Country delegates met online on Monday to start tackling a draft agreement for the pandemic-delayed COP15 global summit on biodiversity, days after the new summit date of April 2022 was set.

The virtual discussions between delegations from 195 countries are the first to be held since the UN unveiled the text in July and are slated to run until 3 September.

The fruit of months of online talks, the draft calls for the preservation of at least 30 percent of land and oceans, along with other biodiversity targets.

It maps out the route for humanity to be “living in harmony with nature” by 2050, outlining dozens of targets and milestones to be hit by 2030 to preserve biodiversity.

But environmental and conservation groups are lobbying for stronger language in the draft agreement around several key issues, including the measures needed to stave off further outbreaks of deadly viruses such as SARS-CoV-2.

“It’s not ambitious enough at all,” Wildlife Conservation society vice president Susan Lieberman told AFP, adding “There is no mention of the pandemic.”

Eleven civil society organisations warned in a statement that the current language on wildlife trade was dangerously weak, despite it’s probable link to the Covid outbreak.

“The (text) calls only for such trade to be ‘safe for human health’,” a representative for the groups said in an email, proposing new language that would outlaw any activity that carries a risk of “pathogen spillover”.

Highlighting further concerns, the Avaaz online activist network called for the agreement to include the full recognition of indigenous peoples and the elimination of at least $800 billion in subsidies for environmentally harmful activities.

It also said the text should “conserve and protect at least half of the planet by 2030 as a means of staying below 1.5C and addressing the acceleration of biodiversity loss”.

The text will need to withstand the crucial online negotiations phase in October as China assumes the presidency of the summit.

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