Photography: Paul Chiasson/AP
A once-in-a-decade agreement to stop the destruction of Earth’s ecosystems finally won full support at Cop15 in Montreal on Monday after the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) dropped its opposition.
Earlier on Monday, Ève Bazaiba, DRC’s environment minister, threatened to question the integrity of the landmark UN biodiversity accord just hours after it was signed, when the Chinese summit chairwoman seemed to ignore his country’s objections to the text and forced it through.
Related: DRC’s objection to ‘paradigm-shifting’ COP15 biodiversity deal
But on Monday evening, just before the final plenary, Chinese COP15 President Huang Runqiu approached Bazaiba to shake her hand in an apparent apology – to applause from the entire conference room at the Palais des Congrès – and she then delivered a speech. in which she congratulated the Chinese Minister of the Environment for the agreement, acknowledging that it had been adopted. DRC’s financial concerns will be recorded as part of the COP’s final report.
It came after intense plenary talks between the three major rainforest countries – Brazil, Indonesia and the DRC – which signed a G20 cooperation agreement last month for their conservation, dubbed “the OPEC of the tropical forests”.
We could hear the head of the Brazilian delegation, Leonardo Cleaver de Athayde, encouraging the Congolese minister to soften her opposition to the agreement in a small group. Once convinced, they posed with Indonesia’s chief negotiator, holding hands and smiling.
Speaking to the Guardian on Monday morning, Bazaiba had said she did not support the deal, casting doubt on measures to protect 30% of the planet for nature by 2030, reform $500 billion (410 billion pounds) of environmentally harmful subsidies and take urgent action against extinction. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, home to much of the Congo Basin rainforest.
The objection has raised the possibility of legal challenges to the process, a potentially disastrous outcome for action against biodiversity loss. His objections have received support from DRC civil society groups, who are demanding more money for conservation.
Following the rapprochement, Prescilia Monireh of the indigenous organization ANAPAC in the DRC, said: “We are confident that the government of the DRC will implement the agreement, securing the important tropical forests of Central Africa and guaranteeing the rights territories of indigenous peoples. However, we support the DRC’s call for increased financial support, structured in a way that allows indigenous peoples to access the money. This has proven to be very difficult with current funding mechanisms.
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