Biodiversity takes centre stage at COP27

The link between species loss and the climate crisis was highlighted on Tuesday as nations gear up for a dedicated biodiversity conference in the wake of COP27.

Agreements coming out of COP27 will be key to stemming the tide of nature and biodiversity loss as well as tackling climate breakdown, says UN biodiversity lead Elizabeth Maruma Mrema. ‘Scientists have told us in no uncertain terms … that climate change and biodiversity loss are intrinsically connected and that’s why we are looking [for] a Paris moment for biodiversity,’ she said. She was referencing the Paris Accords of 2015, which created a legally binding treaty aimed at reaching carbon net-zero by 2050 and limiting global temperature rises to ‘well below 2°C’ and ideally at 1.5°C.

Although biodiversity discussions will have their own COP moment as the Canadian city of Montreal hosts the 2022 Conference of Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) in December, Tuesday saw delegates at COP27 join a day of talks around the theme.

The climate crisis has been the major cause of biodiversity loss say scientists. An Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Ipbes) global assessment reports that one million species could be at risk of extinction – 11% of Earth’s estimated total number.

Beyond the moral right these animals, plants and fungi species have to survive, they are seen as an important part of limiting manmade climate breakdown. Not only do they provide oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, but also pollinate crops in an action worth between $235 and $577 billion annually, and provide new medical treatments.

To reverse the decline in the natural world, governments are currently negotiating 21 targets, although world leaders have not been invited to the Montreal conference, which is being organized by China despite taking place in Canada.

Targets under discussion include a desire to reduce the rate of invasive species by 50%, protect 30% of land and sea by 2030, and eliminate plastic waste entirely. To do this, some $200 billion a year is to be set aside to protect biodiversity, with the money coming from a mix of the public purse (through the redirection of agricultural subsidies) and private enterprise.

The new talks go hand in hand with agreements made at COP26 last year in Glasgow to stop deforestation and land degradation by 2030. Of $12 billion earmarked, more than $2.6 billion has already been spent supporting community initiatives and the conservation of ‘high-integrity’ forests. A further $4.5 billion has been pledged since Glasgow, it was revealed at the launch of the Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership (FCLP), an initiative whose member countries are responsible for 60% of global GDP.

Meanwhile, a coalition of 350 scientists, indigenous activists, charities and businesses issued a statement at COP27 which reads ‘leaders must secure a global agreement for biodiversity which is as ambitious, science-based and comprehensive as the Paris agreement’, stating that this would be the only way to halt the loss and achieve the targets within the Paris Accords.

Unlike climate conferences, biodiversity targets are only agreed every ten years, meaning what is decided in Montreal in a month’s time (after a two-year coronavirus-induced delay) will set the standard for the following decade, one which looks like it will be key in the fight against the climate crisis.

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado


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