Rishi Sunak urged to attend global biodiversity summit to deliver ‘Paris Agreement’ for nature

WWF-UK has today (29 November) called on the UK Government to uphold its leadership position in steering negotiations at the UN Biodiversity Summit (CBD COP15), which takes place next week in Montreal. The aim of the Summit is to agree on a new global treaty that would enshrine biodiversity protection into national plans and laws.

The NGO claims that, as one of the most nature-depleted nations in the world, the UK should show a willingness to help steer conversations at COP15. This, the WWF states, would mean that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends the summit and ensures the delivery of a firm commitment.

WWF-UK’s chief executive Tanya Steele said: “Nature is our biggest ally in the fight against climate change and the source of our health, security and prosperity.  As a major economy, the UK must deliver on its nature promises by publishing targets to restore our vital habitats at home and taking a leadership role on the world stage.

“As nature disappears, our leaders are playing for time we don’t have, risking catastrophic consequences for people, planet and the economy.  We urge the Prime Minister to attend the summit and provide a lifeline for nature by driving forward a ‘Paris’-style global deal in Montreal – only then can we protect people and planet, and bring our world back to life.”

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. It has since been moved to Canada, and is scheduled to commence next month.

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 call to action may well encourage Sunak to attend the summit. The Prime Minister originally declined to attend the COP27 climate summit earlier this month, but eventually agreed to attend following campaigning pressure.

Sunak is not the first UK leader to be asked by charities to help deliver the new global framework. NGOs including WWF UK, The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and the Green Alliance, as well as more than 50 MPs and Peers across all political parties, have written to previous Prime Ministers, calling for the UK to take action and “stand up for a nature positive world”.

Last year, a group of investors worth more than $10.6trn in assets under management issued a statement prior to the original COP15 date, calling for heightened global action to end deforestation and ensure sustainable land use.

Coordinated by Ceres and the Finance for Biodiversity Foundation, the statement has been sent to world leaders on behalf of 78 financial institutions representing $10.61trn in assets under management. Signatories to letter include the likes of Aviva, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse AG, and Robeco.

Additionally, an open letter from the CBD-Alliance has called for the draft proposals to be rejected in favour of more ambitious action plans aimed at protecting biodiversity. The Alliance notes that the proposed framework fails to properly integrate feedback on the earlier drafts that were submitted to the CBD.

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