The last official day of the two-week long UN biodiversity summit ended Monday with "twists and turns", and attendees thanked the Chinese presidency for its leadership.
In her closing remarks, Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, expressed gratitude to Huang Runqiu, the COP15 president and China's minister of ecology and environment, as well as to the government and people of China.
"This has been a complex and long journey, but the steadfast determination of the Chinese presidency has brought us hereto what the UN secretary-general called this morning: the beginning of a peace pact with nature," Anderson said.
Parties to the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), or the COP15, convened in Montreal from Dec 7 to 19 to negotiate the terms of a post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
In the wee hours of Monday, delegates adopted a landmark environmental package to restore nature loss by 2030, which is called "Kunming-Montreal Global biodiversity framework". They reconvened again after a brief break in the morning to adopt procedural documents related to the package.
A closing ceremony for the COP15 was originally scheduled for Monday evening.
However, during the Monday evening plenary, a representative from the Russian Federation raised objection to candidates in the Central and Eastern Europe region. She asked for a new election to choose the candidates of the bureau in the form of a secret ballot during the plenary.
This caused Huang to call for a recession as the parties tried to negotiate the issue.
When the plenary resumed close to midnight, Executive Secretary of the CBD Elizabeth Maruma Mrema announced that the election will not be taking place, because the procedures of the meeting required that at least two-thirds of the parties to be present for the secret ballot to be conducted.
"So, the fact that the number in the quorum, from the 196 parties of the convention, the two-thirds required present in the room, will not be fulfilled. Clearly, we cannot proceed to the next step of conducting the voting," Mrema said.
In this regard, the CBD Secretariat proposed that the COP15 president suspend the meeting, instead of closing the plenary, she added.
"While the meeting seems to be ending in a way which none of us have hoped for and none of us expected. I cannot let the opportunity pass for the meeting to close without thanking you, for the expert leadership that you've shown us over the past three weeks," a delegate from the United Kingdom told Huang.
"Your team, Mr. President, has been exceptional, quietly helping us to overcome our differences. Your leadership has been without exception, extremely helpful in guiding us towards adopting a truly transformational and ambitious global biodiversity framework," said the delegate, as the room erupted in a standing ovation.
A representative from Canada echoed the remarks from the UK representative.
"On behalf of Canada, I would like to acknowledge your strong leadership, and that of the executive secretary Mrema, and that of the CBD Secretariat in delivering a successful outcome here in Montreal," she said.
A representative from Senegal thanked the Chinese presidency for the "high sense of inclusion, dialogue, tolerance and endurance," which enabled the parties to get through the process successfully, he said.
A representative from Argentina praised Huang for helping to bring the parties to a consensus on the framework.
"Eighteen days ago, we arrived in Montreal. For many days, success seemed far away, and disagreements seemed prevalent. With hard work, an outstanding spirit of compromise, and the steward leadership of you, Mr. President, we were able to come together and adopt the global biodiversity deal," he said.
During his closing remarks, in which he suspended the plenary, Huang noted that the Kunming-Montreal Global biodiversity framework is a "milestone in more ways than one".
"It's historic in that it sets out the vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050. In this framework, I see solidarity and cooperation as we work together to reverse the loss of biodiversity and embark on a path of recovery. In this framework, I see ambitions and actions as we work together to build a shared future for all lives on earth," he said.
Over the next two years, he will continue to serve as the president of the COP and to ensure the implementation of the GBF, Huang said.
During Monday morning's plenary, a delegate from the Democratic Republic of Congo raised objection due to their disagreements on the financial commitments from developed nations.
The GBF was still passed. A legal adviser from the CBD Secretariat said that it wasn't a formal objection, so it didn't prevent the deal from being finalized.
For most of the conference, Huang spoke in Chinese. He took a break from his usual mannerism at the Monday evening plenary to speak in English.
Before bringing down his gravel on the decisions, Huang often asked the room: "Can we adopt, yes, no problem, we will adopt," which brought smiles and applause from the roomful of delegates, some of whom were visibly tired from days of negotiations.