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COP15 is finally here - what will make it a success?

As COP15 finally gets underway in Montreal, Imogen Cripps, Policy Officer at Wildlife and Countryside Link, sets out what we hope the talks will deliver for nature.

December 2022

After a delay of two years, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP15 is finally underway. Originally due to be held in Kunming, China, in October 2020, the talks are now taking place in Montreal from 7-19th December. We've written previously about what the CBD is all about, and a summary of COP15 part 1 that was held last October. 

Those who have been following the talks (or lack thereof) will know that this COP is a pretty important one. Countries will be working to decide the text of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), a plan for action on nature up to 2030, and the first major strategy produced since the failed Aichi targets and post-2010 framework. What was meant to be a plan for a decade of action is now a slightly less catchy but significantly more urgent 7 years of action, and there’s a lot to do. It’s been dubbed by some as the ‘Paris moment for nature’, with the potential to shift global action on nature up a gear if things go well.

The main talks - now hosted by Canada but still under the presidency of China - kick off today, after an official opening last night and following a few days of a final meeting of the Open Ended Working Group, where Parties worked to tidy up the draft agreement ahead of the main negotiations.

It’s fair to say that the path to COP15 hasn’t been an entirely smooth one, with a lot of frustration and slow progress reported from the interim meetings held over the last few months (read RSPB's blog about the CBD meetings in Nairobi earlier this year for a good summary). Going into these talks, there are still more than 900 square brackets in the draft text - the bits of the framework where agreement hasn't been reached yet - although all 196 Parties to the Convention will need to support the text before the framework can be adopted.

What do we want to see?

A strong outcome at COP15 is certainly high up on Link’s Christmas list. We’ve outlined the top 5 things we would like to see at the talks and beyond:

1. A mission in the GBF to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2030. Just as Net Zero has provided helpful framing to guide action on climate change, the objective of halting and beginning to reverse decline by 2030 and of becoming ‘Nature Positive’ could act as a guide for action on nature to the end of the decade. In addition to an overall mission, we want to see a set of 2030 goals that will prevent extinctions, recover species populations, and retain and restore habitat quality and extent. All targets included in the framework must also be underpinned by a human rights-based approach and empowerment of local communities and indigenous peoples.

2. Global agreement on a target to equitably protect and effectively manage 30% of our land and seas by 2030. Effectively protected areas are the front line of defence against growing pressures from human activity and climate change and will be an essential part of securing the future of some of our most important species and habitats. Alongside 30x30, we also want to see a number of action targets that will tackle the key pressures and drivers of biodiversity loss, including pollution and the unsustainable use of natural resources.

3. An ambitious framework accompanied by a commitment to provide the resources necessary to achieve the targets and a robust mechanism to track progress and hold Parties accountable. Whatever is agreed over the next few weeks is just the start; implementation and proper funding will be key to success and avoiding a repeat of the Aichi targets. Part of the blame for the failure of the post-2010 Biodiversity Framework has also been attributed to the lack of a robust, transparent and accountable monitoring and reporting framework. 

4. Alignment between nature and climate policies to maximise synergistic approaches to tackling the twin crises. At the same time as healthy ecosystems contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, climate change poses an existential threat to global biodiversity and limits its ability to provide these services. We welcomed the greater focus on nature at the recent climate COP27 in Egypt, and as the UK sets out its plan to achieve the targets included in the GBF in the new year, it’s crucial that national climate and nature plans work together.

5. Halting and reversing the decline of nature by 2030 will require co-operation at all levels. We want to see the UK government’s plans on how they will work with their counterparts in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland to implement the post-2020 framework. The UK government will sign up to a deal on behalf of all four nations in Montreal, but with biodiversity as a devolved policy issue, success in 2030 will depend on progress across the UK and cooperation across borders

Aside from the content of the framework, we want to see Rishi Sunak at the talks. Although world leaders haven’t been formally invited to COP15, turning up as they recently did to COP27 would demonstrate that they’re just as serious about tackling the nature crisis as they are the climate crisis. We’ll be continuing to call for the PM to go to Montreal through the ‘Urgent Conversation’ campaign, which you can read more about and show your support for here.  

With several Link members attending the talks in person in Canada, the coalition will be watching the negotiations carefully from all angles and we’ll be providing updates here where we can. Look out for a halfway point update next week, a four-country deep dive on 30x30, and a blog with more detail about what the UK can do at home to support nature’s recovery. Stay tuned!

Imogen Cripps is a Policy Officer at Wildlife and Countryside Link 

The opinions expressed in this blog are the authors' and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.

Banner image: © Trevor Dines

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