What is COP15, and Why is it Important?
While the climate COPs get most of the attention, a secondary Conference of Parties is taking place. COP15 might be the most important summit of its kind ever. In Montreal, Canada, the world’s countries convene to decide the fate of biodiversity on the planet. The stakes could not be higher for humanity.
Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News
Right now, in December 2022, representatives from 196 nations are gathered in Montreal, Canada, to discuss the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) work to protect nature and reverse the loss of life on Earth. The COP15 summit is crucial in the fight to save our planet’s biodiversity. The summit must deliver on its three main goals: establishing a new 10-year plan to reverse the loss of life on Earth, establishing concrete plans to protect 30% of land and waters by 2030, and delivering an overall mission to ensure that the convention’s work meets its goals.
Signed initially at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity is designed to protect the diversity of plant and animal species and ensure natural resources are used sustainably. It is estimated that over three-quarters of the world’s species are on a collision course for extinction. Compared to the natural extinction rate, the rate of species loss under human pressure has more than tripled. This means that, within just a few centuries, nearly one-third of all the species on Earth will have disappeared.
At the Glasgow COP26 climate conference in 2021, biodiversity was finally addressed with the acknowledgement that climate and biodiversity are linked and directly affect each other and humans. The Glasgow agreement finally included protections for the world’s forests, which thankfully will carry over in subsequent summits. Climate and biodiversity are intrinsically linked with social justice, and I hope that the essential human component will also be addressed at the summit.
We need a COP15 equal to the magnitude of the COP21 climate conference in Paris. Many important issues will be addressed at COP15, but three stand out as top priorities:
- A roadmap and rulebook. There is no clear roadmap or rulebook for the mission to protect 30% of the world’s biodiversity by 2030. There has been a lot of talking, but there is no serious, measurable plan to date. Currently, each country has its own plan managed by itself to no clear standard. These country plans must be combined to mesh with climate action and the Paris accord SDGs.
- Monitoring and accountability. No plan is of use if there is no way to monitor the progress and hold the countries accountable for their commitments. No two countries have the same land, water or climate. Therefore, no two countries should have the same plan. They should, however, mesh with a cohesive overarching plan that protects their unique ecosystems and peoples.
- Financial commitments. Rich nations must commit to helping poorer nations achieve their goals. It is unrealistic to think that people living in a subsistence existence would be the ones to sacrifice for the greater good of the planet. The richest nations must commit financial help to developing nations to protect their forest ecosystems and our global goals.
It is more than just plants and animals that are impacted by biodiversity loss. We all depend on nature. Pollinators fertilize our crops. Healthy forests and oceans absorb and store carbon and provide food for billions. Mangroves and oyster beds shelter us from hurricanes and typhoons and do it better than anything built by humans for far less money. Despite our hubris and massive egos, we are not detached from nature; we are a part of it and dependent upon it for our survival as a species.
The key to achieving a successful COP15 will be to increase the ambition of the world’s leaders and have them commit to the protections needed. They must bring concrete national plans to Montreal with the financing and will to back them up, and I believe they will.