January 12, 2023
The ongoing Conference of Parties 15 to the United Nations Convention of Biodiversity (COP15) organized by the United Nations Environment Program, in Montreal, Canada, 7th-19 December, 2022, is a crucial meeting between 196 countries and intergovernmental organizations to design and implement a global framework for conservation of biodiversity. Conservation of Biodiversity is a multilateral treaty whose objective is to devise national strategies for conservation of biodiversity. The parties to the convention meet every decade to develop a Global Biodiversity Framework for the coming decade, since its coming into force at the Rio Earth Summit in 1993.
Needless to say, there is a lot for businesses to watch out for in COP15. There is a large support for 30% Earth plan where countries would be expected to commit to conserve 30% of their land and ocean resources by the end of the decade. To do so, the role of certain sectors such as mining and natural resources will be key. The other common targets that also implicate businesses include the COP15 focus on pesticides, plastic pollution, invasive species and nature restoration. There is a high support for the formation of a High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, a group similar to the one that got the 1.5C target into the Paris Agreement. There is also a block of African nations particularly Namibia, Kenya, South Africa and Gabon who are looking to come to an agreement on Digital Biopiracy, which is a practice of commercial utilization of a traditional knowledge, done with an objective to restrict the use of such knowledge.
Finance for biodiversity and alignment of financial flows with nature to drive finances toward sustainable investments and away from environmentally harmful ones are a must for a robust agreement at COP15. Technological developments would be key in devising and monitoring of action plans so that ambitious targets of COP15 can be achieved in measurable data points. Research and developments in use of genetic data in digital form, known as Digital Sequence Information, could lead to clearing a huge deadlock between parties regarding the compensation for discoveries using digital forms of their biodiversity.
Some developments that occurred in the recent COP27 climate conference in Egypt are bound to affect negotiations in COP15 as well. One such is the Forest Data Partnership, a global consortium coordinated by World Resource Institute in partnership with US Department of State, NASA, Google and Unilever, that called for a global alliance to unlock the value of land use data to protect and restore-nature. Indeed, the balance between practical needs and urgent scientific warnings must be struck here for substantive action on issues of overconsumption, intensive agriculture and pollution.