Fifteen things you should know about COP15
COP15 is now just around the corner. In this article, we introduce this landmark event and discuss the key information that you need to know.
1. What is COP15?
COP stands for Conference of the Parties. COP15 is the fifteenth meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). It is sometimes referred to as the ‘biodiversity COP’ or the ‘nature COP’. The CBD started at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.
2. Where and when is COP15?
COP15 was meant to take place in China in October 2020; however, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented in-person meetings and so COP15 was delayed four times. After two years of delays, COP15 will now take place in Montreal in Canada on the 7–19 December 2022, although China will remain the official president of the meeting.
3. Why is this the biodiversity COP?
Although climate change and biodiversity loss are inextricably linked, they have separate COPs: one focusing on limiting global warming and the other focusing on halting biodiversity loss.
After the creation of the landmark international agreement – the CBD – the parties to this agreement planned to meet every two years to discuss and evaluate the progress towards the convention. Like at the ‘climate COP’, parties review their progress and the progress of other nations, collaborate with other parties and agree future actions towards reducing biodiversity loss.
Ultimately, this ‘nature COP’ is focusing on preventing biodiversity loss worldwide, ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources and the fair and equitable sharing of nature’s benefits.
4. Hasn’t there been a previous COP15?
Last year, the UK hosted COP26 in Glasgow. This was the 26th UN Climate Change Conference that focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, climate adaptation and financing the climate transition. The 15th UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP15, took place in Copenhagen in 2009.
The first part of the biodiversity COP15 took place online in October 2021, when the non-binding Kunming Declaration was agreed. This declaration included a commitment to put the world’s biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030 and several financial pledges, including the Kunming Biodiversity Fund with the equivalent of £180 million, established by China. The Open-Ended Working Group has continued to meet in Geneva and Nairobi to develop the global biodiversity framework that is to be agreed at COP15.
The second part of COP15 is taking place this December in Montreal. Here, we hope that the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework will be agreed and will demonstrate a pathway to achieve a vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050.
5. What is the Convention on Biological Diversity?
The CBD was agreed at the Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992 and had received 168 signatures by 1993. Today, 195 countries and the European Union are parties to the CBD. The only country within the UN to sign but not ratify the agreement is the United States.
The CBD has three primary objectives:
- preserving biodiversity
- promoting the sustainable use of natural resources
- sharing the benefits of nature equally and fairly, including the use of genetic resources.
6. Why do we need a biodiversity COP?
Biodiversity is vital for our day-to-day lives, for our food, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter and a healthy environment to live in. Without these and many other ecosystem services, we would not be able to support our global society and economy. According to the World Economic Forum, half of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), around $44 trillion, is moderately or highly dependent on nature.
However, nature is declining globally at unprecedented rates, which is predominantly caused by land use change and direct exploitation of species and further exacerbated by climate change. This will have knock-on effects for ecosystem services. For example, as soil biodiversity declines, there will be fewer nutrients in the soil, in turn making food harder to grow and creating the possibility that certain areas could become completely unproductive.
The aim of COP15 is to bring biodiversity loss under control and ensure we protect and restore the ecosystem services we rely on for our everyday lives.
7. Who is attending COP15?
COP15 will convene governments from around the world and will bring thousands of delegates that represent all 196 parties of the CBD together.
Other participants include intergovernmental organisations, academic and research institutions, indigenous peoples and local community groups, non-governmental organisations, local authorities, youth groups and businesses.
8. Who is Stephanie Wray and why is she going?
Dr Stephanie Wray is the founder of Nature Positive. She is also an ecologist, RSK group’s chief sustainability officer and non-executive chair of the Mammal Society. Stephanie describes the COP15 goal as a “Paris Agreement for nature” and one that is crucial to reverse the damaging loss of biodiversity across the world. She will be present at the COP15 event in Montreal, attending negotiations between the Parties in the Blue Zone and representing RSK in the Business for Nature delegation. She will be providing us with daily updates.
9. What are the main themes?
The official theme of COP15 is “Ecological Civilization: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth”. This theme draws on ideas for eco-based innovations to inspire and drive sustainable development and the urgent need for the mainstreaming of biodiversity into all sectors of society. Despite our reliance on ecosystem services, biodiversity is not always fully understood and appreciated. Our research on 192 companies operating in Asia found that just 4% acknowledged biodiversity as a priority material issue for their business. COP15 aims to help address this by raising biodiversity up the agenda for governments and corporates alike.
10. What is the post-2020 framework?
The post-2020 biodiversity framework is an ambitious plan to reach the 2050 vision of “living in harmony with nature”. It is in the process of being drafted and it’s hoped that the framework will be adopted at COP15.
There are 21 targets for 2030 set out in the framework, including:
- protecting and conserving at least 30% of land and sea areas
- reducing the excessive nutrients entering the environment by half, for example, when excess agricultural fertiliser is washed into watercourses after heavy rain
- reducing pesticides entering the environment by two thirds
- a $200 billion increase in international finance to developing countries
- a 50% reduction in the rate of introduction of invasive alien species.
11. Why is the post-2020 framework needed?
The post-2020 framework is key to achieving a nature-positive world by 2030, in much the same way as the Paris Agreement is key to achieving global climate targets. The natural world is a huge potential sink for greenhouse gases, and it is estimated that nature-based solutions could provide up to 37% of climate change mitigation. This potential is being lost through the continued and accelerated rate of biodiversity loss. The post-2020 framework intends to reverse the current trends in order to restore biodiversity and help our society reap the multitude of benefits it provides.
12. What would a good outcome look like?
A good outcome for COP15 would be for all countries to agree on an ambitious set of targets in the post-2020 framework – equivalent to a Paris Agreement for nature. In particular, here at Nature Positive, we are hoping to see the phasing out of environmentally harmful subsidies and the introduction of mandatory reporting of impacts on nature.
With many countries and organisations attending COP15, there will be many competing priorities when agreeing the post-2020 framework. For example, the European Union is likely to strongly support a target that reduces pesticide use, while other countries may not be as concerned about this.
The vital next step, however, is ensuring that all involved make effective progress against these new targets, differentiating from the Paris Agreement which, although well intentioned, has so far failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will keep global temperature rises below 1.5°C.
13. Why does this matter for businesses?
The post-2020 framework could change how businesses approach their impacts, risks and opportunities regarding nature. A key target in the framework, target 15, is around moving towards a nature-positive economy with the mandatory requirement for businesses to assess and disclose their impacts and dependencies on nature.
14. How do I keep up to date with what is going on?
You can follow the latest developments from COP15 on social media with the hashtag #cop15.
Nature Positive will also be giving daily updates on the progress of COP15 from Stephanie Wray through the company’s social media accounts. Make sure you are following us on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up to date!
15. When will the next COP be held?
No date has been confirmed yet, although the COP on biological diversity is typically held every two years. Owing to the delays to COP15, it is possible that COP16 may be held sooner than this.
Bonus question: What can my business or organisation do now about biodiversity loss?
Nature Positive article authors: Luka Brown and Louise Nichols
*Banner image by Jackie Hutchinson on Unsplash