UPDATE 1-World delegates appear to kick deal to halt nature loss into long grass


* Little consensus so far on biodiversity targets

* Another round of talks expected in June

* Co-chair begs delegates to agree on wording

* Some call for more leadership from China (Adds bullets, anecdote on chair’s frustration, quote from Gabon delegate on funding)

By Emma Farge

GENEVA, March 29 (Reuters) — Negotiations on an ambitious biodiversity deal to halt or reverse nature loss drew to a close in Switzerland on Tuesday, with countries agreeing to little more than further talks in June.

The Geneva meeting of around 1,000 negotiators from 164 countries was meant to be the last before the postponed U.N. Conference on Biodiversity in the Chinese city of Kunming where countries are due to ratify a deal to protect some 1 million plant and animal species threatened with extinction.

The framework has the potential to be the biodiversity equivalent of the 2015 Paris climate deal but campaigners have bemoaned glacial progress in the talks that on Tuesday approved another round of negotiations in Kenya in late June.

Greenpeace East Asia senior policy adviser Li Shuo said the process was «on shaky ground».

«This process has so far been ill-designed and underwhelming,» he added.

A draft text showed a large portion of the framework’s 21 targets still in square brackets such as specific goals for reducing pesticide use and eliminating billions of dollars in harmful agricultural subsidies, indicating a lack of formal agreement.

On the main mission of halting and reversing biodiversity losses, negotiators could not decide whether they were aiming for 2030 or 2050, the document showed.

«It’s been incredibly frustrating,» said one delegate who declined to be named since the negotiating sessions are confidential.

In an illustration of the challenges, co-chair Francis Ogwal begged delegates to approve wording that negotiators had carefully finessed until past 3 a.m. on Monday morning. «I beg you not to square-bracket anything here. Can I gavel?» the Ugandan asked the room, smiling nervously. He pounded the table and burst into laughter, only for Bolivia to object seconds later and unravel the consensus. A solution was later agreed.

MISSING BILLIONS

Another major area that remains unresolved is how the framework will be financed, with Africa and developing countries calling on wealthy nations to provide up to $700 billion in annual funding by 2030.

«This can make a substantial difference to the world’s ability to address the loss of biodiversity. This should be acknowledged and acted upon,» Stanislas Stephen Mouba, Gabon’s head of delegation, told the conference. A coalition of NGOs including the WWF say at least $60 billion is needed annually.

One positive outcome, even if not formalised, is that participants said there was convergence around the idea of protecting 30% of land and sea areas globally by 2030. A co-chair Basile van Havre told Reuters he saw support for that target from China, the talks’ president, for the first time.

He was upbeat in the closing session saying delegates had made «a tremendous effort to advance our work as much as possible and we have managed to build a solid foundation for the road ahead».

However, some participants have called for greater ambition from China, with some voicing frustration about the lack of clarity on the Kunming summit timing as it faces a fourth delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment did not respond to a request for comment and Chinese officials in Geneva declined an interview request.

«They have been listening but we hope for more engagement and ambition,» Brian O’Donnell, the director of the Campaign for Nature told Reuters. (Additonal reporting by David Stanway in Shanghai; editing by Barbara Lewis and Nick Macfie)



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