Biodiversity Takes Center Stage at COP15 Summit

More than 100 countries have agreed to act to preserve natural habitats and biodiversity. How they intend to do this remains to be seen.

COP15 UNFCCC Climate Change via Flickr
Oct. 26, 2021
By Paolo DeAndreis
COP15 UNFCCC Climate Change via Flickr

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More than 100 nations par­tic­i­pat­ing at the COP15 inter­na­tional sum­mit in Kunming, China, have agreed to pro­tect bio­di­ver­sity.

Governments and insti­tu­tions announced that pro­tect­ing bio­di­ver­sity will drive their future poli­cies but did not present any bind­ing com­mit­ment to do so.

Among the goals set by the sum­mit was the so-called 30 – 30 plan: to pre­serve and pro­tect at least 30 per­cent of each country’s land by 2030. However, a pro­posal to try and halt mass extinc­tion did not find its way into the declaration’s final draft, which includes dozens of old and new bio­di­ver­sity goals.

See Also:World Failing to Meet Emissions Reductions Pledged in Paris Agreement

At the first install­ment of COP15, with the sec­ond round to be held next year, United Nations bio­di­ver­sity chief Elizabeth Maruma Mrema said that the world has reached a moment of truth” and empha­sized how all pre­vi­ous bio­di­ver­sity poli­cies have failed.

More specif­i­cally, the 2010 bio­di­ver­sity agree­ment signed in Aichi, Japan, laid the ground­work for dozens of bio­di­ver­sity pro­tec­tion strate­gies, none of which have come to fruition. A fail­ure, said Maruma Mrema, which hit ecosys­tems that are essen­tial for sus­tain­ing human well-being.


Farming is increas­ingly con­sid­ered essen­tial not only for reduc­ing green­house gases but also for the role it can play in restor­ing habi­tats.

The COP15 final dec­la­ra­tion draft intends to fos­ter sus­tain­able farm­ing, which is also one of the goals set by var­i­ous national green plans such as the European Union’s Green Deal.

The dec­la­ra­tion also aims at increas­ing ecosys­tem-based approaches” to address bio­di­ver­sity loss, restore degraded regions, boost habi­tat resilience, mit­i­gate and adapt to cli­mate change and pro­mote health, among other goals.

The dec­la­ra­tion fur­ther calls for the grow­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion of local com­mu­ni­ties and indige­nous peo­ples in defin­ing inter­ven­tions focused on restor­ing and pro­tect­ing bio­di­ver­sity.

The coun­tries that pledged to sign the dec­la­ra­tion dur­ing next year’s COP15 final meet­ing have also agreed to imple­ment new poli­cies aimed at halt­ing plas­tic waste, which is a ubiq­ui­tous global prob­lem.

See Also:Europe Announces Plan to Plant 3 Billion Trees by 2030

According to the United Nations Environment Program, one mil­lion plas­tic drink­ing bot­tles are pur­chased every minute, and five tril­lion sin­gle-use plas­tic bags are used world­wide every year.

In total, half of all plas­tic pro­duced is designed to be used only once, and then thrown away,” UNEP said.

In 2018, Great Britain’s Royal Statistical Society esti­mated that only nine per­cent of all plas­tic ever made will be recy­cled.

A study reported by National Geographic in 2018 showed that since the 1950s, humans have pro­duced 8.3 bil­lion met­ric tons of plas­tics.

A May 2021 arti­cle pub­lished in Nature hints at the wide­spread pres­ence of micro-plas­tics on the planet as a poten­tial bio­di­ver­sity threat.

Plastics smaller than five mil­lime­ters have been found in all water and ground sam­ples used for study­ing the phe­nom­e­non, such as deep oceans, Antarctic ice, shell­fish, table salt, drink­ing water and beer. They were also funded in rain and snow, and will take dozens of years to degrade.

Uncertainties loom on the COP15 sum­mits since it is not clear if all coun­tries will sign the 30 – 30 pledge and the other most ambi­tious goals, includ­ing the major plas­tic pro­ducer and sum­mit host, China.

The dec­la­ra­tion will be sub­mit­ted to the General Assembly of the United Nations and become part of the cur­rent ten­ants on sus­tain­able devel­op­ment.



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