According to a survey commissioned by Business for Nature, $1.8 trillion is spent annually to support environmentally harmful activities like the expansion of fossil fuels, monocultures, and overfishing. At the Cop15 biodiversity summit, the European Union supported a proposal to shift harmful subsidies away from activities that hurt the environment and to toward those that do so by the year 2025. The European Union issued a statement saying that “as a priority, existing resources need to be used more effectively, especially by aligning all financial flows with nature-positive aims and by removing detrimental subsidies.”
India and Japan are two nations that have opposed completely eliminating subsidies. Vinod Matur, the chief negotiator for India, told Carbon Copy that the nation’s impoverished and disadvantaged farmers “require both social and economic support.” Prior to the negotiations, Japan wanted to have any mention of agriculture and fisheries subsidies removed. One of the biggest producers of meat in the world, Argentina, welcomed the removal of damaging subsidies but questioned the ability of the global community to truly transfer them, viewing it as a type of “creative accounting” to maintain the status quo. A negotiator from Latin America who desired to remain nameless criticized the EU’s stance. “We consider the situation to be worrying. We are particularly concerned about some rich nations’ lack of adaptability,” they warned.
Sweating the small stuff
This week, when the matter is formally debated in plenary negotiations, it will be a crucial battleground, according to Costa Rica’s chief negotiator Eugenia Arguedas. By 2030, a group led by Costa Rica aims to safeguard 30% of the world’s land and water habitats. Country representatives concentrated on “minutiae” during the first week of negotiations, leaving the “big-ticket subjects” for the second week, according to Li Lin, senior director of policy and advocacy at WWF. He stated, “They have given themselves a lot to do in the coming days. In order to discuss a plan to stop climate change and reverse the loss of biodiversity on the planet’s fragile remaining ecosystems, over 200 nations have assembled in Montreal.
An “unprecedented” decline in species diversity throughout human history, according to a recent UN scientific assessment, puts at least a million species in danger of going extinct. One of the primary outcomes anticipated, according to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, is the divesting of damaging subsidies. The main causes of this damage, including detrimental subsidies, poorly focused investment, unsustainable agricultural systems, and more generalized patterns of consumption and production, must be addressed, according to Guterres. This will be a major area of contention, as it has in the past negotiations running up to the Montreal summit, observers said. However, these diverted subsidies, according to Carole Saint-Laurent, head of the IUCN’s forests and land division, might represent a new source of funding. Saint-Laurent stated, “We see huge potential in redirecting detrimental subsidies to investments in ecosystem restoration,” adding that this might become a “win-win” situation for all nations.
When the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed to outlaw specific forms of unsustainable fishing subsidies, a problem that had stuck since 2011, countries made some headway. For the first time, nations decided to prohibit subsidies for unrestricted high seas fishing, overfished stock fishing, and unrestricted stock fishing. The deal must now be formally approved by two-thirds of the WTO’s member nations before implementation can begin.
However, commentators have also cautioned about the potential of failing to reach an agreement in Montreal after almost two years of online and in-person negotiations and with barely a week left to find a successful conclusion. Delegates have also come under fire from campaigners for the sluggish development of other issues, including as a system to track each nation’s efforts to reach its goals. “Here in Montreal, it appears that negotiators are attacking the ratchet with a hatchet. We are unconsciously making the same mistakes we did in Aichi [where the previous agreement was reached in 2010]. According to Guido Broekhoven, Head of Policy Research and Development at WWF, we run the risk of making ambiguous commitments with no real meaning.