The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity finally began in Kunming last month after two previous attempts were aborted due to COVID-19.
The conference – known as COP15 – will continue in April and May next year.
COP15’s purpose is to galvanise international action on the biodiversity crisis. This means countries from around the world working together on policies, funding and establishing international targets to reduce biodiversity loss and enhance the natural environment.
More than 5,000 representatives from governments, universities and NGOs attended the conference in mid-October. Discussions spread across several days covered themes such as financing for biodiversity, natural capital accounting and developments on nature-based solutions from around the world.
Biodiversity mainstreaming also featured in the conference programme, with leaders of industry showcasing many approaches that are being taken around the world to integrate biodiversity and natural capital considerations into supply chains. In the UK, this is an area that the IEMA-supported UK Business and Biodiversity Forum prioritises through its programme of events and activities.
The highlight of COP15 was the adoption of the Kunming Declaration, which commits countries to collaborate on developing and implementing an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework for reversing biodiversity loss and putting the planet on a pathway to recovery by 2030. At present, the framework is not legally binding. Rectifying this when the conference resumes next year would demonstrate real ambition and ensure efforts really are focused.
Recognising that action on biodiversity – particularly in the context of investment – is more of a challenge in the Global South, the Chinese government committed to establishing a specific fund to help finance projects in some of the poorest countries around the world. Initially, the Kunming Biodiversity Fund will provide approximately 1.5bn yuan to do this.
The progress made at this initial phase of COP15 has been promising, but further action will be required when it resumes – particularly in relation to legally embedding ambitious targets on biodiversity preservation and restoration. Furthermore, greater recognition of the interdependencies between the global biodiversity and climate change crises is required. It is not possible to solve them separately, given the many ways in which they impact one another, such as the extent to which a warming planet increases the risk of habitat loss.
At the time of writing, the global climate change talks scheduled to take place in Glasgow, known as COP26, have not yet taken place. When they do, there must be a focus on integrating international action on biodiversity and climate change. Failure to do so is simply unsustainable.