Heads of state engagement must at UN biodiversity talks

Countries have touted COP15 as an opportunity to deliver a deal for nature similar in ambition and significance to the Paris Climate Agreement, but repeated delays, a lack of urgency and indications that high-level political leaders are not being invited could undermine that outcome if not addressed immediately.
Representative image
Representative imageReuters

WASHINGTON: The ongoing critical negotiations around the Convention on Biological Diversity's Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), to be finalised at COP15, may be humanity's best chance to address catastrophic biodiversity loss and the collapse of ecosystems, the fabric of which are the foundations of economies worldwide.

A landmark global assessment on the state of the world's biodiversity from IPBES found that biodiversity is declining at rates unprecedented in human history with up to one million species facing extinction.

The final round of negotiations on the GBF will take place at COP15 in Montreal, Canada, from December 7 to 19.

Countries have touted COP15 as an opportunity to deliver a deal for nature similar in ambition and significance to the Paris Climate Agreement, but repeated delays, a lack of urgency and indications that high-level political leaders are not being invited could undermine that outcome if not addressed immediately.

"We would never have gotten the Paris Climate Agreement without heads of state and government in the room. This is nature's equivalent of the Paris deal. We need them there to get the agreement to save our life support system," said Enric Sala, Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic Society.

Russ Feingold, former US Senator and Chair of the Campaign for Nature's Global Steering Committee, saw firsthand the importance of having heads of state participate at key points in negotiations when he served as Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa for the US State Department and helped negotiate a peace agreement.

Feingold stated: "From 2013-15, I saw in the negotiations to end the terrible violence in Eastern Congo the positive difference the presence of key regional presidents made. It is imperative that heads of state be active participants in COP15 in Montreal this coming December."

"There should be no greater priority for heads of state than ensuring that the systems that sustain all life on earth are safeguarded," said Brian O'Donnell, Director, Campaign for Nature.

"The best opportunity to reach a global agreement to halt the destruction of the world's forests and wetlands, and to prevent the ongoing plunder of the world's oceans is at COP15 in Montreal in December. Heads of state are needed to secure an ambitious global nature agreement at COP15."

Key priorities that must be included in the GBF are: The science-driven, global goal to protect at least 30 per cent of the planet's lands and oceans by 2030 is one of the cornerstones of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (Target 3 in the GBF).

The majority of the world's countries, over 100, support this target within the draft GBF. They have formed the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People to jointly call for adoption of the 30x30 target within the final GBF.

Significant international biodiversity financial commitments to address the nature crisis and sustain funding to ensure protected areas are properly managed (Target 19 in the GBF); and the full recognition of the rights and contributions, and the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, who are on the frontlines of biodiversity loss and the effects of climate change and have proven to be among the best guardians of nature.

The Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty agreed to at the UN Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992.

It has three goals: the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of nature; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic science.

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