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UN announces delay of biodiversity summit

Following the first draft of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), officials announced on Tuesday, August 18, 2021 new dates for the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15).

Kunming, China, will host the biodiversity summit in person in May 2022

The biodiversity summit, where 196 countries will agree on an action plan for ending the nature crisis, is now scheduled to take place in two parts: virtually in October 2021 and in person in Kunming, China in May 2022.

The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), and the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) will hold face-to-face meetings in January 2022 in Switzerland.

The aim of the delay is to allow for equitable and safe face-to-face negotiations before and at COP15 which, due to the coronavirus pandemic, cannot happen before the initial date set for October 2021.

Despite the meeting’s delay, the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, a coalition of 65 countries led by Costa Rica, France and the United Kingdom, are driving forward with ambitious plans to protect and conserve nature and donor nations are beginning to commit to increase finance for nature. At last month’s G7, the world’s largest economies made ambitious commitments to combat the interlinked biodiversity and climate crises, including:

  • A historic Nature Compact, which included a commitment by all the world’s largest economies to protect 30% of the planet’s land and ocean by 2030 (“30×30”). 
  • An endorsement by the United Kingdom of the landmark Dasgupta Review and a pledge to deliver “a ‘nature positive’ future, in which we leave the environment in a better state than we found it, and ensure economic and financial decision-making is geared towards delivering that”. Earlier this year, the UK government announced an additional £3 billion to protect nature, and pledged to ensure that “bilateral aid spending does no harm to nature.”   
  • Canada’s announcement of a doubling of its climate finance, from $2.65 billion in 2015 to $5.3 billion over five years, including increased support for adaptation, as well as nature and nature-based solutions that are in line with the G7 Nature Compact. 
  • Germany’s announcement to increase its climate finance from €4 billion to €6 billion by 2025, with the aim of advancing synergies between climate and nature. 

Additional government-level action on nature includes the launch of the:

  • The UK’s £500 million Blue Planet Fund, which supports marine protection and poverty reduction in developing countries.
  • The multi-stakeholder Legacy Landscapes Fund, which aims to provide lasting, reliable core funding for at least 30 key protected areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
  • A new market-led Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), which will support businesses in assessing emerging nature-related risks and opportunities. Funded by France and the UK, the TNFD will work with 50 leading financial institutions.

Experts urge that now – with less than nine years to enact transformative change before the 2030 deadline – nations and multilateral bodies must begin to act in order to create a liveable future for people and nature. They insist that countries and financial institutions not wait until COP15 and the ratification of the GBF to: 

  • Endorse the global goal to protect 30% of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030;
  • Accelerate concrete and ambitious action to conserve the areas most important for biodiversity; 
  • Commit significant public finance for biodiversity as an essential confidence building component in negotiations to achieve an ambitious agreement next year and implement the GBF; 
  • Commit to safeguard the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities and increase financing for Indigenous peoples and local communities to secure their land tenure.
  • Endorse ambitious nature goals at the IUCN Congress, UNGA, COP26 and international and regional financial meetings. 

Lord Zac Goldsmith, International Environment Minister, UK, said: “We need to tackle the biodiversity crisis head on, and this delay will not mean taking our foot off the pedal. As President of the recent G7, we are encouraged to see major progress on finance for nature, on cleaning up global supply chains, on efforts to tackle deforestation and with the global commitment to protect 30% of the world’s land and ocean by 2030. We will continue to press countries to join us in ramping up efforts to protect and restore nature.”

Brian O’Donnell, the Director of Campaign for Nature, said: “It is understandable that the Convention on Biological Diversity has decided to postpone the COP15. It is critically important for all parties and civil society to equitably participate in the development of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and we must stand in solidarity with all people battling the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide.

“There is no pause button for biodiversity loss. Human destruction of nature continues unabated, and governments do not need to wait for a global deal to take action and redirect finance to urgently protect our planet.”

Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer in Residence, said: “The reason why the biodiversity COP15 has to be postponed is a pandemic which was caused – like other previous pandemics – by our abuse of the natural world. The loss of nature affects everyone on our planet, hence the importance of having everyone at the table. But despite the pause, the science is clear: if we are to prevent the collapse of our life support system, we need countries to begin to act now to preserve the wild nature left on our planet, and restore much of our degraded lands and ocean.”

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