UN Biodiversity Conference offers a lifeline for nature, now all progressives should take up the struggle


“Not a single previous global biodiversity target has been met in the last 10 years. With the natural world in free fall, this is our last chance. Nature as well as climate protection need to join the front line of our class struggle.”

By Nella Broome

An agreement struck at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) that has just concluded in Montreal offers a historic lifeline for the natural world that we all rely on for our survival. This is a moment for all progressives to tune in and make nature protection part of our struggle against corporate giants, neoliberalism and our reckless Government. 

The world has lost 60% of all terrestrial wildlife in the last 50 years and 90% of big ocean fish in the previous century. The ecosystems necessary for our drinking water and food are collapsing. We can’t solve the climate crisis unless we also deal with the nature crisis.

COP15 in Montreal agreed:

  • To halt and begin to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030
  • 30% of land and oceans to be protected by 2030
  • 30% of degraded ecosystems to be restored
  • Provide $30 billion a year from richer countries by 2030
  • To eliminate subsidies harmful to nature

But no:

  • Binding targets
  • New funding on the table
  • Plan to end extraction
  • Plan to tackle industrial agriculture and Western meat-based diets — a key driver of biodiversity loss
  • Date for halting human-induced species extinction
  • Numerical target to reduce the unsustainable footprint of production and consumption
  • USA participation

So what does this mean for the UK?

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth after decades of neoliberalism has accelerated a process that treats nature, as well as people, as resources to exploit for profit. It is the poorest working-class communities that have the least access to safe green spaces and fresh air.

Boris Johnson’s Government committed England to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030 on the assumption that we already have 26% protected after adding up the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. But those figures are exaggerated as national parks are dominated by meat production, not nature, and our seas have little to no protection. Currently, only around 4 per cent of land is in a good state for nature.

Protecting 30% of land and sea for nature is a big lift in 8 years, but it is possible with political will and new tough policies that put the corporate and ideological drivers of this devastation on the back foot.

The COP15 Agreement calls on governments to update their national biodiversity strategies and action plans to align with the new Global Biodiversity Framework. 

This is very useful because the UK Government slipped out its Environment Act targets for England last Friday afternoon and they’re shockingly unambitious.  They will do little to get us back on track in time to meet the COP15 goals. Despite backing the Agreement to halt and begin to reverse nature’s decline globally by 2030 in Montreal, the Government’s own goal for England is that by 2042, nature will be in a similar condition to the current depleted state. 

The COP15 Agreement commits the UK to halve pesticide harm by 2030 which will require a confrontation with the giant pesticide corporations which are in large part responsible (along with climate change) for a 60% collapse in the UK’s flying insect population in 20 years. 

It also commits the UK to halve nutrient pollution of our water courses. This means ending the stranglehold of the fertiliser/fossil fuel industry on our agriculture, scaling back chicken and egg consumption and its effluent which is responsible for choking the life from our rivers and renationalising the water companies that so freely dump human sewage.

Finance for the Global South was another important but inadequate advance in Montreal. It is the West’s consumption of beef, palm oil and timber that has driven so much biodiversity loss across Latin America, Asia and Africa, slaying rainforests and leaving polluted degraded land. 

Like climate breakdown, nature collapse is largely a function of racist neoliberalism that leaves swathes of our planet as ‘sacrifice zones’. The COP15 Agreement recognises that there is a $700bn a year gap in funding from the rich world to the global South, but not a plan to mobilise this. 

Not a single previous global biodiversity target has been met in the last 10 years. With the natural world in free fall, this is our last chance. We can all help by reducing the amount of meat and dairy we eat – one of the biggest ways we can all cut our carbon footprint and minimise crowding-out nature. And after the global conferences on biodiversity in Montreal and climate in Sharm El-Sheikh, we need to hold our Government to account. Nature as well as climate protection need to join the front line of our class struggle.

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