COP15 – A Paris Moment for Biodiversity?

Why the COP15 in Montréal must deliver a New Deal For Nature.

From 7 to 19 December, governments from around the world are gathering in Montréal, Canada, for the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity – also known as COP15. Our MEPs, Ville Niinistö (Finland), Jutta Paulus (Germany) and Caroline Roose (France), argue that governments cannot waste this once-in-a-decade opportunity to advance the protection and restoration of nature worldwide. They need to strike a New Deal For Nature now.

Follow Ville and Jutta on Twitter in Montréal from 14 to 17 December.

+++ Update 19th December 2022: HISTORIC RESULTS FOR BIODIVERSITY AT COP15. 
VILLE NIINISTÖ, MEP: "COP15 has approved a historic deal to protect nature and to stop the loss of biodiversity by 2030. Countries agreed to protect 30% of the land and marine areas and to ensure that by 2030 at least 30% of degraded ecosystems are under effective restoration. They also agreed to putting more financial resources to the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework and to push towards more sustainable economies by cutting environmentally harmful subsidies.” Read our full press release on the COP15 here. +++

No climate protection without nature

Our nature is in crisis. We have lost a third of the Earth’s wetlands and half of all corals – and we continue to destroy natural forests at an alarming rate. A million species are in danger of extinction. In fact, scientists believe that we are living through the sixth mass extinction, and the first mass extinction since humans occupied the Earth. 

But healthy ecosystems are just as important as a stable climate. They provide us with food and fresh water, protect us from disasters and disease, and form the basis of our economy.

Oceans, forests and peat bogs also play a vital role in regulating the global climate. They absorb carbon emissions and shield us from extreme weather events linked to climate change. But they can only do that when they are in good health.

That’s why we must tackle the destruction of nature and the global climate crisis together. We can only solve both or solve neither. The good news? Many actions that work to save nature also help to save our climate!

At COP15 in Montréal, we need a New Deal For Nature

The most important task for the COP15 Montréal conference is to hash out a new Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) that will guide actions to protect biodiversity until 2030. This framework must be for nature what the Paris Agreement is for the climate – a clear guide to common action by governments around the world. 

The stakes are higher than ever. We have come to a point where we must not only stop the ongoing destruction of the living world, but reverse it and bring back nature! We need a strong global plan for protecting and restoring nature in the coming decade – a New Deal For Nature.

The framework should include a range of numerical, measurable targets, such as the robust protection of at least 30 percent of the world’s land, freshwater and oceans by 2030, and global targets for nature restoration.

Seascape with corals / Unsplash
Seascape with corals / Unsplash

A strong plan to implement biodiversity protections

It is not the first time that governments set themselves targets on the protection of nature. But so far, they have failed to effectively reach those targets. None of the 2020 targets, the so-called Aichi targets agreed in Japan in 2010, have been fully achieved.

Even when they were partly reached, such as the designation of protected areas, they were not always effective in protecting wildlife. Countries have established “paper parks” without sufficient connectivity, adequate management and equitable governance.

That is why a solid implementation plan is just as important as well-defined targets. At COP15, parties must agree on an implementation mechanism alongside the global framework. Steps such as planning, monitoring and reporting, as well as reviewing and ratcheting up of action, must be clear from the start. They must also agree on a calendar for taking those steps.

Parties must be able to begin to implement the framework immediately by setting national targets and updating their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs).

Sufficient finance is critical to achieve implementation. Money should mainly come from public sources and be redirected from harmful subsidies paid out today. Public investments in biodiversity conservation and restoration make little sense if they are outpaced by investments in nature destruction.

No deal at COP15 without Indigenous Peoples and local communities

The effective protection of 30 percent of the world’s land, freshwater and oceans by 2030 will not be possible without the full inclusion of and leadership from Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs).

Generations of Indigenous peoples and local communities have effectively protected nature, and used it in a truly sustainable way. They are nature’s best guardians. Lands owned by these communities cover at least a third of all land on Earth, including particularly valuable, nature-rich areas, and they are generally in a good state.

Today, 80 percent of remaining biodiversity is in the lands, waters and territories of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. If we want to mend our broken relationship with nature, we must learn from nature’s long-standing allies and support their efforts to protect, defend and restore their lands and waters.

But these peoples’ ability to safeguard nature is under threat. In the past decade, more than 1,700 land and environmental defenders were murdered, including a disproportionate number of Indigenous people.

The protection of nature begins with the protection of the Indigenous peoples’ rights, livelihoods and cultures. At COP15, their voices must be at the centre of decision making, management and funding for nature protection.

Leadership by example – EU must do more for biodiversity

Finally, the EU needs to get its own house in order. The European Commission has announced ambitious plans to protect and restore nature. If we want to be credible on the international scene, these plans need to be put into action.

The EU’s targets to protect at least 30 percent of both the EU’s land and sea areas (and strictly protect at least 10 percent of these areas) cannot rely on the good will of EU governments. They must be binding for all countries, just like the proposed 20 percent target for measures to restore nature.

These actions also help us protect the global climate, and protect us from the effects of climate change. As the architects of the Paris Agreement have said: there is no pathway to limiting global warming to 1.5C without action on protecting and restoring nature.

As the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament, we defend strong actions on both the global and EU level. We are committed to making our Earth habitable again, through the protection of nature and our global climate. 

Read our demands for the COP15 of the Convention for Biological Diversity here.