Countries call for urgent action
More than 100 countries yesterday pledged to put the protection of habitats at the heart of their government decision-making but they stopped short of committing to specific targets to curb mass extinctions.
Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu told delegates to a UN Biodiversity Conference in the city of Kunming 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 in all sectors of the global economy but crucial issues - like funding conservation in poorer countries and committing to biodiversity-friendly supply chains - have been left to discuss later.
With plant and animal species loss now at the fastest rate in 10 million years, politicians, scientists and experts have been trying to lay the groundwork for a new pact on saving biodiversity.
In a previous agreement signed in Aichi, Japan, in 2010, governments agreed on 20 targets to try to slow biodiversity loss and protect habitats by 2020, but none of those targets was met.
At the heart of efforts to save nature is a call by the United Nations for countries to protect and conserve 30% of their territory by 2030 - a target known as '30 by 30,' which the conference acknowledged though it was not clear to what extent host China backed it.
"The declaration made a reference to the '30 by 30' target, but did not indicate if Beijing is on board with it or not," said Li Shuo, senior climate adviser with environment group Greenpeace.
Elizabeth Mrema, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, played down the importance of the adoption of the specific 30% target.
Apart from the question of targets for conservation, some activists have complained that disagreement over the wording of the declaration had diverted delegates' attention when urgent action was needed.