O Canada. This month, all eyes – in the conservation world, at least – will be on Montreal, where the long-awaited biodiversity conference, COP15, will finally be held. This comes hot on the heels of the latest UN climate conference, COP27, which recently drew to a close in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
What is the COP15 biodiversity conference?
CBD stands for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and it is the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15). Government representatives, businesses and organisations from across the world will gather in Montreal to agree a way forward on tackling the biodiversity crisis, setting targets and pledging actions that will halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
COP15 will culminate in the agreement of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which will set out an ambitious plan to achieve the UN’s overarching goal of humans “living in harmony with nature” by 2050 and will include a number of associated action targets to achieve by 2030, to ensure the world is on track for this goal.
Sustainable use of nature’s bounty, courtesy of Central Asia’s ancient walnut forests. Credit: Jason Smith
What’s the link between COP27 and COP15?
Where COP27 focused on climate change, COP15 focuses on the global loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity loss and climate change are so inextricably linked, however, that it makes no sense to tackle them separately and actions can often have benefits for both crises.
Biodiversity loss undermines the health of the planet’s natural ecosystems, on which all life on Earth depends – including humans. It also exacerbates the climate crisis. Healthy ecosystems lock up huge volumes of carbon. When they are destroyed, the carbon is released, and global temperatures increase. In turn, the changing climate poses a serious threat to biodiversity. It’s a vicious downward spiral.
Borneo’s rainforests harbour extraordinary biodiversity and lock up huge amounts of carbon. Credit: Nick Garbutt/NaturePL
Read more on our thoughts on what wasn’t said about nature at COP27.
How will COP15 affect nature where I live?
Although COP15 will set biodiversity targets at a global level, governments that sign up will be committing to protecting nature across their own countries. That will mean regional and local plans to protect and restore biodiversity: from your local council setting aside space for rewilding, to tightening up wastewater regulations, to farming land management, firm biodiversity targets established globally should have a beneficial impact in your local area.
What is the 30×30 goal?
30×30 is a global initiative for governments to protect at least 30% of land and sea by 2030.
30×30 is one of 22 action targets being discussed at COP15, which – if included in the final Global Biodiversity Framework – will need to be initiated immediately and completed by 2030.
We urgently need to protect the world’s remaining natural landscapes. Credit: Zafer Kizilkaya
The 30×30 target has acted as an important, memorable ‘flagship’ for COP15 and provides a helpful opportunity for the world to focus on the vital importance of protecting and managing the world’s remaining natural areas as effectively as possible. However, it is just one piece in the complex puzzle that will enable us to halt biodiversity loss and, to initiate real change at COP15, an ambitious set of targets will be needed across the board.
How do we ensure that 30×30 involves local people and communities?
The quantity of land protected under 30×30 is important, but Fauna & Flora wants to see just as much – if not more – emphasis on the quality of the land’s management. Involving Indigenous Peoples and local communities in the process is essential to achieving this quality – not least because it is the people on the ground who know how to make conservation sustainable and successful.
For this to happen, firstly, local people and communities need to actually be involved in the decision-making processes at events like COP15, as well as when the consequential actions are planned and implemented at national and local levels.
Community members mapping out plans for their local marine area. Credit: JABruson
Secondly, it’s critical that, while conservation finance needs to come from an international level, it also needs to reach those on the ground in order to support local communities and locally-led projects to protect and restore nature.
The involvement of local people and communities is set to be a broader focus of COP15 beyond 30×30, and Fauna & Flora is hopeful that that ambitions and pledges to conserve biodiversity do not override the rights and livelihoods of those who are implicated in the delivery of these ambitions.
What do we want to see happen at COP15?
Fundamentally, the world needs to do more to protect and restore nature. 30×30 creates a working target for this, as the 1.5°C Paris target has done for climate change.
30×30 represents an important rallying call for the importance of prioritising nature in decisions about how we use land and sea. However, we don’t envisage 30×30 being about creating more large, strict nature reserves. We don’t want to see more ineffective paper parks that are just lines on a map.
We see a need for effective management of sites (both terrestrial and marine) that aligns the needs of both people and nature; we know that people-focused approaches to protected area management are both more effective and less likely to cause conflict.
Community engagement in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains. Credit: Bianca Roberts / Fauna & Flora
Critically, we want to see community rights and community-led approaches at the heart of 30×30 and all discussions at COP15. This might mean that 30×30 goals are achieved through many, smaller, community-led areas, rather than being predicated on a handful of bigger state-designated areas.
Across the board, we need ambitious commitments – including financial ones. Time is running out to halt biodiversity loss and protect nature – and in turn the planet. If nations can’t commit to protecting nature at the world’s largest biodiversity conference, when will it happen?