The UN’s COP15 talks aim to give biodiversity and ecosystems the same international protection as the climate. Image: Unsplash/Juanma Clemente-Alloza
Explore and monitor how Nature and Biodiversity is affecting economies, industries and global issues
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:
Nature and Biodiversity
Listen to the article
- The UN’s COP15 talks aim to give biodiversity and ecosystems the same international protection as the climate.
- Biodiversity loss is ranked as one of the biggest threats facing humanity.
- Experts say the rate at which species are becoming extinct is accelerating.
- Governments will be asked to support a 10-year strategy which will change our relationship with nature.
The race to protect the natural world and its biodiversity reaches a critical milestone this December as countries gather for the United Nations’ COP15 meeting.
The stakes for the summit - in Montreal, Canada - could hardly be higher. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres says: “We are losing our suicidal war against nature”.
COP15 aims to give biodiversity the same levels of international protection as the climate.
The UN’s three environment COPs
COP stands for “Conference of the Parties” – the nations who have signed up to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Montreal will be the 15th time they have met.
The CBD confronts the threats to the survival of species and ecosystems around the world. It dates back to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and has been ratified by 195 countries and the European Union, but not by the United States or the Vatican.
Extinctions and the destruction of ecosystems were a clear threat when the Convention was agreed – but things are far worse now.
Biodiversity loss is one of the biggest dangers we face, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022.
A million species under threat
Human activity threatens to wipe out more species now than ever before, says the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
Around a million species are threatened with extinction unless action is taken, IPBES research shows. The rate of extinction is at least “tens to hundreds of times” higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years, it says.
Species of birds, plants, mammals, reptiles, fish and insects are all under threat.
Biodiversity threatens economies, too
The unprecedented destruction of nature is a matter of human self-preservation, says a report from WWF. Biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are essential to providing our food, water and energy, as well as regulating the climate, the charity says.
Biodiversity loss hits the world’s economies too, with catastrophic results for people across the globe. Some countries risk bankruptcy as a result.
The alarming increase in extinctions is leading many scientists to call for ambitious action at COP15.
Building a life in harmony with nature
“Biodiversity loss is just as catastrophic as climate change,” says Professor Andy Purvis, from the UK’s Natural History Museum. “Muddling through as we currently are doing is nowhere near enough to halt, let alone reverse, this devastating decline in biodiversity.”
So when representatives of governments from around the world gather in Montreal, they will be under pressure to deliver results.
“What needs to happen first and foremost is the adoption of … a 10-year strategy to engage the entire world in the task of protecting nature and building a future of life in harmony with nature,” says Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the CBD.
Actions to protect biodiversity
The heads of state and environment ministers meeting in Montreal will decide whether to back the commitments in the Post-2020 Global Diversity Framework.
The framework commits governments to a series of actions designed to protect biodiversity and restore ecosystems.
It includes 21 targets for urgent action in the next 10 years, including stopping discharges of plastic waste, reducing the use of pesticides and ensuring that at least 30% of land and sea areas are protected.
There will be big obstacles to overcome before agreement is reached, with finance being a major issue.
The leaders of some developing countries are expected to argue they need more money if they are to protect larger parts of their territories and grow their economies sustainably, reports The Guardian.
Governments have a dubious track record on biodiversity commitments, too.
In the history of the CBD, governments have failed to meet any of the targets which have been agreed, says the newspaper.
COP15 has been organized differently because of the disruption caused by the pandemic.
The first talks were held virtually in 2021, and they were due to conclude in Kunming, China this year. But due to China’s ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, the event is being moved to Canada.
Despite the venue change, China will still hold the presidency, for a summit which has the potential to mark a crucial change in our relationship with the natural world.
How does the World Economic Forum encourage biological diversity?
Don't miss any update on this topic
Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.
License and Republishing
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
More on Nature and BiodiversitySee all
February 22, 2024
February 21, 2024
February 19, 2024
February 15, 2024
Thea de Gallier and Madeleine North
February 15, 2024
Pablo Uchoa and Laura Beltran
January 30, 2024