DRC withdraws objections to seal agreement on historic action on biodiversity

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A once-in-a-decade deal to stop the destruction of Earth’s ecosystems finally won full support at COP15 in Montreal on Monday after the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) dropped its opposition.

On Monday, DRC’s environment minister Ève Bazaiba threatened to question the integrity of the historic UN biodiversity deal hours after it was signed, when China’s summit chairman appeared to ignore his country’s objections to the text and passed it through.

Related: DRC objection tightens COP15 deal on ‘paradigm-changing’ biodiversity.

But on Monday evening, shortly before the closing plenary, the president of the Chinese COP15, Huang Runqiu, approached Bazaiba to shake her hand in an apparent apology – to the applause of the entire conference hall of the Palais des congrès – and then held a speech in which she congratulated China’s environment minister on the deal, acknowledging that it had passed. The DRC’s finance concerns will be recorded as part of the COP’s final report.

It came after intense plenary negotiations between the big three rainforest nations – Brazil, Indonesia and the DRC – which last month signed a G20 cooperation agreement for their conservation, dubbed the “OPEC of rainforests”.

The Brazilian delegation head, Leonardo Cleaver de Athayde, could be heard encouraging the DRC minister to soften his opposition to the deal at a meeting. Once convinced, they posed with the Indonesian chief negotiator, holding hands and smiling.

Speaking to the Guardian on Monday morning, Bazaiba had said he did not support the deal, questioning action on targets to protect 30% of the planet for nature by 2030, reform $500bn (£410bn) of harmful subsidies for the environment and take urgent action on extinction. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, home to a large swath of the Congo Basin rainforest.

The objection raised the possibility of legal recourse to the process, a potentially disastrous outcome for action on biodiversity loss. His objections have been supported by civil society groups in the DRC, who are calling for more money for conservation.

Following the rapprochement, Prescilia Monireh of the indigenous organization ANAPAC in the DRC, said: “We are confident that the DRC government will implement the agreement, protecting Central Africa’s important rainforests and securing the land rights of indigenous peoples. However, we support the DRC’s call for more financial support, structured to allow indigenous peoples access to money. This has proven to be very difficult with current funding mechanisms.”

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