By Andy Lester, A Rocha UK’s Head of Conservation
COP15, the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, has been postponed from spring to autumn. If it leads to a stronger result we should all be thankful.
COP15 is a two stage dialogue which will culminate in an event to be attended by over 200 nations in China. The primary aim is to address the ongoing decline in global biodiversity as part of the UN’s Global Biodiversity Framework and to ensure that the decline of nature is arrested by 2030.
As with COP26, COP15 is not a one-off event, but part of a process of discussion and debate at a global level to attempt to carve out a future that is more sustainable and equitable for all. As with COP26 however, the objectives are so large and the impact of failing to achieve a strong result so substantial, that there is much need for ongoing prayer.
Nature is in trouble. According to the WWF Living Planet Report the abundance of all wildlife has declined by an average of 68% since 1970. Not only are we losing a multitude of species on a daily basis, but the actual number of each species is declining at a precipitous rate. Our entire planetary ecosystems risk collapse within our lifetimes. Against this horrific global picture, COP15 must attempt to do the seemingly impossible and create an action plan aimed at halting the decline in biodiversity by 2030. The plan must ensure that at least 30% of land is protected for future generations by the same year, in line with UN goals.
The Autumn conference will focus on land degradation. According to the United Nations there are over 2 billion hectares of damaged and degraded land across the planet. COP15 plans to establish a rapid road map of action to stop the decline across at least 1 billion hectares (50% of the identified area of degraded land) by 2030. At the heart of the action programme is a desire to mobilise young people, women and indigenous groups to help spearhead change. 196 countries have signed up to make the laudable aims of COP15 a possibility – and details of legally binding targets to achieve ambitious plans must follow swiftly.
What protected land actually looks like is another contentious debate. Official nature reserves or a national park are meaningless unless they are demonstrating creative use of land that combines nature and people together. It is possible to create spaces at scale that are nature rich, but also exceptional for sustainable economies. You can have land that produces abundant food for people as well as providing wild spaces for recovering nature. But only a globally astute, locally driven and truly target-centered approach will yield the results needed to ensure COP15 is more than just hot air. Faced with the extinction of many more species in the next 15-20 years, we cannot afford the luxury of more talk without really focussed action.
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