While science shows that the crisis facing the natural world is accelerating, the U.N. process for addressing global biodiversity loss is at serious risk of further slowing down. Initially scheduled for October 2020, the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has already been delayed four times because of the COVID pandemic.
With no official date announced for COP15, there is growing concern among scientists and other experts that countries are failing to address the biodiversity crisis with the required leadership and commitment.
Some 196 countries are working through the CBD to develop a global strategy to help stem the tide of catastrophic biodiversity loss, which threatens up to one million species with extinction within decades. 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 and a lack of urgency or high-level political attention could undermine that outcome if not addressed immediately.
The CBD COP Bureau is slated to meet on Thursday, May 19, 2022, to discuss plans for COP15 and determine when the COP will take place. It is critical that the COP dates be firmly set and that the COP allows for equitable participation from all interested parties, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and civil society organisations.
Brian O’Donnell, the Director of Campaign for Nature, said: “The CBD needs to announce a firm date for COP15 and send a signal to the world that ending the extinction crisis is an urgent priority. Getting an ambitious agreement to conserve the world’s biodiversity, urgently transition away from nature destroying activities and support the people and communities doing the work on the ground is critical to ensure the planet’s health – now and in the future.”
Russ Feingold, former US Senator and Chair of the Campaign for Nature’s Global Steering Committee, said: “I have worked with former heads of state, ministers, and other experts to establish the Campaign for Nature’s Global Steering Committee. We have come together thanks to a common understanding that livelihoods, health, and economic well-being around the world depend on nature. All countries need to make biodiversity conservation a greater priority, and that starts with setting a date for COP15 and agreeing to ambitious global targets.”
Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “We know that the ecological crisis is as serious as the climate crisis, and the two are deeply intertwined. Both for the sake of nature and our climate, it is critical that the Convention on Biological Diversity holds COP15 and agrees to an ambitious global biodiversity framework as soon as possible.”
Hailemariam Desalegn, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, said: “I am deeply concerned at the prospect of COP15 being further delayed. We are already two years into the 10-year window to achieve the new Global Biodiversity Framework and the simple truth is that time is running out. This cannot be put on the back burner any longer – our ecosystems, communities, and their livelihoods depend on it.”
Zakri Abdul Hamid, Founding Chair of IPBES and one of the original negotiators of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said: “Any further delay in the convening of COP15 will be a serious step backward considering that the destruction of nature continues unabated. Efforts to halt biodiversity loss need the unequivocal support of the world’s governments.”
Christian Schwarzer, Steering Committee Member of Global Youth Biodiversity Network, said: “For biodiversity, COP15 is an all or nothing moment. To lead this meeting to success, we need considerable political momentum and high-level participation by Ministers and Heads of State in the negotiations. Equally, we also need to ensure that COP15 is being convened in a format that allows for the full and effective participation of not only all Parties to the CBD but also Indigenous People and Local Communities, Civil Society, Women and Youth. Neither of this can be organised last minute. We need firm dates for COP15 now and we cannot afford any further delays to their announcement. Otherwise, we risk COP15 to sink into political irrelevance.”