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Montreal COP15: Crucial for 196 nations to halt, reverse nature loss by 2030

As delegates of 196 nations gather over the next two weeks for the UN biodiversity summit, referred to as COP15, beginning in Montreal, Canada, to agree, amongst other things, on a new biodiversity framework — a crucial moment as the world needs set of goals and targets that will guide action on nature through 2030 with over a million species of animals and plants face extinction because of human activity.

The summit, due to take place in 2020 but has been delayed multiple times owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, is critical to focus on ambition, measurable targets, adequate resources and action by governments, businesses and consumers.

While pre-negotiations are already underway, the summit itself will officially open on Wednesday.

What’s at stake at COP15?

To be chaired by China, the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) will see the adoption of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, contribute to keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and set the conditions for reverting the loss of biodiversity by 2050.

The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework will be the first global framework on biodiversity adopted since the Aichi Biodiversity Targets in 2010.

The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework provides a strategic vision and a global roadmap for the conservation, protection, restoration and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems for the next decade.

Everything is on the line at COP15. Sounding a warning note, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, says the framework is “crucial to ensure that the future of humankind on planet Earth is sustained”.

The Chinese Presidency has not engaged proactively and constructively enough to facilitate reaching a deal, and developed and developing countries remain quite divided, with the issue of finance being at the center of disputes — as is the case for climate negotiations.

Experts told IANS that America’s absence from the Convention on Biological Diversity hurts global efforts to avert extinction.

The US has signed but not ratified the convention. The US usually sends a non-party delegation to the negotiations.

From December 7-19 in Montreal, 196 governments will need to adopt the framework to guide global actions on biodiversity. The framework will need to lay out an ambitious plan that addresses the key drivers of nature loss and puts us on the path to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030.

What are main topics of the COP15?

Protecting biodiversity and improving the state of species and habitats in terrestrial, inland water and marine areas;

Promoting the sustainable use of nature;

Fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources: and

Speeding up actions under the convention, including finances and even stronger mainstreaming of biodiversity into all sectors of policy-making and society.

In 2018, during COP14, the Parties to the CBD launched a process to develop the “post-2020 global biodiversity framework”, to be adopted at COP15, which was initially planned to take place in China in late 2020.

What’s missing at COP15 in Montreal?

There was a strong push from civil society and numerous governments to have a summit with Heads of States at the opening of COP15, that would be either hosted by the Chinese Presidency, the host Canada, or both together.

But because of the reluctance of China and current geopolitical tensions between China and Canada, this did not take place.

There is thus still much work to do and all hands on deck will be necessary. The true positions of countries will finally be revealed as the actual negotiations will now take place during the two weeks of the COP.

How inclusion of indigenous peoples crucial in COP15?

In the words of Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek, head of the delegation from the Assembly of First Nations in Canada: “We are part of the land and part of the water. Indigenous peoples must be the ones to guide us forward in protecting, conserving, and stewarding our environment.”

Although they make up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, indigenous peoples have protected 80 per cent of the earth’s biodiversity in the forests, deserts, grasslands and marine environments in which they have lived for centuries.

Indigenous peoples and local communities are estimated to be protecting at least 22 per cent of the world’s key biodiversity areas and at least 21 per cent of the world’s lands.

Why biodiversity COP15 remains a crucial moment?

Urgently halt the devastation of nature: Humans have impacted nearly every corner of the planet and the globe approaching planetary boundaries from which it could take millions of years to recover.

The UN Secretary General has warned “we are losing our suicidal war against nature”.

The leading scientific panel, Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), has warned millions of species could go extinct unless urgent action is taken.

Climate action: Protecting and restoring nature can be an important contribution to climate action. Nature can help store and sequester carbon emissions. Without dramatically changing the earth’s existing ecosystems, it’s estimated that nature has the cost-effective potential to remove about 11.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year by 2030 — equivalent to roughly one-third of current annual energy carbon emissions. But, critically, nature acts as a buffer and shield against extreme weather events.

Economic prosperity: The world’s economy relies on nature. $44 trillion of economic generation relies moderately or heavily on nature and would be impacted by its loss. Around the world, 1.2 billion jobs depend on a healthy natural environment, including forests, fishing and farming. Forests provide many ecosystem services to people, the total value of intact forests and their services is up to $150 trillion, around double the value of global stock markets.

Health: Nature is beneficial to physical and mental health. Biodiversity loss is directly related to the emergence of zoonotic diseases like Covid-19. Scientists suggest that more pandemics are likely unless we protect nature.

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