best available science".

The GBF should be ambitious, implementable and based on the best available science to ensure that it contributes significantly to halting biodiversity loss, and putting biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030.
- Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy

Furthermore, the means to implement the strategy need to be available. This includes financial resources, capacity building and technological transfer to developing nations – especially Africa and mega-biodiverse countries, Creecy added.

Protected areas target

Among the goals expected to be contained in the post-2020 GBF is the "30x30" protected areas to target. This calls for the protection of 30% of the world's land and water (marine/ coastal/ inland) by 2030. It would serve as a global target, which means each country would contribute to it within their own means.

But Creecy reiterated South Africa believes that achieving this target would require "adequate means of implementation", which are financial resources, capacity building and technological development and transfer.

"When we look at financing, it is important to make sure financing is not just available for new targets but also be available to support existing conservation efforts," she said. International tourism is a major resource for conservation. But for South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, the recovery in international tourism since the Covid-19 pandemic has been slow, Creecy explained.

"In our own country, we are struggling to find revenue for existing conservation… we want a situation where finance is available for existing conservation estate and the ambitious targets we want to support," Creecy emphasised.

South Africa will emphasise the need to close the financial gap for conservation by 2030 – which would require up to $700 billion per year.

"We do not want to see a situation where we have an on-paper agreement, but this on-paper agreement does not have expression in reality," said Creecy. For this reason, South Africa will support the establishment of a dedicated global biodiversity fund and a global strategy for resource mobilisation.

As it did during the UN climate summit or COP27, South Africa will also be calling for the reform of multilateral development banks so that developing countries can receive the support they need for their conservation efforts, without worsening their debt burdens.

"The scale of resources required for biodiversity and conservation management and to deal with climate change does require a transformation and modernisation of the global financial architecture and reform of multilateral development banks to make sure they are fit for purpose to deal with this task," Creecy said.

The minister acknowledged that with multilateral negotiations, it is not possible to achieve everything South Africa would like to.

South Africa was largely satisfied with the outcome of COP27 – where a decision was made to establish a loss and damage fund that would help developing nations – particularly those vulnerable – to climate impacts.

South Africa was disappointed with a lack of progress on adaptation – particularly to set up a framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation. South Africa had been calling for a specific target to increase the resilience of the global population by 50%, by 2030. But the work on the Global Goal for Adaptation was rolled over to the next summit to be held in the United Arab Emirates.

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