Environment

Cop15 is over. What progress was made?

The conference set out ambitious targets for countries to protect natural biodiversity, but did they go far enough?

Cop15

Cop15 was co-hosted by Canada and China from December 7-19. (Credit: Regions4/Flickr)

The United Nations Biodiversity Conference, also known as Cop15, is over. You may not have known it was taking place at all, but the event was a major opportunity for governments around the world to tackle devastating biodiversity loss by 2030.

World leaders have been at the event in Montreal, Canada, for the last two weeks, with the aim of agreeing and adopting a Global Biodiversity Framework (GDF) to “secure the future of our planetary life support system”.

That means preventing the over-exploitation of land, sea, and species, climate change, pollution, and invasive non-native species. And at the 11th hour, an agreement was reached. But is it any good? And what else happened at the conference? Here’s everything you need to know.

The UK pledged £29million to support developing countries

Environment secretary Thérèse Coffey said £29m will be allocated to developing countries to support them in protecting 30 per cent of land and ocean diversity by 2030.

This follows the government’s commitment to spending £3billion of its £11.6bn climate budget on protecting natural biodiversity.

But, the announcement was not welcomed by all, with critics saying the pledge didn’t go far enough.

Craig Bennett, CEO of Wildlife Trusts told the Guardian it was “nothing like what’s needed”, while a negotiator from one of the countries receiving the money called it “peanuts”.

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

The EU and several countries joined forces to fund biodiversity protection

In a Joint Donors Statement, the EU Commission stated it would double its financial support of biodiversity protection to the tune of €7bn between 2021 and 2027. 

Germany, France, and Spain confirmed they would each be doubling their investments too, while the Netherlands committed to increasing its investment by 50 per cent.

According to the Commission, the EU and its member states were demonstrating “determination to urgently halt and reduce biodiversity loss worldwide”.

“Significant investments” were also made by Japan, the US, and Norway.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau pledged CAD$350m to support developing countries in their global biodiversity agenda, as well as CAD$800m in funding for indigenous-led conservation.

Under sea reef
A reef under the sea. (Credit: Marek Okon/Unsplash)

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

A project to support cities in fighting biodiversity loss was launched

Just a few days into Cop15, mayors from 15 cities across the world called for increased direct funding to protect green spaces and biodiversity in urban areas.

Mayors from Athens, Austin, Barranquilla, Dhaka-South, Freetown, Kampal, Kigali, Quezon City, Melbourne, Miami-Dade, Monterrey, Montreal, Paris, and São Paulo came together to ask for more funding so that cities, where the majority of people live, would be able to better meet global biodiversity goals.

The motion was supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Economic Forum, and a number of other climate-focused organisations. 

Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, director of the UNEP’s Economy Division, said: “Cities must be part of the solution to the biodiversity crisis. We hope mayors’ call for increased, direct investment will not fall on deaf ears so that they can unleash the power of nature in cities.”

The UNEP and its partners have now launched a new project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, to support cities in promoting ecosystem restoration for the next three years.

Nearly 200 countries committed to protecting nature

At the conclusion of Cop15, after two weeks of hefty negotiations and delegate walk-outs, a deal was reached to halt biodiversity loss, though again it didn’t please everyone.

Nearly 200 countries, excluding the US or the Vatican, have signed a final agreement on the 30×30 goal, which refers to protecting 30 percent of Earth’s ecosystems by 2030.

Despite informal objections from some African countries on the final deal, the agreement was finalised and pushed through by Cop15 president and environment minister for China, Huang Runqiu.

In addition to the 30×30 target, the Montreal-Kunming agreement included targets to reform USD$500bn of global subsidies that could prove harmful to the environment, as well as restoring 30 percent of the planet’s ecosystems.

Biodiverse mountain range (Credit: Cody Scott Milewski/Unsplash)

Richer countries have also agreed to provide at least USD$30bn in aid for biodiversity by 2030.

The agreement marks “the largest land and ocean conservation commitment in history,” Brian O’Donnell, director of Campaign for Nature, told reporters at Cop15.

But, the agreement has been criticised by green organisations, such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who say it didn’t go far enough to protect biodiversity.

An Lambrechts, head of the Greenpeace delegation at Cop15, said: “Cop15 failed to deliver the ambition, tools, or finance necessary to stop mass extinction.”

She added that though the 30×30 target made it into the final agreement, it had been “stripped down” as it does not include “essential qualifiers that exclude damaging activities from protected areas.”

“As is, [30×30] is just an empty number, with protections on paper but nowhere else,” Lambrechts explained.

Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF UK, said that there was “promise in the ambition” presented by the final agreement but said that we “must do better.”

“We’re hugely disappointed with the lukewarm attempt to address the global footprint of production and consumption – which we know, as one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss, needs to be halved by 2030,” she explained. “We have to see stronger ambition, clearer commitment and a package that does more than paper thin promises and clever words.”  

The Big Issue’s #BigFutures campaign is calling for investment in decent and affordable housing, ending the low wage economy, and millions of green jobs. The last 10 years of austerity and cuts to public services have failed to deliver better living standards for people in this country. Sign the open letter and demand a better future.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
'Nature is slowly healing': How rewilding is bringing Britain's extinct species back from the dead
Conservation

'Nature is slowly healing': How rewilding is bringing Britain's extinct species back from the dead

Rewilding is bringing creatures great and small back to UK – but a lack of funds is holding it back
Rewilding

Rewilding is bringing creatures great and small back to UK – but a lack of funds is holding it back

Green transition: Help retrain gas workers or risk 'cliff edge' job losses, government warned
Green transition

Green transition: Help retrain gas workers or risk 'cliff edge' job losses, government warned

How London's history-making beavers are adapting to life in the capital: 'They have a right to exist'
beavers
Environment

How London's history-making beavers are adapting to life in the capital: 'They have a right to exist'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know