The Keys to COP15 on Biodiversity: What's in it For Mexico?

press briefing
Sin Embargo
Montreal, Canada
The Keys to COP15 on Biodiversity: What's in it For Mexico?

Last Wednesday, the negotiations that will define the conservation of global biodiversity for the decade up to 2030 began. In United Nations jargon, it is known as Conference of the Parties (COP) number 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

COP15 will last almost two weeks and is scheduled to end on December 19 with the adoption of the new Global Biodiversity Framework, which includes 22 conservation targets covering a huge range of issues, from land tenure and protection of endangered species to the management of genetic resources derived from biodiversity knowledge, including effective respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Despite the importance of the task, the success of COP15 is still in question due to internal and external difficulties. Among the former, China, which holds the presidency of the COP, postponed the meeting on several occasions due to its strategy against Covid-19. The summit was originally scheduled to take place in the Chinese city of Kunming in 2020.

The delays are compounded by the absence of high-level political leaders. Except for the obligatory presence of Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the opening, no participation equivalent to the COPs on climate change has been seen.

On more mundane matters, it also doesn't help that negotiators and social representatives must contend with Montreal's -10-degree temperatures and maneuver near Christmas and New Year's Eve breaks.

On the external front, there is the overwhelming post-Covid context, galloping inflation, the energy crisis in Europe and other consequences of the Russian invasion in Ukraine. As if that were not enough, even the World Cup is distracting from the vital biodiversity negotiations.

The targets adopted in Montreal will replace the 20 Aichi Targets, adopted in 2010, which governed global biodiversity work from 2011 to 2020. It is a global conversation that involves in more ways than one every last person on this planet, regardless of nationality, gender, class, education or creed.

In the corridors of Montreal, biodiversity is treated as something as, if not more, relevant than climate change, or as a complementary issue in the current global environmental crisis. However, the specific perspective on biodiversity changes according to different factors.

For example, while in South America the perspective comes from economics based on food production and exports; in the Caribbean islands, delegates focus on the fishing industry and underwater mining; while for Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, forests and timber activities remain the priority.

The objectives

The exact wording of the new biodiversity convention is being negotiated one by one down to the last dot and comma, as the slightest detail in the wording will have legal consequences for the 196 signatory countries of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Although the text changes by the hour, the 22 objectives generally point to the following:

  • Halt land-use change, minimizing the loss of intact ecosystems and areas of high biodiversity importance.
  • Ensure that at least 20-30% of graded, terrestrial, wetland, coastal or marine areas are restored.
  • Ensure that at least 30% of significant areas for biodiversity are effectively conserved and include local communities.
  • Urgently conserve and recover threatened species and restore the genetic diversity of wild populations.
  • Ensure the sustainable, safe and legal use of wild species.
  • Eliminate or reduce the impacts of invasive species on native biodiversity.
  • Reduce pollution to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity and ecosystems.
  • Minimize the impact of climate change on biodiversity and increase its resilience.
  • Ensure that the sustainable use of wildlands is sustainable and provides economic and environmental benefits for people, especially those most dependent on biodiversity.
  • Ensure that all areas devoted to agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry are sustainably managed.
  • Restore, maintain and enhance nature's contributions to people, including ecosystem services such as air, water, soil health, pollination and hazard protection.
  • Significantly increase the area, quality and benefits of blue and green spaces in cities and densely populated areas.
  • Take legal, political and administrative measures at all levels for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources and the traditional knowledge associated with them.
  • Ensure the integration of biodiversity into policies, regulation, planning, development processes, poverty eradication strategies and environmental assessments at all levels of government.
  • Take legal and administrative measures to encourage companies to make their impacts on biodiversity transparent and inform consumers to reduce their negative impacts and increase their positive effects.
  • Ensure that it is possible for people to make sustainable choices about their consumption.
  • Establish, strengthen capacities and implement measures in all countries to prevent and control potential impacts of biotechnology on biodiversity.
  • Identify and eliminate subsidies and incentives harmful to biodiversity.
  • Increase the level of financial resources available from all sources to implement national biodiversity strategies and plans.
  • Ensure that the best available data, information and knowledge are available to decision-makers and implementers.
  • ]Ensure full, equitable, inclusive and effective representation and participation in decision-making and access to justice and information related to biodiversity by indigenous peoples and local communities.
  • Ensure gender equality in the implementation of the framework through a gender approach where all women and girls have equal opportunities to contribute.

What's in it for Mexico?

Mexico is home to some 200,000 different species, equivalent to 10 to 12% of global biodiversity. This makes it one of the main megadiverse countries in the world.

To get an idea of what this implies, the country is home to some 500 species relevant to fishing, another 600 used for reforestation, 4,000 more with registered medicinal properties, plus tens of thousands with the potential to develop biotechnological applications, such as medicines, vaccines or treatments. This biodiversity translates into food, clothing, construction materials, medicines and sources of recreation, cultural references and economic opportunities for Mexicans.

Recognizing its biodiversity, Mexico has been developing conservation areas to care for it for more than a century. To date, it has designated 185 natural protected areas and 382 areas voluntarily set aside for conservation, which covers approximately 11% of the earth's surface.

Given this scenario, any global discussion on biodiversity is a must for Mexico. But given the variety and depth of its objectives, the agreement that will come out of Montreal seems fundamental for what will happen on Mexican soil by 2030.

In addition to its economic, health or cultural reasons for protecting biodiversity, Mexico was a promoter of the Convention on Biological Diversity and one of its first signatories, in mid-1992. Congress ratified accession less than a year later, in early 1993. Therefore, legally and administratively, Mexico is fully bound by the provisions of the CBD.

Mexico is not a spectator of the negotiations, but has historically played a leading role in promoting agreements, particularly through the experience accumulated in the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (Conabio). Mexican negotiators were key to, for example, agreeing to the creation in 2012 of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

That legacy is still visible in Montreal, where Mexican scientists and diplomats are actively participating or leading different negotiating tables to achieve the post-2020 agreement on time.

The new biodiversity agreement is not happening in a vacuum either, as its implementation in Mexico, as in most of the world, must be carried out in conjunction with recently adopted global strategies to tackle environmental crises, including the Paris Agreement against climate change, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Escazu Agreement.

This story was produced as part of a Virtual Fellowship to the CBD COP15 organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network. It was first published by Sin Embargo in Spanish on 30 November 2022 and has been translated to English and lightly edited for length and clarity.

Banner image: A press briefing at COP15 / Credit: Juan Mayorga.

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