World Leaders Gather in Montreal for COP15 Biodiversity Summit

speakers seated at a desk at opening ceremony
Press Trust of India
Montreal, Canada
World Leaders Gather in Montreal for COP15 Biodiversity Summit

Montreal, Dec 7 (PTI) Leaders and negotiators from 196 countries, including India, gathered in Canada for a two-week conference expected to adopt a landmark agreement to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030.

During the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) being held from December 7 to 19, about 20,000 delegates from across the world will negotiate an eight-year plan to preserve and restore biodiversity.

They will do so through the  Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a treaty adopted for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and related issues.

Among the key issues under discussion are preserving 30 per cent of the world’s land and water by 2030, and accepting the fair and equitable sharing of benefits of genetic resources.

Addressing the opening ceremony of COP15 on a windy cold day, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “Nature is under threat; In fact, it’s under attack. The job we’re doing as a world is just not good enough.” He said Canada is committed to safeguarding nature, noting it has agreed to protect 30 per cent of nature by 2030.

Trudeau’s speech was briefly interrupted by a group of Indigenous protesters’ singing and drum beating.

Speaking on the occasion, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the governments to come together and stop “waging war on nature.” “Nature is humanity’s best friend. Without nature, we have nothing. Without nature, we are nothing,” he said.

Guterres took aim at multinational corporations which, he said, are “filling their bank accounts while emptying our world of its natural gifts” and making ecosystems “playthings of profit”.

He condemned the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a tiny number of mega-rich individuals.

This phenomenon works against nature and the real interests of the majority: “the deluded dreams of billionaires aside, there is no Planet B,” he said.

Huang Runqiu, China’s minister of ecology and environment who serves as the president of the COP15 conference, thanked Canada for hosting the summit.

“This is a historic moment, urgent action is required,” Runqui said.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the executive secretary for the UN convention on biodiversity, said people need to pay attention and the negotiators need to get this right because “biodiversity underpins our very existence on this planet.” “It is the food we eat, the water we need, we use, we drink, the clean air we want to breathe, the goods and services, the health, in terms of medicines,” she said.

While the biodiversity COP – short for Conference of the Parties – takes place every two years, this year’s summit is hailed as the biggest in 10 years as a new global biodiversity framework is set to be adopted.

The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework will be the first global framework on biodiversity adopted since the Aichi Biodiversity Targets in 2010.

In 2010 at COP10 in Nagoya, Japan, the governments set out to meet the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets by 2020, including that natural habitat loss would be halved and plans for sustainable consumption and production would be implemented.

According to a 2020 CBD report, none of these targets have been fully met.

The planet is experiencing its largest loss of life since the dinosaur era ended: one million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction, according to a UN report.

Most countries in Asia have failed to achieve a global minimum target of protecting at least 17 per cent of land by 2020, according to a recent study based on data from 40 countries.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Inger Andersen said the world cannot afford to continue treading a path through the fragile web of nature and biodiversity to clear the way for human development.

“Species, ecosystems, and the benefits that they provide, upon which we all depend, are degrading and slowly dying. The loss and degradation of biodiversity come with a cost we measure in not just dollars but in livelihoods, hunger, disease, vulnerability, well-being and deaths,” Inger added.

Monitored wildlife populations – mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish – have seen a devastating 69 per cent drop on average since 1970, according to the Living Planet Report (LPR) 2022 of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The report highlights the stark outlook of the state of nature and urgently warns governments, businesses and the public to take transformative action to reverse the destruction of biodiversity.

As many as 196 countries have ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity and will need to adopt the framework at the meeting in Montreal.

COP15 aims to achieve a historic agreement to halt and reverse nature loss, on par with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. What is adopted in Montreal will essentially be a global blueprint to save the planet’s dwindling biodiversity.

The draft framework includes over 20 targets from proposals to reduce pesticide use, address invasive species, reform or eliminate subsidies that are harmful to the environment, and increase financing for nature from both public and private sources.

However, negotiators face major hurdles before countries can agree to the goals scientists say are needed. 

This story was originally published by the Press Trust of India on 7 December 2022 and has been lightly edited for length and clarity. It was produced as part of the 2022 CBD COP15 Fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network. 

Banner image: The opening ceremony of the biodiversity summit / Credit: UN Biodiversity via Flickr

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