Developing countries walk out of negotiations at Cop15

Impasse over biodiversity funds prompts concerns negotiations are on brink of collapse

Cop15, the UN biodiversity conference, hit a major blockage in the early hours of Wednesday as developing countries walked out of intensive negotiations on funding to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.

The impasse has raised concerns that the global summit in Montreal is facing the prospect of a weak outcome in coming days – and may even break down.

The walkout was by negotiators among a “contact group on resource mobilisation”. Many countries from the Global South, including Africa and South America, indicated they did not see a way forward on this agenda item. This is a mechanism to forge agreement before feeding the outcome into a post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF).

This had immediate knock-on consequences on other negotiations. The Chinese presidency was forced to convene an emergency meeting of heads of delegations in an attempt to resolve arising issues, which went on for more than two hours.


The impasse came at a critical time as political negotiations were about to begin with environment ministers – including Irish Minister for Heritage Malcolm Noonan – in an attempt to make progress on the most intractable aspects of the GBF.

Many developing countries want a new dedicated biodiversity fund, whereas the EU believes and other wealthy countries say there are many initiatives that could be drawn on or developed to increase financial flows to developing countries – an existing funding gap of $700 billion a year is accepted by the vast majority of almost 200 countries at the talks.

“When Cop15 agrees on an ambitious GBF, we will bear a higher burden than others in implementing it. That is why we emphasise, in the strongest possible terms, that the adoption of the GBF at this Cop must be accompanied by approval of a commensurately robust package on resource mobilisation,” Brazil’s head of delegation said in a statement on behalf of countries who walked out.

“In line with the principle of equity, it should ensure the provision of predictable, measurable, new, additional, and adequate financial resources from developed countries to developing ones. It should also ensure accessibility and proper monitoring of the financial commitments and pledges. Only a framework with clear targets and an architecture for resource mobilisation and access can be considered an ambitious framework,” it added.

The group previously proposed that developed countries must commit to mobilise and jointly provide financial grants of at least $100 billion annually or 1 per cent of global GDP until 2030; an amount to be revised for the 2030–2050 period. “These resources should be new and additional,” they underlined.

Speaking a media briefing, Innocent Maloba of the World Wildlife Fund said stalled finance negotiations had brought Cop15 to the edge of a full breakdown.

“All countries need to dramatically increase ambition across the negotiations. It is particularly concerning that donor countries don’t look to be ready to step up on international biodiversity finance, despite some welcome commitments in the lead-in. This has led to the negotiations now being on the edge of a full breakdown,” he added.

As the countries with the greatest roles in driving biodiversity loss, through high levels of consumption, developed countries have a duty to support developing countries in the protection and conservation of the biodiversity that we all rely on, Mr Maloba said.

This was in their own self-interest, he believed. “This is about safeguarding the natural world, and supporting the communities on the front line of the nature crisis. At its heart, this isn’t only about numbers, it is also about the most efficient way and effective way of getting finance to where it’s needed and today not tomorrow.”

What are considered the most important biodiversity talks in a decade have a key target of protecting 30 per cent of the world’s land and sea by 2030, but this has yet to be signed off – similarly a deal on addressing digital biopiracy.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times