China pledges $233 million to global biodiversity fund

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Chinese President Xi Jinping delivering a speech via video link at the opening of the World Health Assembly virtual meeting. WHO / AFP.

China on Tuesday pledged to inject $233 million into a new fund to protect biodiversity in developing countries during a key UN conservation summit, despite disagreements among major donors on the initiative.

Beijing — the world’s biggest polluter — has sought to play a more prominent role internationally on biodiversity conservation in recent years.

Its pledge came as delegates from about 195 countries gathered in the southern Chinese city of Kunming for the first of a two-part summit on safeguarding plants, animals and ecosystems.

The summit aims to establish a new accord setting out targets for 2050 and 2030.

“China will take the lead in establishing the Kunming biodiversity fund with a capital contribution of 1.5 billion yuan ($233 million) to support the cause of biodiversity conservation in developing countries,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said during a speech at the COP15 conference on Tuesday.

“China calls on… all parties to contribute to the fund.”
A key proposal being debated at the conference is the “30 by 30” agenda that would afford 30 percent of the Earth’s land and oceans protected status by 2030.

Global spending to protect and restore nature needs to triple this decade to about $350 billion annually by 2030 and $536 billion by 2050 to meet this target, a UN report said in May.

But some rich country donors say a new fund for conservation is unnecessary because the United Nations’ Global Environment Facility already helps developing nations finance green projects.

The funding issue will be taken up at negotiations in Geneva in January 2022 and then later at the second part of the summit in April and May next year.

Xi also took a swipe at the United States in his speech on Tuesday, saying: “We should practise genuine multilateralism and abide by international rules which are not to be exploited or discarded at one’s own will.”

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity has been ratified by 195 countries and the European Union — although not the United States, the world’s biggest polluter historically — with the parties meeting every two years.

The biodiversity discussions at COP15 are separate from the weightier COP26 summit set to begin next month in Glasgow, where world leaders are under pressure to act on the climate crisis. (AFP)

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