What is the COP15 Biodiversity Summit and why is it so important? | News | Eco business


You’ve probably heard of COP26 – the short name for the next major UN climate change summit, which is postponed to November in Glasgow after a year-long delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But a month before that there is another big “Convention of the Parties” (COP), which is far less discussed, but is also of crucial importance. This is COP15: the UN biodiversity summit for China planned for October.

In spite of the advocacy of naturalist David Attenborough and many others, efforts to protect nature still do not have to be as important as those to limit climate change.

The loss of critical ecosystems such as rainforests and wetlands, as well as animal species, has accelerated as governments, corporations, financiers, and conservation groups seek effective ways to protect and restore more of the earth’s land and seas.

So what is COP15 and what is it supposed to achieve?

What is the “Convention on Biological Diversity”?

Originally signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and later ratified by around 195 countries excluding the USA, it is intended to protect the diversity of plant and animal species and ensure the sustainable use of natural resources.

It also aims at a “fair and equitable sharing” of the benefits from natural genetic material used in everything from medicines to new plant species.

In practice, this means ensuring that indigenous communities and countries with biological riches benefit from their use.

Why is nature conservation so important?

Around the world, forests and other natural ecosystems are rapidly being destroyed, often to expand agriculture and the production of raw materials such as palm oil, soy, and beef as the world’s population grows.

But humans depend on nature, from the oceans to the wilderness, to provide clean air and water and to regulate the rain that is vital to food supplies. If too many ecosystems disappear, their basic life support services can stall, scientists warn.

Since plants absorb the carbon dioxide that is warming the planet in order to grow, better protecting or expanding natural areas is also one of the cheapest and most effective ways to slow down climate change.

What are the goals of the COP15?

At the UN summit October 11-24 in Kunming, China, countries plan to sign a new global treaty to stop and reverse the loss of the planet’s plants, animals and ecosystems.

The meeting hopes to set long-term goals for the mid-century as well as shorter-term goals for 2030, and above all to push for them to be anchored in national politics.

This was largely not the case with previous global biodiversity loss reduction targets set in 2002 and 2010, most of which were not met.

“Nobody really had these goals. No wonder that in 10 years we will find that none of these goals have been fully met, ”said Li Shuo, chief officer for climate and energy policy at Greenpeace China.

Who is leading the push?

Countries pushing for greater conservation ambitions include Canada, the European Union, Costa Rica, Colombia and the UK, according to Georgina Chandler, an international policy expert with the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

But most of these champions focus on certain aspects of the deal rather than the overall contract, she said.

Brazil and Argentina, meanwhile, are seen as “stragglers,” said Greenpeace’s Li, as both worried that tougher rules could affect their agricultural expansion and economies.

The United States never ratified the original Biodiversity Treaty and is therefore not part of the negotiations.

However, President Joe Biden has pledged to protect at least 30 percent of his country’s land and coastal waters by 2030 as part of a broader international “30×30” campaign.

What role is China playing as the host of COP15?

To make the November COP26-UN climate talks in Scotland a success, British officials made a major diplomatic push to remove potential obstacles and win new commitments on climate change ahead of the meeting.

This “diplomatic reach and engagement” is a normal part of the work for each host country, said Chandler of the RSPB.

But in general this is not the case for Convention on Biological Diversity meetings, she added – and “it is not the way China does things – to enable an agreement that way”.

“It’s a different style of hosting,” she said.

Despite a number of online negotiation sessions this year ahead of the main conference, more big issues could be resolved in October, experts said.

However, China has achieved some diplomatic victories, including resistance from some countries to virtual negotiations while the coronavirus pandemic continues, they said.

What has to come out of the COP15?

Not only are comprehensive goals to improve nature conservation needed, but also financial commitments to help poorer countries achieve them and clear ways to compare and measure the efforts of different countries, analysts said.

So far, the Biodiversity Convention can be understood “as the Paris Agreement with the 1.5 degree target, but without rules and without funding,” said Li from Greenpeace China.

Any new goals set at COP15 must be “smart and measurable” rather than “fluffy and constantly expanding,” with cross-country standardization so that they can be compared, said Chandler of the RSPB.

The COP15 is unlikely to turn into a concrete number for funding new nature, but there could be a vague promise to double it or something, she added.

Targets could also be set to get rid of harmful subsidies to agriculture, fisheries and logging, and use those funds for the benefit of nature, an additional way to get the money they need.

What will COP15 tell us about COP26?

With COP15 negotiations on biodiversity happening just a month before the UN climate talks, the way China holds large face-to-face negotiations during a pandemic will have a huge impact on COP26 and its organizers.

In particular, the way in which the COP15 summit manages vaccination regulations, quarantine measures and efforts to involve a wide range of civil society participants beyond government delegations are of central importance.

A closer link was also called for between the two largely separate nature and climate agendas, with scientists explaining how efforts to combat climate change and biodiversity loss must be approached together for the best results.

This story was published with permission from Thomson Reuters Foundation, Thomson Reuters’ non-profit arm covering humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, human trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate.

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