Your Guide to the COPs – CBD COP15 virtual meetings

The second in a series of blogs, written by Enya O’Reilly for the Conservation Ecology SIG, giving an overview of COP15 and COP26. This post covers the outcomes of the first part of CBD COP15, which took place virtually in October. See part 1 for an introduction to COP15.

The Kunming Declaration

In October, world leaders came together virtually to begin discussions surrounding the post-2020 biodiversity framework as part of COP15 (see our Guide to COP15 here). The main focus was the High-Level Segment (HLS), where the Kunming Declaration was adopted.  This states that all Parties to the Convention are committed to developing, implementing and monitoring an effective post-2020 framework which will put biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030, and achieve the vision of “living in harmony with nature” by 2050.

Policy announcements

The Parties to the Convention also pledged to ensure the success of the framework through political and financial means, whilst supporting ecosystem-based approaches. Although the final decision and implementation of the post-2020 framework will not happen until April 2022, some major signatory countries (including the UK) have announced a number of goals and policies that will hopefully set them on the road to reaching the 2030 and 2050 goals.

  1. In Europe, the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, under the Green Deal aims to create an EU-wide network of managed protected areas that encompasses 30% of land and 30% of seas. Also under this Green Deal, the EU has established the Farm to Fork Strategy, which focuses on making food systems more environmentally friendly in order to combat biodiversity loss and mitigate against the impacts of climate change. To aid this transition provision will be made for advisory services, funding, research and innovative techniques. At the HLS, the EU also pushed for the framework to have a stronger monitoring process to measure progress on the ground. Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries for the EU, Virginijus Sinkevičius stated in his speech that “this is a generational task – we must succeed in offering a liveable and thriving planet to future generations”.
  2. As host to COP26 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will take place in Glasgow in November 2021), the UK has an opportunity to not only lead on efforts to tackle climate change, but also to set an example for protecting biodiversity. They have made a good start to this by leading the Global Ocean Alliance with the target of protecting 30% of global oceans by 2030 and launching the Blue Planet Fund, which will support countries tackling unsustainable fishing, protect and restore coastal ecosystems and reduce marine pollution. At the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Cornwall this year, the UK also joined other world leaders in committing to the G7 Nature Compact, which states that G7 leaders will fully address unsustainable activities that are negatively impacting the environment and dramatically increase investment in nature.
  3. As the eyes of the world will be on the UK ahead of COP26, the world also looks to the COP15 host, China, to see what they will do to tackle biodiversity loss. China has stated that they are moving to establish a system of protected areas based on a large group of national parks that will cover some of China’s most important areas of biodiversity. They are also leading on the Green Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to promote economic development and inter-regional connectivity in over 115 countries, with a strong emphasis on supporting investment into green and low-carbon development.

International collaboration

Stronger international collaboration has also been advocated in the years leading up to COP15, and we have now seen the formation of a number of international partnerships that will help the global goal of halting biodiversity loss.

  1. The Global Coalition United for Biodiversity was formed in 2020 to bring together 250 institutions from over 50 countries around the world to raise awareness of the importance of protecting biodiversity.
  2. The Leaders’ Pledge for Nature now sees governments from 92 countries (including the UK) commit to reversing biodiversity loss by 2030. This demonstrates the united goal to step up global ambition and encourage others to join them and their ambition for nature.
  3. At COP15, countries also emphasised their ambition to protect 30% of global land and 30% of oceans by 2030. This 30×30 target has been endorsed by the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which is a group of over 70 countries led by Costa Rica and France with the UK as the ocean co-chair. Although there has been global support for this 30×30 goal, it was not referred to in the Kunming Declaration as a commitment for action. There have been some arguments that state that 30×30 is not a one-size fits-all target, as each country needs to contribute in different ways and so will have different area-based targets. BES will be publishing a policy brief that focuses on the 30×30 target in the UK in early 2022.

Unfortunately, the USA was not included in the discussions at COP15 as  it is the only UN member state which has not ratified the treaty. However, president Joe Biden has also committed to the 30×30 goal.

Where will the money come from?

One of the big questions at COP15 is how Parties to the Convention plan to fund projects that will help them reach post-2020 framework targets. The Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have announced that they are committing to “fast-track support to governments” to ensure the framework can be implemented upon its adoption in 2022. These organisations also commit to providing immediate financial and technical support to the governments of developing countries, enabling resources to be provided and activities to be carried out in biodiversity focal areas. China has committed $230 million to establish the Kunming Biodiversity Fund and Japan will invest $17 million into its own Biodiversity Fund. Similarly, the European Union will double its biodiversity funding and France has committed to ensuring that 30% of its climate fund will be used for biodiversity. The UK has also announced that £3 billion of its climate funding will be used over the course of five years to fund climate change solutions that will restore biodiversity and ecosystems.

Action not words

While big strides were made at the virtual COP15 meeting, political will is vital to ensure each nation’s goals are upheld. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of COP15, said that “the [Kunming] declaration is a document. The framework when it is adopted will be a document. What will be key will be the implementation on the ground, to really make those transformative changes we want to see moving forward.”

The focus this year now turns to COP26, which many believe to be the last opportunity for the international community to adopt realistic targets to keep global warming below 1.5 C. Ms. Mrema said that “we must also leverage the (proximity of the conferences) to address synergies between mitigating biodiversity loss, and climate change”, as the two crises are inextricably linked. French President Emmanuel Macron also reiterated this by saying that “protecting biodiversity and nature was vital to achieving carbon neutrality and stemming global warming”. We must however now wait and see how discussions progress at COP26.


The author

Enya is a PhD student with RSPB and the University of East Anglia, exploring quantitative methods for species selection in the development of multi-species ecological indicators. In the future she hopes to work within science policy, to support the application of science and research into land management and policy decisions that will ensure the sustainability and health of biodiversity and ecosystems. Twitter: enya_oreilly

The Conservation Ecology SIG provides a platform for facilitating the exchange of information between theoretical ecologists, applied ecologists and practitioners interested in conservation issues. The Conservation Ecology group is open to everyone, both BES members and those who have not engaged with the BES before; we seek to include the widest diversity of views, experiences and contributions as possible.