COP15: Why does the UN biodiversity convention matter?


Montreal, Canada – Scientists, rights advocates and delegates from nearly 200 nations are gathering in Canada this week to deal with one of many world’s most urgent environmental points: the lack of biodiversity and what could be carried out to reverse it.

For years, consultants have sounded the alarm over how local weather change and different components are resulting in an “unprecedented” decline in animals, vegetation, and different species, and threatening varied ecosystems.

Against that backdrop, the United Nations’ biodiversity convention, generally known as COP15, begins its classes on Wednesday in Montreal with the intention of setting out a plan to deal with world biodiversity loss over the following decade and past.

“This is potentially an historic moment for biodiversity,” stated Andrew Gonzalez, a professor within the biology division at McGill University in Montreal and founding director of the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science.

Here, Al Jazeera lays out all you’ll want to know:

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity – brief for organic variety – refers back to the many types of life on Earth, from animals, vegetation, and microbial species to habitats and full ecosystems, equivalent to rainforests and coral reefs.

Why is biodiversity essential?

Biodiversity impacts all the things from world well being and meals safety to the economic system and the broader struggle to deal with the local weather disaster, the United Nations explains.

More than half the world’s whole gross home product (GDP) – approximately $44 trillion – is also “moderately or highly dependent” on nature and thus weak to its loss, the World Economic Forum stated in a 2020 report (PDF).

“Climate change is not the only horseman of the environmental apocalypse. Nature loss looms just as large. And the two are intertwined. You can’t solve one without addressing the other,” stated Carter Roberts, president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund-US.

What is the state of biodiversity on the planet?

In 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services estimated that three-quarters of the world’s land floor and 66 % of its oceans had been considerably altered. One million species face extinction, it warned, together with “many within decades” if critical motion is just not taken.

“The rate of global change in nature during the past 50 years is unprecedented in human history,” the report stated, pointing to 5 key drivers: land- and sea-use adjustments, direct exploitation of organisms, local weather change, air pollution, and invasions of alien species.

“The way we are exploiting our environment, the way we are destroying habitats, often for reasons that are to do with supporting agriculture and growing food or extracting resources, is now at an unsustainable rate – an astonishingly unsustainable rate,” Gonzalez advised Al Jazeera.

“And it’s causing what many of us think to be a mass extinction event,” he stated.

What is COP15 and who’s collaborating?

The December 7-19 convention will deliver collectively representatives from the 196 nations which have ratified the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (PDF), which dates again to 1992. Scientists, non-governmental teams, and different consultants will even be available.

The objective of the conferences – which had been relocated to Montreal from Kunming, China, as a result of COVID-19 restrictions however are nonetheless being presided over by China – is to reach a framework to assist information nations on how greatest to guard biodiversity. While China has not invited world leaders, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is anticipated to attend a gap ceremony on Tuesday afternoon.

“We can no longer continue with a ‘business as usual’ attitude,” stated Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, govt secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, urging states to undertake an “ambitious, realistic and implementable” plan.

What will the brand new framework embrace?

A draft (PDF) of the brand new biodiversity framework launched final 12 months included 21 targets to fulfill by 2030. They embrace decreasing pesticide use, growing funding to $200bn per 12 months, and defending not less than 30 % of land and sea globally – the 30×30 proposal – via “systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures”.

But consultants identified that the draft of the settlement, dubbed the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, included many proposed amendments – indicated by sq. brackets – that the events had not reached a consensus on, prompting concern.

“We need a text with teeth — and far fewer brackets,” Sandra Diaz, a professor and member of Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council, not too long ago wrote in Nature.

“This much we have learnt in the 30 years since the foundational 1992 Rio Earth Summit drew attention to the impact of human activities on the environment: a strong, precise, ambitious text does not in itself ensure successful implementation, but a weak, vague, toothless text almost guarantees failure.”

What are the largest challenges?

Getting a “strong and ambitious document together” would be the convention’s first main activity, stated Gonzalez of McGill University, alongside securing funding commitments and establishing implementation mechanisms for the agreed-upon targets.

Of the 20 targets specified by the final, 10-year world framework in 2010, generally known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the Convention on Biological Diversity reported that none had been absolutely achieved (PDF) by 2020.

“It’s not just about implementation in the old-fashioned way, which is sort of just putting nature behind a fence,” Gonzalez defined, concerning the implementation problem within the subsequent pact. “But it’s additionally about wholesome individuals, wholesome ecosystems.

“We’re seeing recognition of the rights of Indigenous and local communities, of women, of youth, thinking about the long-term outcomes for everybody, not just this generation.”

What different points must be thought of?

Late final month, Greenpeace urged richer nations to tackle a justifiable share of the monetary burden and assist nations within the Global South shield areas susceptible to destruction; comparable debates over which nations ought to pay what dominated the current COP27 local weather talks in Egypt.

The environmental rights group additionally known as on governments to make sure the following framework respects the rights and sovereignty of Indigenous peoples, who reside in areas home to many of the world’s remaining biodiversity, in line with the UN and different consultants.

Other rights organisations, together with Amnesty International, additionally urged warning about any framework that might designate 30 % of the planet as “protected areas” – the 30×30 concept. Such efforts prior to now “have led to widespread evictions, hunger, ill-health and human rights violations, including killings, rapes and torture across Africa and Asia”, they stated (PDF) in November.

“Given that 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity is found on Indigenous Peoples’ lands, the evidence is clear that the best way to conserve ecosystems is to protect the rights of those who live in and depend on them.”

Can an ‘ambitious’ deal be reached?

Despite the lingering questions and challenges, Gonzalez stated he was “cautiously optimistic” that the events will have the ability to get on the identical web page and reach an “ambitious” framework. “There is huge momentum for biodiversity right now,” he stated, pointing to subnational authorities, in addition to NGOs, who’re engaged on the difficulty.

A groundswell of public curiosity in biodiversity may assist put strain on decision-makers, as properly. For instance, officers concerned in securing the 2015 Paris Agreement to deal with local weather change not too long ago confused the significance of reaching a “transformative” pact at COP15.

“Leaders must secure a global agreement for biodiversity which is as ambitious, science-based and comprehensive as the Paris Agreement is for climate change,” they wrote in an open letter final month (PDF).

“Like the Paris Agreement, it must encourage countries to pledge and also ratchet up their action commensurate with the size of the challenge. It must be inclusive, rights-based and work for all. And it must deliver, through the whole of society, immediate action on the ground – our future depends on it.”