“The biodiversity crisis calls for strong leadership and a change in thinking”
7 december 2022
Hello there... Malgorzata Blicharska, Associate Professor in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development at the Department of Earth Sciences. The UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) is arranged in Montreal on 7–19 December – why is this meeting being held?
“It is a very important meeting that is only held every ten years. The COP15 conference will review the achievement and delivery of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, known as the Aichi Targets. The aim is to reach a new international agreement on a global action plan, or Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), for the next ten years to ensure that we can finally halt or at least reduce the rate of biodiversity loss.”
According to the UN's scientific expert panel on biodiversity, IPBES, up to one million species are threatened with extinction due to human activities. What are the consequences of species loss for humanity?
“We humans are highly dependent on biodiversity and the benefits it provides. For example, a variety of vegetation is needed for pollination and crop production. One third of our global food production depends on it. Another example is our own immune system, which cannot function well without a diversity of microorganisms. Without rich biodiversity, we will also be unable to adapt to ongoing climate change, which requires healthy and resilient ecosystems. It is all connected.”
A UN conference on global climate change, COP27, was held recently, and now COP15 on biodiversity is being organised – why do we need a separate conference on biodiversity?
“I actually think that these two topics should not be separated, as they are very closely linked. Biodiversity can contribute both to climate change mitigation, for example through carbon sequestration by forests, and to adaptation to climate change. And this year was actually the first time that the COP27 climate conference explicitly recognised the importance of biodiversity in its final decision text by mentioning nature-based solutions and forests.
“In addition, there is a need to combine the climate change and biodiversity agendas in terms of global financing. It needs to be reoriented towards a carbon-free and nature-positive economy, and towards the poorest and most vulnerable countries. Synchronised reporting schedules are also needed to give national biodiversity plans and strategies greater political weight in national and international decision-making.
“Biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development are inextricably linked. There is an urgent need to develop an integrated global framework that unites the global goals of these issues. In particular to be able to implement the 2030 Agenda, the UN's action plan with global sustainable development goals.”
During the climate conference in Egypt, there was much talk about responsibility, historical debt and compensation for greenhouse gas emissions. Are there plans to agree on a similar fund for biodiversity damage and loss?
“One of the most critical parts of the COP15 negotiations is the mobilisation of resources, especially financial resources, for biodiversity action in the south. The discussions concern financial transfer commitments, similar to those agreed at the climate conference: how can we ensure that the promises of financial resources will be kept, how can we ensure that the funds are available and can respond quickly to the needs of southern countries?
"Unfortunately, the funds needed are generally an order of magnitude larger than the financial commitments already proposed before the meeting. The countries of the north are pledging about 10 billion dollars a year, while the countries of the south are talking about needing hundreds of billions of dollars a year. These needs are so great because the southern countries have to recover from a series of crises that have hit them, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine, as well as the effects of climate change, such as more frequent and extreme weather conditions.
“This proposal is similar to the funding promised at COP27, which is of course good, but certainly not sufficient to ensure adequate action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Unfortunately, when it comes to both climate and biodiversity, we are rearranging the chairs on the Titanic, without any really strong commitments that can lead to real change.”
Is the situation hopeless?
“No, it is not. I think it is good that there are events like COP27 and COP15 and that world leaders are starting to think more and more about biodiversity. But we need more action and more commitment, and above all financial resources. More than anything, we need real change, which will require sacrifices from all of us, for example in terms of changing our lifestyles and simply changing the way we think about what a good life is. However, the greatest responsibility lies with governments to introduce stricter regulations that prevent activities that are harmful to biodiversity and instead encourage its enhancement.”
The UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada from 7 to 19 December will bring together governments from around the world to agree on a new global framework for biodiversity. The old one expired in 2020 and the new one has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and global unrest. The framework is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD, which was originally signed by 150 world leaders at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Today, 196 countries are party to the Convention, which aims to promote sustainable development.
The proposed framework for the next decade contains four overarching objectives: conservation of biodiversity – including the setting aside of large areas of land and sea – sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystem services, equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources (Nagoya Protocol), and financing and implementation. The framework also includes 22 milestones.