: A major deal to reverse widespread nature loss risks being put in jeopardy by further delays to a key round of UN biodiversity talks, Reuters
reported. The UN summit COP15 was originally scheduled to take place in Kunming, China, in October 2020. At the meeting, countries are due to approve the “post-2020 global biodiversity framework
” – a deal often described as the “Paris Agreement for nature”. However, the meeting has already been delayed four times amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Reuters reported. And now China, which is currently enforcing lockdowns across the country under its zero-Covid strategy, has sought to delay the talks even further – until 2023, Reuters said. Oscar Soria, campaign director of the activist group Avaaz, told the Guardian
that China’s refusal to provide a date for COP15 “sends the wrong message”. He told the newspaper: “It’s unbelievable that China is not able to provide any answers. It sends the wrong message – that this is not important and can be postponed, even though we are in an ecological emergency and this cannot wait.”
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Reuters reported that calls for COP15 to be held outside of China – [present since the delays first occurred] – have grown louder amid the fresh roadblocks. Susan Lieberman, vice president of international policy at the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society
, told the newswire: “The best outcome would be to have COP15 in 2022 and for China to recognise it can’t be in China due to Covid.” But a decision to relocate the meeting would require China’s approval – which is unlikely, Nature
reported. The publication added that some believe waiting for China could still deliver the best outcome for biodiversity. Ma Keping, an ecologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Botany in Beijing, told Nature: “The Chinese government has worked very hard to prepare such a meeting. It should happen in China.”
WHAT’S AT STAKE
: Carbon Brief
has previously reported in depth on the global biodiversity framework, from the last set of biodiversity talks which took place in Geneva in March. The ultimate aim of the framework is for people to “live in harmony with nature” by 2050. One of the flagships of the deal is a pledge for countries to ensure that at least 30% of the world’s lands and marine areas are protected for nature by 2030 – often referred to as “30 by 30”. Many of the other targets also have implications for efforts to tackle climate change, ranging from the role for nature-based climate solutions to the removal and redirection of fossil fuel subsidies. The overall importance of the agreement “cannot be overstated”, Aban Marker Kabraji, an adviser to the UN on biodiversity and climate change, told Nature. He said such agreements spur action and that governments might hold off updating or developing strategies until after they are settled. “It is extremely important that these meetings take place in the cycle in which they’re planned,” Kabraji told Nature.
Food as a weapon of war
Russia is using food supplies as a weapon with global repercussions by blockading Ukrainian ships full of wheat and sunflower seeds in the Black Sea, said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen at the annual World Economic Forum held in Davos, according to Reuters
. She said “global cooperation” was the “antidote to Russia’s blackmail”. Ukrainian media outlet TSN
quoted presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych saying that “Russia is resorting to blackmail and manipulation to lift sanctions and obstruct arms supplies to Ukraine”. According to BBC News
, Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Vladimir Putin is “weaponising Ukraine’s crops” as “a blackmail tool” for the rest of the world, noting that it was like what “Stalin did in 1933
”. US secretary of state Antony Blinken also accused Russia of using food as a weapon in Ukraine by holding “hostage” supplies for not just Ukrainians but also millions around the world, EurActiv
The UK is discussing with allies sending warships to the Black Sea to protect freighters carrying Ukrainian grain, the Times
reported. A “coalition of the willing” would aim to break Russia’s blockade in weeks by providing a “protective corridor” from Odesa through to the Bosphorus. Russian deputy foreign minister Andrei Rudenko said the country was ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine in return for lifting some sanctions, the Interfax news agency
reported. However, Britain’s defence secretary Ben Wallace rejected the idea of lifting sanctions and welcomed the suggestion of Black Sea nations, such as Turkey, escorting the Ukraine grain shipments after Moscow ruled out the involvement of Western forces, Reuters
reported. Meanwhile, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that “while Russia is weaponising hunger by preventing the export of grain from Ukraine’s ports, the US will not employ military resources to this end”, reported the Kyiv Independent
The Russians exported almost half a million tonnes of grain from the occupied Ukrainian territories to Russia, said first deputy minister of agricultural policy and food, Taras Vysotsky, reported Ukrainian media outlet LB.ua
. The occupiers are trying to sell stolen grain in Egypt and Lebanon, but these countries have refused to buy it, according to the publication. However, Russian ships with Ukrainian grain were recorded in Syria. The theft was recorded by satellite photos of the Crimean port of Sevastopol, where two Russia-flagged bulk carrier ships are shown docking and loading up with what is believed to be stolen Ukrainian grain, CNN
reported. Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of “gradually stealing” Ukrainian food products and trying to sell them.
PALM OIL FACEPALM:
After banning palm oil exports on 28 April – “one of the biggest acts of crop protectionism since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” – Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo said exports could resume from 23 May, Bloomberg
reported. Vegetable oil prices have been registering record highs, with labour restrictions, climate change and conflict contributing to this latest oil crisis, said an article in the Conversation
. The story noted that the export ban “temporarily quieted domestic critics”, while causing immediate repercussions in importing nations, such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Egypt. While the reversal might bring these importers relief, it “may lead to new protests on the streets of Jakarta”.
In mid-April, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi promised Joe Biden that India could feed the world, but by mid-May, he had imposed a “hasty ban” on wheat to protect its own food security, wrote Bloomberg
columnist Andy Mukherjee. Likening the export repeal to a repeat of pandemic promises “about how India, the world’s pharmacy, will save humanity”, Mukherjee pointed to a climate-driven chapati crisis at home where there may be 6.5% fewer chapatis for the same crop as previous harvests. The Guardian
reported that India’s wheat farmers “on the frontline of the climate emergency” are finding themselves with at least 50% less grain to sell. Global wheat prices jumped by 6% after India announced its wheat export ban, with Germany’s agriculture minister warning that “if everyone starts to impose export restrictions or to close markets, that would worsen the crisis”. Another Bloomberg
story speculated that a rice export ban might be next on the cards, which the Indian government refuted, Mint
Shoaib Daniyal observed in The India Fix
that “export bans are an implicit tax on farmers in order to subsidise the Indian food consumer” and that “high prices can be lethal for a ruling party at election time”.
Barely a week after it capped trade on wheat, India restricted sugar exports at 10m tonnes for the current marketing year that ends in September, Bloomberg
reported. The story described the move by the world’s largest producer and second-largest exporter as “an extreme case of precaution”, given that domestic supplies are abundant. The decision to curb sugar exports – the first such move in six years – comes at a time when India clocked record sugar production and sales in global markets, the Hindu BusinessLine
reported, and pointed out that restrictions would not apply to US and EU markets. It added that the Indian government announced these restrictions to maintain domestic availability and prevent a surge in prices amid rising global food and oil prices, to “safeguard interests of the common citizens of the country”.