What’s the deal with COP15? The road to new biodiversity targets

What’s the deal with COP15?

The road to new biodiversity targets

What’s the deal with COP15?

The road to new biodiversity targets

By Emily Jerome, National Environmental Treasure

With the conclusion of the first phase of COP15 in Kunming, China, there’s lots of chatter about the draft biodiversity targets.

With the conclusion of the first phase of COP15, the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of Parties, in Kunming, China, there’s lots of chatter about the draft biodiversity targets. Are these targets ambitious enough to halt and reverse biodiversity loss? Will the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) overshadow the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15)? Given our collective failure to meet the previous set of biodiversity targets (Aichi Targets) adopted in 2010, how can we take bold steps forward to protect the intricate web of life? Let’s dive into it all.

In an open letter shared with The Guardian, the chief executives of eleven companies including Unilever and H&M, urged governments to take stronger action to protect biodiversity. The letter stated that the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework released ahead of COP15 “lacks the ambition and specificity required to drive the urgent action needed,” since there is no business on a “dead planet.” While the 2015 Paris Agreement from COP21 acts as a stepping stone to net-zero emissions, the executives suggest that something similar is needed for biodiversity to achieve a nature-positive society by 2030.

Why COP26 shouldn’t overshadow COP15

Speaking of the Paris Agreement, the buzz on COP26 is on the rise as this UN Climate Change Conference quickly approaches. With the conference set for Oct 31 to Nov 12, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland, the major news outlets are already dishing out coverage and #COP26Glasgow is trending on Twitter. Although the climate conference often receives the spotlight, there’s good reason for equal attention to be paid to COP15.

Until now, policies have predominantly addressed biodiversity loss and the climate crisis separately. In a recent collaboration between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Crisis (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), 50 experts found that biodiversity loss and the climate crisis must be addressed simultaneously if both are to be solved. In fact, singularly addressing biodiversity loss or the climate crisis could be detrimental to the other. With that in mind, perhaps increased coordination and collaboration between the two conferences could lead to the development of more synergetic solutions.

We need accountability

One barrier to taking meaningful action and reaching Canada’s biodiversity targets is accountability. Like any good game plan, there needs to be checks and balances in place to provide course corrections and to push forward in the right direction. Accountability for biodiversity protection can be built into legislation, just as it was with the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act (Bill C-12). This requires the government to set short and long-term goals, track and report progress to parliament and consult with a panel of experts. According to an article published by The Narwhal, this accountability could even lead to greater collaboration between levels of government and Indigenous communities.

The power of private donations

In addition to government action, the need for biodiversity protection is gaining traction in the philanthropic community, as evident by a recent multi-billion dollar donation. Nine philanthropic foundations have pledged $5 billion over the next 10 years to conservation efforts. The aim is to finance the protection of 30% of land and ocean by 2030 – one of the goals in the draft biodiversity framework for COP15.

What’s next for COP15?

While it’s a good sign that over 100 nations pledged to protect global biodiversity by signing the  Kunming Declaration in the first phase of COP15, there’s still more to come. The second phase of COP15 is set for April 25 to May 8, 2022, where the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework outlining the new targets for 2030 and 2050 will be finalized and adopted.

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Arctic fox hiding behind stump
Photo by Alexey_Seafarer from Getty Images/Canva