US touts support for biodiversity, but remains on the sidelines at Cop15 | police15

EITHEROnly two countries in the world have not joined the UN Convention on Biological Diversity: the Vatican and the United States. Few have missed the Holy See, but the failure of the US to join the CBD 30 years ago has been described as the “great resistance” among countries that seek to support the goals of the convention.

In Montreal, where negotiations for this decade’s UN biodiversity targets are entering their frantic final stages, the absence of the US political machine is conspicuous, changing the power dynamics in the talks among the remaining 196 countries.

The EU is the main player in the global north and, as a result, withstands much of the criticism, accusations of hypocrisy and demands for money that the US is used to receiving in climate negotiations.

China holds the presidency of police15, the first time he has led a major UN environmental agreement. A month ago at Cop27, US climate envoy John Kerry, who was walking through the blue zone in Sharm El-Sheikh, was ever present before contracting Covid-19, and his clashes with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, were always remarkable. The US pavilion was a focal point for the announcements, and the country’s scientists, activists and lawmakers were important voices on climate.

All that is missing in Canada.

man sits in front of a large photo of a bee
A delegate works at Cop15 on Saturday. Photograph: Andrej Ivanov/AFP/Getty Images

scientists and environmentalists. have long urged US to join the biodiversity convention, given the country’s extensive involvement in shaping the UN treaty and natural landscapes that include the Hawaiian archipelago, Alaskan temperate rainforests, and Florida’s coral reefs and swamps , whose protection inspires bipartisan pride.

Bill Clinton signed the CBD treaty on behalf of the US in 1993, but the Senate refused to ratify it. Guardian columnist George Monbiot has criticized the United States for not being part of the convention, saying it provides other countries with a permanent excuse to participate in name only. But he is not expected to join soon, as international treaties must be ratified by a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

In a bid to show its commitment to nature, the The United States recently created a special envoy for biodiversityMonica Medina, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, to represent the US in Montreal (as an observer, not part of the CBD), seen as a sign that the Biden administration is taking the topic seriously. “I hope that one day we will be members of CBD Cop, but in the meantime we are being as constructive as we can be… that does not stop us from making contributions,” Medina told reporters.

The main issue that the United States has been outspoken about is the 30×30 headline goal, Protect 30% of the land and oceans by 2030, which it is pushing nationally as part of its America the BEAUTIFUL initiative. “We are a member of the community on this planet that cares about the 30×30 frame. We have made this commitment at the national and global level,” Medina told delegates at Cop15. Campaign signs around the conference center promoting 30×30 are sponsored by the US-based Wyss Foundation.

In the first week of Cop15, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged the “big five” countries (Russia, Canada, China, the US and Brazil) to adopt the 30×30 target to make it as effective as possible. He said that even though the US is not part of the talks, “they are very present and helpful in every way that they can. But they are an interesting asterisk.”

In terms of funding nature, the US is a major donor. He pledged $600 million to the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations’ main climate and biodiversity fund, over the next four years. USAid funding for biodiversity is growing, with $385 million used for biodiversity funding in 2022. This is an increase of $80 million from the previous year. “We are one of the largest financiers of biodiversity protection in the world,” Medina said.

Medina on the microphone
Monica Medina spoke in Panama last month. Photograph: Bienvenido Velasco/EPA

The US agenda on other CBD goals, ranging from the use of invasive species to the commercialization of biodiversity, is less clear. Medina told reporters it was too soon for companies to make mandatory nature statements or say anything about pesticides, which are preliminary targets in the final text. But she spoke positively about the implementation and learning of indigenous knowledge, and she is committed to driving forward “positive nature” action.

Prior to the 1992 Earth Summit, the US was initially enthusiastic about creating an international nature treaty, and the country was important in shaping the CBD. But the Senate refused to ratify it over concerns about interference with the private sector, violation of intellectual property rights, creating more environmental regulations and redistributing American wealth abroad. Stewart Patrick, director of international institutions and global governance at the Council on Foreign Relations, he told vox that conservative nationalists in the US deeply mistrusted international agreements, which they viewed as “efforts by the United Nations and foreign governments to place restrictions on US constitutional independence.”

“The United States is looking to play the role of influencer with its special envoy for biodiversity,” said Dr. Lindsay Rosa of the activist organization Defenders of Wildlife. She said that the United States was pushing for the agreements reached in the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), the key text that came out of these talks, to be translated into a national biodiversity strategythat would frame the nature crisis as a national priority.

World, 193 other countries have developed forms of a national biodiversity strategy. “Although we are not part of it, we can still be guided by the GBF,” she said.

The United States has paved the way in some nature laws, including the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as well as the creation of its national parks. The United States Wildlife Act Reclamation is currently making his way through Congress with bipartisan support and supporters are hopeful that it will soon become law.

three people consult
John Kerry, center, and Xie Zhenhua, China’s special envoy for climate, right, at Cop27 last month. Photo: Nariman El-Mofty/AP

But despite talk of nature-based solutions, much of the focus was still on climate, rather than biodiversity, Rosa said. “The biodiversity crisis needs the same amount of time here in the US that the climate gets given its severity. The two crises are inextricably linked, but climate remains only one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss,” she says.

Rosa believes it’s important to raise the profile of biodiversity because some climate efforts can have perverse consequences. She said: “The Biden administration has pushed for offshore wind, which doesn’t have to undermine biodiversity, but without careful planning, it could.”

Oscar Soria, campaign manager for the activist organization Avaaz, said the United States was pulling the strings behind closed doors at the conference, a “classic but very outdated diplomatic strategy.”

Signing the convention would be a suitable platform for the US to show its ambition for nature, he added. But there are no signs that the United States will join soon.

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