Conservation and Biodiversity

Three Important Takeaways from the UN COP15 Biodiversity Conference

The planet is experiencing the fastest extinction rate since the dinosaurs were struck by a meteor 65 million years ago. However, we can’t blame this unprecedented loss of biodiversity on a hurtling rock from outer space. This time, human activity is the perpetrator.

In response to this crisis, governments came together in Montreal this December for the 15th UN Biodiversity Conference of the Parties (COP 15), hallmarked as the “most significant conference on biodiversity in a decade” by the UN Development Programme. Here, global leaders were tasked with designing and developing a new Global Biodiversity Framework that would implement the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Negotiations stretched across a range of topics, including reversing this extinction trend, improving biodiversity finance, land protection, agriculture, oceans, indigenous rights, and more. 

After only four months since COP15’s conclusion, here are three major takeaways you should know about the final agreement: 

  • A Paris Agreement for Biodiversity? 

No goals from The Aichi Targets, the previous framework for upholding the Convention on Biological Diversity, were met by their 2020 deadline. COP15, originally scheduled for 2020, responded to pressures from the international community to create a sister-deal to the 2015 UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change. In other words, the successor framework for the Aichi Targets must inspire countries to adhere to biodiversity goals by 2030. 

On the last day of the conference, nations adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which established four overarching goals and 11 action-based targets. The GBF established 30×30 as the headlining goal, which sets out to protect 30% of the planet and restore 30% of degraded land by 2030. Other key targets are supporting sustainable development, utilizing and sharing genetics technology, cutting the use of pollutants by half, integrating private businesses in biodiversity efforts, and strengthening country reporting to ensure that they are meeting their goals. 

In addition to the Global Biodiversity Framework, COP15 also produced a series of related decision documents expanding on the GBF’s primary goals and guiding their national implementation.

  • Money, Money, Money!

Financing the goals and targets outlined in the GBF was a big sticking point throughout conference negotiations. Over the past decade, the international community accrued an estimated 700 billion dollar per year finance gap, sparking tension between nations who disagree about how to mobilize enough funds. Notably, biodiverse countries from the Global South demanded additional support from wealthy nations. Brazil, the Philippines, and the Republic of Congo were the most outspoken about this issue. 

A solution wasn’t agreed on until the very end of the two-week conference. Eventually, nations agreed to create a global trust fund under the Global Biodiversity Framework that is expected to mobilize 200 billion USD annually. Much of the financial burden rests on wealthy nations, like EU members and the US, which are expected to contribute 25 billion per year by 2025, and 30 billion per year by 2030. The fund is also designed to incentivize additional investment from the private sector. 

  • Consensus…Kind Of

COP15 participants sought consensus-based agreement on the final Global Biodiversity Framework. Yet, there were several points throughout the COP15 Biodiversity Conference where nations were uncertain a consensus could ever be reached. These tensions reached a fever pitch on the last day of the conference, when the Chinese COP15 president, Huang Runqiu, appeared to gavel the agreement as accepted, despite concerns raised by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 

Since the agreement was reached, other African countries also expressed their frustration with the procedure of COP President Runqiu, prompting behind-the-scenes talks to salvage the deal. Although the DRC eventually dropped its opposition, it brings the strength of the GBF into question. The Democratic Republic of the Congo contains 60% of the Congo rainforest, so their support of the deal is paramount to ensure its success. 

COP15’s new Global Biodiversity Framework takes an important step forward in placing biodiversity protection at the forefront of environmental negotiations. Climate change cannot be addressed fully without equal attention paid to the natural environment. Through the Great Global Clean Up, EARTHDAY.ORG is doing its part to restore degraded landscapes across the globe. With widespread collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society, achieving the goals set out in this conference are within reach. 
Want to learn more about biodiversity? Take our quiz to test your knowledge!