With just one week left at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference for countries to reach a deal to protect Earth’s ecosystems, environmental campaigners on Monday implored negotiators gathered in Montréal to ensure that the elimination of harmful government subsidies is a core component of any agreement.
Climate Home News reports the European Union announced its support for a proposal at the U.N. biodiversity summit—also known as COP15—to eliminate harmful subsidies by 2025 and redirect the funds toward activities that protect ecosystems.
“As a priority, existing resources need to be used more effectively, including by aligning all financial flows with nature-positive objectives,” the European Commission said in a statement.
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Experts have shown that governments spend at least $1.8 trillion annually—or about 2% of global gross domestic product—on subsidies to support ecosystem-destructive industries including fossil fuels, agriculture, and fishing.
Greenpeace amplified its pre-COP15 contention that “governments must address subsidies to extractive and otherwise harmful industries and stop encouraging such business models through trade and investment.”
“Governments must also act to stop fossil fuel, forestry, and big agricultural companies from insidious attempts to co-opt nature protection through ‘nature-based solutions’ or offsets,” the group said. “Biodiversity offsets are not a substitute for real action to stop destruction of nature, just as carbon offsets are not a substitute for real emissions reductions.”
“Biodiversity offsets risk becoming as big a scam as carbon offsets,” warned Greenpeace. “We don’t have time for these false solutions.”
Writing about ocean biodiversity in a Monday opinion piece in The Guardian, progressive British economist Guy Standing asserts that “countries should commit to scrapping the subsidies given to industrial fisheries, £22bn of which contributes to overfishing and illegal fishing, devastating fish populations and marine food chains.”
However, many countries including Japan—one of numerous nations that tried to remove references to agricultural and fishing subsidies in the Global Biodiversity Framework—and India oppose eliminating all subsidies.
“We are against the use of words like elimination, and are pushing for words like reducing, restoring, or repurposing of the subsidies,” Vinod Mathur, who chairs India’s National Biodiversity Authority and who is leading his country’s COP15 negotiations, told CarbonCopy.
“The way the Western world interprets subsidies is different from how countries like India do,” he added. “A subsidy can be pervasive or normal. Our farmers who are poor and disadvantaged need both social and economic support.”