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March 6, 2023 57 mins

Wherever conservation takes place, at whatever scale, and in whatever form, there’s a good chance that it is somehow affected by the decisions taken under multilateral environmental agreements, or “MEAs”. These agreements, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, are made between multiple countries - sometimes including almost all of the world's nations - with the aim of addressing one or another environmental challenge. There are now hundreds of MEAs, set up to guide national and subnational actions toward a more sustainable future. They are supported by secretariats that coordinate their work and convene large international meetings between the countries that have signed up to them. And yet, most conservationists are unaware of how these high-level agreements work, or how well they work.

Peter Bridgewater is a veteran of various MEA negotiations, and has published extensively about biodiversity MEAs in particular. Among various professorships and other positions, he was the Secretary General of the oldest biodiversity MEA, the Ramsar Convention, between 2003 and 2007. In our discussion Peter explains what MEAs are, and he speaks frankly about their importance, their potential, and their shortcomings.

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