COP15: A Beacon of Hope for Biodiversity


Amalia Llano

December 22, 2022

Rainforest with slightly transparent black box on top with text: COP15: A Beacon of Hope for Diversity

The United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) of the Parties to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity was held for the past two weeks in Montreal, Canada, with China as the summit’s president, two years after it was originally scheduled.

A much anticipated event, this meeting was in the global spotlight. Much like COP27 was for climate, COP15 represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the tide on biodiversity loss and generate clear, goal-oriented targets that could clearly guide decision makers worldwide.

Surprisingly, during the conference over 190 countries agreed to what is being called the “Paris agreement of biodiversity”, more formally known as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. This agreement is much-needed and a huge step forward for our planet’s biodiversity and the efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change. It comes as a beacon of hope in a time when it is urgently needed.

The Importance of Biodiversity

By now, I’m sure that most of us have heard about climate change and some of its effects. When we think about sustainability and the environment, we immediately picture carbon dioxide graphs, solar panels, or wind turbines. We think about fossil fuels and emissions, about carbon footprints, and ways in which we can make our lives greener.

But something BIG is missing in our collective image of sustainability: biodiversity.

Forests in the Cordillera de Colán against a blue sky and clouds
Photo by Rainforest Partnership herpetologist Pablo Venegas

What is exactly biodiversity and why does it matter?

Biodiversity, or biological diversity,

“is the variety of life on Earth, in all its forms, from genes and bacteria to entire ecosystems such as forests and coral reefs. The biodiversity we see today is the result of 4.5 billion years of evolution, increasingly influenced by humans” (United Nations Climate Action)

Biodiversity forms the web that sustains all life on Earth. Like the threads in a strong fabric, living things interact to form a complex web that keeps everything on our planet alive. From food, water, and medicine to climate and economic growth, all our daily activities and livelihoods depend on biodiversity in one way or another.

Charapa Turtles in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Human actions are threatening biodiversity

However, the threads in the fabric that holds life on Earth together are disappearing, leaving gaps that put its integrity at great risk. Over one million species are now threatened with extinction as a result of human action, and many are now extinct. Populations of most animal groups have declined by an average of 69 percent (Vox).

Ecosystems with vital functions such as rainforests, peatlands, and wetlands are being lost at alarming rates, and ocean biodiversity is also highly threatened by human actions and climate change.

Biodiversity and climate go hand in hand: We need both to ensure a sustainable future for all

We need to tackle both biodiversity loss and climate change at the same time to ensure real sustainable development because climate change and biodiversity are inextricably linked.

Climate change is playing an increasingly important role in the decline of biodiversity. As our planet gets warmer and weather patterns change, species are forced to migrate or, if they cannot adapt to the new climatic conditions of their environment, they go extinct.

Infographic with text: The-Dual-Existential-Crisis-of-Our-Time how biodiversity loss and climate chang are connected

It's imperative that we protect our rainforests and other ecosystems like peatlands, wetlands, and oceans capture carbon, storing it away from the atmosphere and reversing the worst effects of climate change. Rainforests also cool the planet by transporting water and by creating an albedo effect similar to that of the polar ice caps through their heavy cloud cover.

This is why climate change and biodiversity loss are two sides of the same coin, and why they need to be addressed together and with similarly ambitious targets to achieve lasting sustainability. This is where COP15 and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework come in.

COP15 Agreement

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework is often described as “historic”, eliciting feelings of hope in many who had almost lost it. This agreement represents “the most significant effort to protect the world’s lands and oceans and provide critical financing to save biodiversity in the developing world” (NBC Bay Area).

The most important aspect of this framework is the 30-by-30 goal, or the commitment

“to ensure and enable that, by 2030, at least 30% of land and sea is effectively conserved and managed through ecologically representative, well-connected and equitably governed systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures”. (The Guardian)

This is a clear goal that sets the global baseline for 190 countries* to preserve biodiversity. This target represents for biodiversity what temperature targets represent for climate change.

The agreement also touches on key points like:

  • The restoration of degraded lands
  • The sustainable use of biodiversity
  • Ensuring that the benefits of natural resources are shared fairly and equally
  • The protection of indigenous peoples and their rights
  • Funding and investing resources on biodiversity conservation. (Global Landscapes Forum)

However, there’s a lot of heavy lifting that needs to be done if we are to achieve this ambitious target over the next eight years.

*It’s worth mentioning that the United States didn’t sign this agreement and that the pledge “lacks a mandatory ratcheting mechanism that will hold governments accountable to increase action if targets are not met”. Moreover, although the agreement recognizes that $700 billion of financing needs to be provided by developed countries to developing nations to address the biodiversity crisis, there aren’t many details about how this will happen.

Nevertheless, this is a major step forward that lights up a beacon of hope for our planet and its amazing biodiversity.

Rainforest Partnership works to protect biodiversity and mitigate the effects of climate change

At Rainforest Partnership we work to conserve some of our planet’s most biodiverse rainforests. This agreement comes as both a challenge and a confirmation that our work is headed in the right direction.

By working together and keeping each other accountable, we can still turn the tide to achieve a greener, healthier planet for all.