COP15: Agreement to Convert 30% of the Planet into Protected Areas Threatens Indigenous Peoples

by Sare Frabes

While representatives of almost 200 countries and UN members celebrate the conclusion of the UN Conference on Biodiversity (COP15), held in Canada from December 7 to 19, with the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal pact, organizations claim that it represents a danger to the rights of indigenous peoples.

The final agreement, which aims to convert 30% of the planet into protected areas by 2030, has been criticized by indigenous peoples and organizations such as Survival International, which has warned that, if this policy is adopted, it will become the largest land grab in history.

Currently, 17% of the planet’s land and approximately 8% of its oceans are managed under protected area schemes, which have restrictions on activities such as fishing, agriculture and mining.

“We didn’t manage to stop the adoption of 30%, driven as it was by the most powerful forces in the world: including the governments of the Global North and the conservation industry,” the organization said in a statement.

In its position, it states that the “fortress conservation” model implemented in protected areas has proven to be a danger to the world’s indigenous peoples. As evidence, the expulsion of at least 14 million people in Africa alone has been recorded due to the promotion of community evictions and human rights abuses under the pretext of nature conservation.

For its part, Amnesty International recognizes that the COP15 agreement, despite having a series of environmental objectives and human rights safeguards, “does not fully protect and defend the rights of indigenous peoples”, as stated by Chris Chapman, member of the organization.

For Chapman, the problem lies in the fact that, within the Kunming-Montreal agreement, states do not explicitly recognize indigenous peoples’ lands and territories as a separate category of conserved area, which places their territories at risk from the plunder they often suffer in areas such as state-managed national parks.

Specifically, this objective since the proposal of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity was rejected mainly by European countries. The incorporation of indigenous territories as a category of their own would have included indigenous sovereignty in the plan, empowering indigenous nations to self-determine their own territories. Without that additional category, indigenous-led conservation efforts are considered protected areas, over which states ultimately have control.

“As a result, States have failed to fully recognize the immense contribution of indigenous peoples to biodiversity conservation, exposing them to greater risk of human rights violations,” said Chapman.

Despite constituting only 5% of the world’s population, indigenous peoples’ lands are home to 80% of the planet’s biodiversity.

Other indigenous organizations such as Indigenous Climate Action, through its executive director, Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, expressed concern that, without solid rules behind the agreement, the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples in their traditional territories and their ways of preserving nature will be jeopardized.

Boosting NBS

For its part, Survival International expressed the danger that the Kunming-Montreal agreement includes the promotion of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS).

Specifically, goals 8 and 11 of the pact promote the implementation of SBNs to minimize the impact of climate change on issues such as ocean acidification, as well as to restore ecosystems and reduce disaster risk.

For the organization, the push for SBNs coming mainly from European countries represents more land grabs and human rights abuses without materializing actions to counteract climate change.

“The Global North, as usual, has taken no responsibility for environmental destruction and has placed the burden on the Global South, aided in this by the conservation industry which has everything to gain from the money deployed for ‘more Protected Areas and false Nature-based solutions’,” charges Survival International.

Hours after the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal agreement, the “Coalition of Great Ambitions for Nature and People” (HAC) announced the implementation of a joint plan to achieve the goal of converting 30% of the planet into protected areas, popularly known as 30 x 30.

The coalition, which includes 116 countries, announced its commitment to support countries with concrete actions for the establishment of new protected areas and other conservation measures.

The Bezos Earth Fund, owned by Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon – responsible for the annual generation of more than 200,000 tons of plastic waste that threaten mainly marine ecosystems – together with Bloomberg Philanthropies and Rainforest Trust, pledged to contribute US$3 million over the next three years to support HAC’s objectives.

“This will launch a critical new phase of coalition implementation to help sustain political commitment, implement conservation plans, support capacity building and knowledge sharing, organize technical assistance, and mobilize resources to achieve the 30×30 goals worldwide,” the coalition announced.

This investment is in addition to the funding agreed to by the countries that agreed to the Kunming-Montreal compact, which aims to double investment to $200 billion annually; although such financial commitments are not legally binding.

Original version of article published on December 21st, 2022 by Avispa Midia. Translated by Schools for Chiapas.

Want to receive our weekly blog digest in your inbox?

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top