Zero Hour campaign assistant, Manpreet Aulakh, sets out the importance of the UN biodiversity summit, COP15, and it's importance for nature's future.

What is COP15?

Everyone’s talking about COP26 which occurred in November 2021 in Glasgow, but there has been little attention given to the event which happened a month earlier, the 15th UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15). It’s a two-part summit which started online on 11 October and will finish in May 2022 in Kunming, China. This is the biggest biodiversity conference in a decade, however, there has been less of a concern for biodiversity loss than compared to climate change. 

There needs to be a focus on both nature and climate as they go hand in hand and so efforts to tackle these issues need to be approached in a coordinated way. Both COP26 and COP15 are interlinked as they provide a holistic view of all the issues we need to be tackling. The summit hopes to set both long term goals for the mid-century and shorter-term targets for 2030 aimed at conserving and restoring; both land and seas.

Why is COP15 important?

COP15 is a crucial event in the environmental calendar as there has been little progress made in protecting nature during the last 20 years. Around 1 million species globally are facing extinction and animal population sizes have dropped 68% since 1970. COP15 is a major opportunity to push biodiversity up the political agenda and shine a light on the ecological issues we need world leaders to address.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has faced criticism for its lack of translation into action by the parties. The UN declared 2011-2020 as the Decade on Biodiversity in December 2020, with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 created in 2010, however, none of the Aichi biodiversity targets have been achieved at a global level. 

Out of the 20 goals, only six were partially achieved and 38 have shown progress—while 13 have shown no progress whatsoever. Therefore, COP15 is more important than ever. Parties need to keep the momentum going, with COP26 having already taken place, this is a major opportunity to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

What were the outcomes of the first meeting?

COP15 had more than 1,500 in-person and over 3,000 virtual participants attending the conference. The main outcomes were the development of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), the adoption of the Kunming Declaration and the creation of the Kunming Biodiversity Fund.

On 13 October, the Kunming Declaration was adopted by over 100 nations, it consists of 21 targets for governments to meet by the end of the decade which focus on the conservation, restoration, protection and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems. The commitments of the declaration include protecting a minimum of 30% of the world’s oceans and land, stopping plastic waste, phasing out financial incentives that are harmful to biodiversity, increasing financial resources dedicated to biodiversity and enhancing community involvement. 

These commitments seem to be comprehensive and outcome-oriented; it is now down to what happens in May as this is where world leaders will determine how the final goals are implemented and monitored. 

How the CEE Bill aligns with COP15

The goals of COP15 strongly align with the CEE Bill as one of our aims is to tackle the ecological emergency by ensuring that the UK Government makes commitments to conserve the natural world by protecting and—crucially—restoring ecosystems. COP15 will play an important role in making sure the UK Government acknowledges the severity of the biodiversity issue and has the ambition to make them see the importance of the CEE Bill in helping to reach stronger biodiversity goals.

What needs to happen in May 2022?

The second part of COP15 is crucial as the focus will be on the implementation of the GBF. The finalisation of the framework will need to include specific and measurable targets, sufficient financial commitments, enhanced international support for capacity building in developing countries and the collaboration between the private sector, government, NGOs and Indigenous and local communities. Measures need to be put in place to ensure that countries are held accountable for their actions—and that they are transparent by regularly monitoring and reporting on their progress. 

COP26 fell short in providing specific and time-bound targets we were hoping for, however COP15 can make sure they make up for the failure of the Aichi targets. The GBF has the potential to be successful, it is now up to world leaders—and UK Government ministers—to make sure they deliver these targets after COP15 concludes, making 2021-2030 the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.