Countries call for urgent defense of biodiversity without assuming mandatory targets

China President Xi Jinping addresses UN conference on biodiversity in Kunming

By David Stanway

KUNMING, China (Reuters) – More than 100 countries pledged on Wednesday to place the protection of natural habitats at the heart of their governments’ decision-making, but failed to commit to specific targets to curb mass extinctions of species.

China’s Environment Minister Huang Runqiu told delegates gathered in Kunming City for the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity that the declaration they adopted was a document of political will, not a binding international agreement.

The Kunming Declaration calls for “urgent and integrated action” to reflect biodiversity considerations across all sectors of the global economy, but crucial issues – how to fund conservation in poorer countries and commitment to supply chains that protect biodiversity – stayed for a later debate.

As the loss of plant and animal species is currently at its fastest pace in 10 million years, politicians, scientists and experts are trying to lay the foundations for a new pact to save biodiversity.

In an earlier agreement signed in Aichi, Japan, in 2010, governments agreed to 20 targets to try to slow biodiversity loss and protect habitats by 2020, but none of them were met.

At the heart of efforts to save nature is a call by the United Nations (UN) for countries to protect and conserve 30% of their territories by 2030.

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