China urges action as ministers meet at U.N. nature summit

MONTREAL, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the world to take action on preventing nature loss in a video message to ministers from more than 120 countries assembled in Montreal for the U.N. biodiversity summit, of which China holds the presidency.

"We need to push forward the global process of biodiversity protection," Xi said on Thursday via a translator. "All living things should flourish without harming each other."

Countries are attempting to reach a new global deal on protecting nature through 2030, guided by 23 targets. But progress has been slow. The talks among delegates began on Dec. 7, however countries have been unable to find agreement on aspects such as funding and how best to protect land and waters, with hundreds of unresolved items in a draft deal.

China on Thursday designated six ministers to carry out consultations on outstanding issues, including finance mobilization and three key targets on conservation and restoration, in hopes of reaching a deal by the Dec. 19 deadline.

The Mexican negotiating party in a Tuesday evening meeting promised a bottle of tequila to delegates for each item resolved in a draft target.

The transition team for incoming Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva struck a more serious note, sending a letter to the U.N. biodiversity secretariat pushing for more movement on money.

"The current impasse in negotiations places this agenda at risk," wrote Jorge Viana, who is leading Lula's transition working group on the environment.

Early Wednesday, developing country delegates walked out of a finance meeting to protest the reluctance by wealthy nations at the summit to discuss new funds.

"Without financial resources commensurate with the level of ambition of the goals and targets in the framework, it will not be possible to implement," the Brazilian letter read.

Developing countries have called for developed nations to deliver $100 billion per year in funding for biodiversity protection in their territories. Experts say around $700 billion per year is needed for nature.

But developed nations said they want to see ambition levels match financing.

"There will be no funding if we don't have an ambition level," Norway's climate and environment minister Espen Barth Eide told Reuters. Referencing the loss and damage fund outcome at climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt last month, he noted that although some progress has been made there, there was not enough ambition on mitigating climate change.

"All of us who are on the high ambition side have basically vowed that we don't want this to be a repeat of Sharm (el-Sheikh)," he said.


Some banks and other financial services firms attending the summit are supporting a target in the draft deal which would oblige companies to analyse and report more information about how their operations affect, and are affected by, nature loss.

"We need specificity, objectivity and differentiation as investors," said Andrew Howard, global head of sustainable investment at British fund manager Schroders. "That's what disclosure can help provide."

As long as aspects like mandatory disclosure are agreed in a deal, the potential applications could be quick, said Suresh Weerasinghe, head of EU and international policy at insurer Aviva.

If a deal is reached, "we can say it's coming, we want to start seeing behaviour change now," Weerasinghe said.

Reporting by Gloria Dickie and Isla Binnie; Editing by Simon Jessop and Deepa Babington

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Gloria Dickie reports on climate and environmental issues for Reuters. She is based in London. Her interests include biodiversity loss, Arctic science, the cryosphere, international climate diplomacy, climate change and public health, and human-wildlife conflict. She previously worked as a freelance environmental journalist for 7 years, writing for publications such as the New York Times, the Guardian, Scientific American, and Wired magazine. Dickie was a 2022 finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists in the international reporting category for her climate reporting from Svalbard. She is also the author of Eight Bears: Mythic Past and Imperiled Future (W.W. Norton, 2023).