COP15, the most important conference for a global response to nature-related issues, is currently taking place in Montreal, Canada. As it is sure to have lasting effects on us all, here is a quick guide on what COP15 is, who is going, why it is important, and the key topics being discussed.
Governments and organizations from around the world are convening from December 7th‒19th for the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), more commonly known as COP15. While this gathering takes place every two years, this year’s conference has been described by Elizabeth Mrema, the UN Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, as “a Paris moment for biodiversity” in reference to the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015. This year is particularly important as a new global biodiversity framework is set to be adopted. CBD is different from COP27 because it focuses on the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity at the global level.
While this conference is not on the same size and scale as COP27, the proceedings are being live streamed throughout the day on the CBD-Live YouTube channel. There will be representatives from 191 countries in attendance with the high-level talks being handled by environment ministers. There are 1,400 organizations attending, including NGOs and corporates from 103 countries. There has been an increasing interest in corporates setting their ESG targets and goals through biodiversity measures such as forestry preservation, making this conference especially important. A record number of financial institutions are also expected to attend.
However, it will be just as interesting to see who will not be there, as world leaders are not attending this event (apart from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau). The lack of world leaders is not necessarily a bad thing as this may allow more time for the negotiations and discussions to take place and for other voices to be heard. The proceedings are translated into multiple languages such as English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, allowing a larger audience to listen in the comfort of their homes. The United States will play a different role at this COP compared to COP27 on climate change as they did not ratify the Convention of Biological Diversity in 1992 which was the birth of COP on biological diversity as we know it. While the United States will not play a formal role in negotiations, they will send a delegation to take part in the talks. The Convention of Biological Diversity designed this conference to safeguard plant and animal species and ensure natural resources are used in a sustainable way.
The pressure is on for the key negotiators at COP15 with so much hanging in the balance. Biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide and is vital for our everyday lives. Around a million species are threatened with extinction according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are essential in sustaining food systems, water, and energy, as well as regulating the climate. COP15 is aiming to give biodiversity and ecosystems the same international protection just like climate change and its impacts.
GlobeScan’s annual Healthy & Sustainable Living survey of about 30,000 people in the online general public across 31 markets has shown that the loss of biodiversity is perceived to be an increasingly serious problem, with close to six in ten people now saying that it is “very serious.”
And to further highlight the urgency of the state of nature worldwide, GlobeScan’s Navigating the Nature Agenda survey of about 11,000 consumers and over 400 experts shows that 88 percent of experts and 64 percent of consumers believe that the state of nature in the world is “catastrophic” and “alarming,” while only 7 percent of consumers and 1 percent of experts believe the state of nature is currently “good” or “satisfactory.”
There is both a need and an opportunity for more support from national governments, businesses, and NGOs to help people live in nature-friendly ways. Consumers hold national governments, large companies, and NGOs the most responsible for protecting nature and 43 percent of consumers also hold themselves accountable for protecting nature.
The research also shows that people want to do more to protect nature but that they lack the support from these same actors to help them take action, which highlights how vital it is for a successful framework to be adapted at COP15.
So, what are the most important topics to watch at COP15?
- One of the main aims of the event is to seek to finalize a ten-year post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The IPBES has identified five key drivers of biodiversity loss which will be at the heart of the discussions in Montreal: changing use of sea and land; overexploitation of organisms; climate change; pollution; and invasive non-native species.
- Agriculture is one of the key discussion topics intrinsically linked to these drivers, for which there will also be calls to reform or eliminate subsidies that are harmful to the environment. GlobeScan’s Navigating the Nature Agenda survey of over 400 experts shows that deforestation for agriculture is causing the greatest harm to nature and biodiversity, with over seven in ten experts (73%) saying that it poses a great deal of harm.
- Finance, which was also one of the main discussion points at COP27 in Egypt, will be debated at COP15 with calls for increased financing from both the public and private sectors.
- Targets and goals will also help shape the talks this year. The hope is to agree on the “30 by 30” target which is committed to protecting 30 percent of the world’s land and sea by 2030. This has already gained enough support prior to the meeting to hopefully result in an agreement. There is also hope that the reversal of biodiversity loss can be achieved by 2050, which involves enhancing the world’s ecosystems, tackling extinction, and maintaining genetic biodiversity.
- Finally, there are plans to recognize the role of Indigenous peoples in safeguarding nature.
There is a growing expectation for companies to embed nature into their business, financial, and policy decisions – from investors to consumers to governments, stakeholders will increasingly call on companies to do more to protect nature and biodiversity. The outcomes of COP15 in Montreal this year will no doubt play a significant role in the attempt to reverse the damaging effects that humans are having on biodiversity.