Biodiversity in focus at COP15: halt and reverse nature loss by 2030

Climate Change
December 7, 2022

The COP15 Biodiversity Conference 2022 in Montreal is an international event focused on bringing together governments to slow biodiversity loss. Representatives from 196 countries will gather to make new commitments to the protection of nature and species at risk worldwide. The goal of COP15 is to finalize a global framework meant to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.

Multiple annual COP events, but nature is still barely coping

“COP” stands for the Conference of the Parties of an international convention. This year, there are three: one for biodiversity (COP15), one for climate change (COP27), and one for world wildlife (COP19). The numbers indicate how many times the respective parties have met. 

All the COPs above give us a relatively mixed message. On the one hand, humanity has collectively been trying to find solutions to halt the numerous global crises; on the other hand, the divided approaches and what adds up to 61 international summits by the end of 2022 have not yet led to any sufficient results. 

Although biodiversity issues are given more exposure each year, countries have collectively failed to meet the targets set to be achieved by 2020 in the last global biodiversity agreement.

At COP27 this year, we finally saw numerous calls toward a united agenda: seeing all three issues as inextricably linked and acknowledging that “there is no viable route to limiting global warming to 1.5°C without urgently protecting and restoring nature”.

Ambitious dreams are not enough. A million species are at risk of extinction, natural ecosystems are disappearing, threatening freshwater supplies and the climate. Stronger laws and policies to protect nature, as well as new investments in conservation, are needed to ensure any goals set this December are achieved.

Source: Our World in Data – Extinctions

Protecting indigenous communities can help save the Earth

The stakes for COP15 are high. While countries have failed to keep their commitments on governmental levels, some communities have stayed on course and delivered their promises. Indigenous people make up only 5% of the world’s population. However, while often persecuted and displaced from their lands, indigenous people steward 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity

Valérie Courtois, director of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, sees Canada becoming an example of a country that overcomes its lack of meeting the climate and biodiversity commitments by giving Indigenous-led conservation full support. According to the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, about 90% of protected areas established in Canada in the last two decades have already been established as a result of Indigenous partnerships or Indigenous leadership. 

Chadian environmental activist Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim says that all it takes to protect our people, protect our planet, and restore the ecosystems that we are losing, is to unite all the knowledge systems that we have: science, technology, and the thousands of years of traditional knowledge of indigenous people. She passionately advocates for the inclusion of indigenous communities, along with their knowledge and traditions, in the global movement to fight climate change. Learn more from her TED Talk below. 

Main topics and expected outcomes of COP15

COP15 is seen as the Paris Agreement equivalent for biodiversity. The first job for delegates is to formulate over 20 different biodiversity targets into a Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) in which they agree on global goals for nature and set a global action agenda.

The highest stakes at the negotiations will be whether an agreement is made on the requirement for the world to become nature positive by 2030 and reach full recovery of nature by 2050. Hopes are also high for locking in the flagship “30 by 30” target, which seeks to protect and conserve 30% of land and 30% of the ocean globally by 2030. 

In order to make sure the deal reached in Montreal will be more than soundbites, measurable and impactful actions need to follow. For example: 

  • how to translate global goals into national ones and ensure delivery
  • how to establish uniform metrics, ensure global stocktake of progress and scale up ambition over time;
  • and last but not least — how to close the enormous annual $700 billion funding gap to address biodiversity loss, including increased contributions from the private sector. 

Aside from the political talks, progress on (mandatory) reporting and disclosure requirements of biodiversity-related adverse impacts, risks, and opportunities for big corporations and financial market players is expected to drive corporate engagement. 

The EU is one of the frontrunners in this field with the recently adopted Corporate Sustainability Disclosure Directive and its reporting standards. Likewise, movements uniting companies such as “Business for Nature” are calling on governments to adopt mandatory reporting policies in the GBF as a direct way to help reverse nature loss in this decade.

Rapid action and innovation needed from the private sector

A positive outcome of COP15 would also fuel the creation of a (voluntary) biodiversity market and transactions with biodiversity credits — a central topic on the sidelines of COP15. While reaching global agreements can be a good driver for action, there’s a dire need for tools and solutions that would not only lead us to a brighter future but would have a great potential to raise private funding for nature protection. 

The latest McKinsey report agrees that economic activity fundamentally depends on natural capital, the world’s stock of natural assets. The depletion of natural resources will lead to economic downfall. The first very visible consequences are already here, from water shortages in California to a nitrogen crisis in the Netherlands. A lot is expected from companies, but also from scientists, innovators, policymakers, and other enables who will: 

  • provide frameworks and guidelines for corporate nature efforts;
  • develop and invest in the infrastructure (data, skills, and opportunities) that would help inform company actions;
  • help to create new incentives and opportunities for financing a nature-positive path.

As our CEO and co-founder Merit Valdsalu said at COP27: “Startups have the license to disrupt, fail, iterate, and bring the craziest ideas to life. It’s our responsibility to help the industry and governments with innovation.” 

Single.Earth aims to do just that: provide tools for companies and individuals to accelerate the transition to a green economy. By giving value to ecological features (carbon removal and biodiversity) with nature-backed MERIT tokens, anyone can participate in nature protection in a way that is easy and financially feasible. 

A new methodology for ecosystem integrity valuation by Single.Earth

With all its biodiversity, nature is an incredibly positive force in our lives. It provides much more than raw materials — fresh air, clean water, habitat for wildlife, regulation of natural processes, and all the essentials for a healthy living environment. Thus, nature should be valued for biodiversity and vital ecosystem services supporting all life on Earth. In response to the growing awareness of nature preservation, scientists and policymakers face the challenge of evaluating and accounting for the value of healthy ecosystems.

As we know, climate change and ecological breakdown (e.g., biodiversity loss, overshooting of ecosystem services, etc.) are significant existential threats. Land use change and deforestation are one of the main drivers magnifying these crises and predominantly affect forests, which provide essential ecosystem services. This is why Single.Earth starts with forest ecosystems and, most importantly, focuses on the multiple co-benefits provided by nature to people instead of carbon removal only. 

By developing and introducing a novel methodology for assessing the health of forest ecosystemsthe Ecosystem Integrity Index (EII) — Single.Earth makes a strong contribution to tackling both biodiversity loss and climate change. The EII method is based on the ecosystem integrity concept, which has been proposed in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to support global biodiversity monitoring. By combining peer-reviewed models with satellite data, we've developed a comprehensive approach that captures ecosystem integrity.  

Key takeaway: collective efforts to solve the one and only crisis

Everything in nature is deeply interlinked. Although each of the problems (e.g., nature loss, global warming) is easier to discuss and tackle separately, the truth is — there is only one global environmental and existential crisis. Like mycelium, it is intertwined into our everyday activities. Humanity needs to fix its relationship with nature. 

Hopefully, COP15 will provide further understanding of how to carve out a radical and efficient path toward a nature-positive future that we need to achieve by 2030.

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