Nearly 200 countries have agreed to protect 30 percent of Earth’s lands and oceans by 2030. The deal was reached early this morning at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal following two weeks of negotiations. The only holdouts to the deal were the US and the Vatican, though the Biden administration has a domestic plan to conserve 30 percent of US land and water by 2030. 

With the agreement, each participating country agrees to hitting over 20 environmental targets by the end of the decade. A key condition is the so-called 30×30 plan to protect at least 30 percent of land, inland water and coastal areas by 2030. That forms the basis of an international agreement similar to the 2015 Paris climate accord

Along with the protection of habitats, nations have pledged to reduce pesticide risks by 50 percent, reduce nutrient runoff from farms and the rate at which invasive species are introduced to ecosystems.

Nations now have eight years to stop the loss of biodiversity being driven by humans due rainforest destruction, species exploitation, pollution and more. Previous agreements, like the biodiversity targets set at Aichi, Japan in 2010, saw nations fail to achieve the goals set. This time, though, there’s a monitoring framework to keep track of progress. 

In addition to protecting species, the draft COP15 agreement urges nations to recognize and respect “the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, including over their traditional territories.” However, Amnesty International wrote that the deal was a “missed opportunity to protect indigenous peoples’ rights,” as it didn’t explicitly recognize their lands and territories as a separate category of conserved area.

Another point of disagreement was between wealthy and poor countries over funds. Nations in South America and Africa that house the world’s largest rainforests wanted assurances from rich countries that they’ll receive money to battle poaching, illegal deforestation and other issues, according to The Washington Post

At one point in negotiations, delegates from developing countries walked out of on talks over funding issues. The agreement must “align the resources and the ambitions,” said Columbia’s environmental minister Susana Muhamad. The Democratic Republic of Congo’s environment minister, Ève Bazaiba, added that “when it comes to fauna, we need to have the means to achieve this objective.” 

The COP15 agreement follows a breakthrough deal at the COP27 climate conference, approving a climate damage fund for developing nations. How well the plan will be implemented remains to be seen, though. “While agreements are great, if we’re going to save life on Earth, now we have to roll up our sleeves and do it,” the Center for Biological Diversity’s Tanya Sanerib wrote. “The planet faces an extinction crisis like none ever before witnessed by humankind, with 28 percent of species across the global facing extinction.”