Final part of UN’s summit to create international biodiversity goals moved to Canada, in bid to end delays

Around 3,000 people are participating in the biodiversity COP15

The summit was originally planned for Kunming, China, in 2020. It was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequently split into two parts, with the first part successfully completed in Kunming in October 2021 and the second meeting in Kunming taking place this spring.

The second meeting was unsuccessful, with no final deal agreed. Interim talks in Nairobi were, therefore, added to the UN’s calendar for this summer, and a final meeting for Kunming in autumn. However, China saw a spike in Covid-19 cases in the first quarter of the year and places including Beijing and Shanghai were put into lockdown.

With all of this in mind, concern had been growing that the summit would not conclude this year if its conclusion depended on a face-to-face event in China. This would mean that the post-2020 set of international biodiversity goals would be more than two years delayed in terms of their creation and implementation. The previous set of goals, the Aichi Goals, went unmet, and pressure is mounting on the UN to deliver a strong agreement to prevent Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

The UN has today (21 June) confirmed that the final part of COP15 will now take place in Montreal, Canada, from 5 December to 17 December. China will continue to hold the COP15 presidency.

Canada’s minister for environment and climate, Steven Guilbeault, said: “There is an urgent need for international partners to halt and reverse the alarming loss of biodiversity worldwide. With up to one million species currently at risk of extinction worldwide, the world cannot afford to wait any longer for global action on nature protection. Canada will continue to advocate for international collaboration on an ambitious Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.”

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s executive secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema added: “I thank the Government of Canada, as the host of the Secretariat, for providing a venue in Montreal for this crucial meeting. I want to thank the Government of China for their flexibility and continued commitment to advancing our path towards an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework. I look forward, with the support of all Parties, to successful outcomes of COP15.”

In its current form, the post-2020 framework includes a headline ambition of halting nature loss by 2030 ad delivering a net-positive impact on nature thereafter. There have been calls for a more ambitious agreement which would not, technically, allow nature loss to accelerate in the coming years.

The framework also asks nations to work to conserve at least 30% of land and sea this decade. Some delegates have asked for more information on the scientific basis for this target and for more information on overcoming key challenges, like upholding the rights of Indigenous communities and ensuring that protected areas are conserving and/or restoring nature in reality.

Another key part of the framework is the need for wealthier nations to provide more international and domestic finance to conserve and restore nature. The Chinese Government has already pledged $230bn to create a ‘Kunming Fund’, which will be used to support projects overseas in developing nations as well as domestic initiatives.

Green economy reaction

Reacting to the confirmation of the COP’s delay and relocation to Montreal, WWF UK’s head of international advocacy Bernadette Fischer Hoopler said: “The announcement provides much-needed certainty and should allow countries to focus all their efforts on securing an ambitious global deal for nature. Governments have a once-in-a-decade opportunity to deliver a Paris-style agreement for nature, like we have for climate, and they must not waste a moment between now and December.

“This means rallying political will to provide the necessary resources for a deal that halts and reverses the loss of nature by 2030. With the date for COP15 set, government negotiators meeting in Nairobi this week must deliver real progress to allow for success in Montreal – people and the planet cannot afford anything less.”

The Nature Conservancy’s director of global policy, institutions and conservation finance Andrew Deutz said: “TNC is relieved and thankful that we have a firm date for these critically important biodiversity final negotiations within this calendar year. The global community is already behind in agreeing, let alone implementing, a plan to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, a plan that people and wildlife desperately need.

“Talks in Nairobi now need to focus on what and where agreements can be reached to install urgency and action into the recovery of nature. We are very grateful to the flexibility of the Chinese COP Presidency and to Canada for offering to host the meeting.”

Business for Nature’s executive director Eva Zabey said: “The momentum from progressive businesses calling for a transformative agreement on nature has never been higher. Today’s announcement to host COP15 in Montreal now gives countries a clear mandate to make real progress during this week’s negotiations in Nairobi.

“We want to see a framework that sends a strong signal to business and finance to go further, faster. For example, through mandatory assessment and disclosure of their impacts and dependencies on nature and reforming all subsidies harmful to biodiversity.”

IEMA’s chief executive Sarah Mukherjee said:  “It is critical that the world comes together to act now, without further delay, on biodiversity loss. We have had two years of delay in the CBD process due to the pandemic, yet our natural world faces increasing challenges and biodiversity continues to decline at an alarming rate.

“IEMA is working hard with government, and with businesses via the UK Business and Biodiversity Forum, to drive forward a more joined-up approach to the protection of nature.”

Zero Hour’s campaign director Dr Amy McDonnell said: “Scientists understand the perilous state the natural world is in—and the importance of nature in tackling global heating. We’re right behind Lord Zac Goldsmith’s mission to make COP15 the moment we put nature on a path to recovery. Like him, we’re calling on world leaders to address biodiversity loss and climate change together—at home and abroad.”

The Zoological Society of London’s Dr Nathalie Pettorelli said: “The science is clear: we are facing a climate and ecological emergency, and we need action now. The climate and biodiversity crises are linked: as such, we need COP15 to result in ambitious, strong targets for biodiversity, backed by clear metrics and accountability; and we need those targets to be integrated into national government policy.

“The Climate & Ecology Bill, which I support, is all about simultaneously addressing climate and biodiversity concerns while pushing for the country to become nature-positive by 2030. We need to see alignment between the Climate & Ecology Bill’s aspirations and what the UK is pushing on the international stage.”

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