/ 8 December 2022

SA will push for conservation funds at UN biodiversity summit – Creecy

Environmental Affairs Minister Barbra Creecy Photo Delwyn Verasamy
Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment. (Photo: Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

A global blueprint that seeks to save the planet’s biodiversity must be “ambitious, implementable and based on the best available science”, said Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy.

Billed as a “Paris-style” agreement for nature, the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework aims to guide actions worldwide until 2030, to preserve and protect nature and its essential services to people. None of the targets of its forerunner, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets in 2010, were fully met.

The framework is set to be adopted at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity’s 15th Conference of Parties (COP15), which began in Montreal, Canada this week.

COP15 is unfolding in a “very difficult geopolitical climate”, said Creecy. “For those of us who are coming from the climate talks, we were very aware of the tensions between the major powers as a result of the war in Ukraine.” 

There is a “growing trust deficit” between developed and developing countries. “Although this is not going to prevent an outcome for this meeting, it nevertheless does mean the meeting is not taking place in the most relaxed of circumstances.”

South Africa is one of 17 mega-biodiverse countries in the world. With its high levels of endemism and species diversity, it has a “special role to play” in the negotiations, Creecy said.

“We are operating under a situation where there is significant biodiversity loss and what we understand is if we continue in the current way that the world is proceeding we are going to see the mass extinction of species later in this century.”

Of the world’s 17 mega-biodiverse countries, all but two or three are developing countries. South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are on that list

Target three of the framework, also known as 30×30, aims to put 30% of land and 30% of the sea under conservation by 2030. Those opposed to it, including Survival International and Amnesty International, argue that it will devastate the lives of indigenous peoples and be hugely destructive for the livelihoods of other subsistence land users. It also diverts attention from the real drivers of biodiversity and climate collapse. 

“This is a global target but obviously each and every country will need to be contributing to the extent that they can in terms of their own domestic situation,” Creecy said. 

Although South Africa supports this target, it has to be supported by adequate means of implementation including financial resources, capacity building and technological development and transfer, she said. Financing must not just be available for new targets but also to support existing conservation efforts. 

Creecy said the Covid-19 pandemic has undermined international tourism in South Africa, which is a major revenue stream for conservation. South Africa will push to close the financial gap for conservation by 2030. This will require $700 billion a year. 

“What we don’t want to see is a situation where we have a paper agreement,” she said. 

South Africa is mooting the establishment of a global biodiversity fund and a clear strategy for resource mobilisation. 

Creecy said that as with the argument South Africa put forward at COP27, the scale of resources needed for biodiversity and conservation requires a “fundamental transformation and modernisation of global financial architecture” and reform of multilateral banks.

Angus Burns, the senior manager of land and biodiversity stewardship at the World Wildlife Fund-South Africa, said the country has the will to achieve the 30×30 target by 2030, and it seems that the government is throwing its weight behind it.

“I think there is a fair request that these Northern Hemisphere countries that have recognised the need to implement these measures, certainly assist those of us in Southern Hemisphere countries like South Africa to achieve these goals. 

“That means adequate resourcing because that’s really what it comes down to – are there sufficient financial resources and are there sufficient capacity resources, to upscale the protected area expansion work that needs to happen, as well as addressing all the issues around consumption and climate change,” Burns said.

It’s not an idea of “putting up fortresses to keep people out of natural areas”, he said. “It’s definitely not about that. It’s about empowering, enabling and capacitating people as custodians of the natural environment they live in – not displacing people

“… The minister [Creecy] said that in a meeting the other day, that this is about enabling the targets in a context where people and nature thrive together. So, it’s not this fortress conservation approach of ‘let’s buy land or let’s take land away’.”