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Canada and the European Union remain optimistic the United Nations biodiversity conference in Montreal will result in an ambitious plan to protect nature, but developing countries appear unwilling to move forward without financing commitments from wealthy countries.

Early Wednesday, representatives from 54 countries, including Brazil, India and Indonesia, walked out of negotiations over a lack of progress on mobilizing the financial resources needed to help less wealthy countries meet conservation targets. On Dec. 14, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told Canada's National Observer "what you will see in the coming days is more and more donor countries saying: We hear you, we want to work with you on this issue," in response to a question about the walkout.

“We need to hear that call and craft the financial mechanism in the way that it would be accessible, that would allow them (Global South countries) to implement the change on the ground,” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU environment commissioner, in a panel discussion co-hosted by Canada’s National Observer on Dec. 15.

“Countries in the (Global North) need to mobilize resources to help and work with our partners in the South to help them contribute to nature protection. So on that, we really see eye-to-eye,” Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said at the panel with Sinkevičius.

David McKie, deputy managing editor of Canada's National Observer, interviews federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault after a panel discussion with EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius. Photo by Canada's National Observer

Comments like these are emblematic of the “condescending tone” of some remarks from Global North ministers, said Oscar Soria, campaign director for Avaaz, a U.S.-based non-profit organization.

The use of “them” makes it seem as though this financing is charity or help without acknowledging the EU’s responsibility to support less wealthy countries in protecting biodiversity, said Soria.

“I think that the time for constructive ambiguity has passed. People need answers,” Soria told Canada’s National Observer in an interview.

At the outset of the conference, Canada committed $350 million to help developing countries advance conservation efforts. Developing countries are pushing for financing in the hundreds of billions. The EU has pushed back against proposals for wealthy nations to help foot the conservation bill, money that would allow developing nations housing great biodiversity to afford to protect it, Reuters reported Dec. 15.

Canada and the European Union remain optimistic the United Nations biodiversity conference in Montreal will result in an ambitious plan to protect nature, but developing countries are standing firm on the finance issue. #COP15

The financing issue appears to be the “critical point” on which these global negotiations will succeed or fail, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said at a news conference on Dec. 15 in Montreal.

Civil society groups have decried the slow pace of negotiations and divisions on key issues between countries holding up the agreement that will guide global action on protecting biodiversity.

“I'm very optimistic, and especially now that ministers have started to arrive, I think it's going to help shift gears in terms of the speed of negotiations,” Guilbeault said at the panel discussion.

“If we can't come to an agreement, which I don't think will be the case, it will be because of a lack of political will,” said Guilbeault. “I would like to think that there's enough political will here in Montreal to make that ambitious agreement happen.”

With files from The Canadian Press

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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What these developing countries don't understand is the wealthy countries are wealthy because of the deals we struck with them during our glory days of empire and colonization. To expect entitled folk now, with the rising cost of all the pleasures we take for granted happening daily, to lop off a piece of our buying power to help restore animal habitat in the third world, is dreaming in technicolour.

We are the destroyers of the natural....the developers, the industrialists. Clearing rain forest to plant palm oil, buying palm oil for our processing plants....that we can handle. But our governments subsidizing restoration?
It isn't going to happen. And we'll have a thousand reasons why not giving, is the right thing to do.

We should start by ending these conferences, and collecting the money it takes to bring rich folks together to jaw...............and sending those funds to the land defenders around the planet. Those folks could use it.

We could also defund the police and military we use to keep them kettled on lands we're 'developing' for one rich f..... or the other: and give them those funds as well.

But now I'm dreaming in technicolour.

For at least a significant number of countries in the global south, western countries could start by stopping the rape of their lands for minerals and stop building the destructive dams needed to power their operations.
Don't call it aid, if those nations object (and well they might: a lot of western "aid" has been in the form of loans to build projects that line the pockets of the "aid donor's" global corporations, and the country's own in the form of loan interest).