Major Biodiversity Summit Will Be Held in Canada, Not China: What Scientists Think

Stretches of the Amazon became a patchwork of jungle islands interspersed with vast cattle ranches.

Deforestation, in places like the Amazon, contributes to the loss of biodiversity.Credit: Ivan Valencia/Bloomberg/Getty

The researchers are relieved that a pivotal summit to finalize a new global deal to save nature is taking place this year, after two years of delays due to the pandemic. But they say the hard work of negotiating an ambitious deal lies ahead.

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) announced yesterday that the meeting will move from Kunming in China to Montreal in Canada. The meeting of representatives from nearly 200 CBD member states, known as COP15, will now take place from December 5-17. China will continue as COP15 president and Huang Runqiu, China’s minister of ecology and environment, will continue as president.

Conservation and biodiversity scientists were increasingly concerned that China’s strict ‘zero COVID’ strategy, which uses measures like lockdowns to nullify all infections, would force the host nation to delay the gathering again. The researchers warned that another setback for the agreement, which aims to halt the alarming rate of species extinction and protect vulnerable ecosystems, would be disastrous for countries’ ability to meet ambitious targets to protect biodiversity over the next decade.

“We are relieved and grateful to have a firm date for these critically important biodiversity negotiations within this calendar year,” says Andrew Deutz, an expert in biodiversity law and finance at the Nature Conservancy, a conservation group in Virginia, USA. “The global community is already behind schedule in agreeing, let alone implementing, a plan to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030,” he says.

Now that the date has been set, Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, says the key to success in Montreal will be for the new global agreement on biodiversity to focus on the direct and indirect drivers of the loss of nature and the behaviors that sustain them. “Policy must be science-driven, action must be adequately resourced, and change must be transformative,” she adds.

New location

The decision to move the meeting came after representatives of the global regions that make up the COP’s decision-making body reached a consensus to move it to Montreal. China and Canada then discussed the details of how the move would work. The CBD provides that if a host country is unable to hold a COP, the meeting is moved to the headquarters of the convention secretariat, Montreal.

Announcing the decision, Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Secretary of the CBD, said in a statement: “I want to thank the Government of China for its flexibility and continued commitment to advancing our path towards an ambitious Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.”

In a statement, Runqiu said: “China would like to emphasize its continued strong commitment, as COP President, to ensure the success of the second part of COP 15, including the adoption of an effective Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and to promote his dedication throughout his presidency.”

China also agreed to pay ministers from least developed countries and small island developing states to travel to Montreal to participate in the meeting.

work ahead

Paul Matiku, an environmental scientist and director of Nature Kenya, a conservation organization in Nairobi, Kenya, says the move “is a welcome decision” after “the world lost patience after a series of postponements”.

But he says rich nations must reach deeper into their pockets to help low- and middle-income countries, which are home to much of the world’s biodiversity, implement the deal, including meeting goals like protecting at least 30 % of the world’s land and seas and reduce the rate of extinction. Disputes over financing already threaten to stall the deal. At a meeting in Geneva in March, the nations failed to advance the new deal because countries including Gabon and Kenya argued that the US$10 billion in funding per year proposed in the draft deal text was insufficient. They asked for $100 billion per year in aid.

“The extent to which the CBD is implemented will depend on the availability of adequate and predictable financial flows from developed nations to developing countries,” says Matiku.

Talks on the deal are due to resume in Nairobi from June 21-26, where Deutz hopes the countries can find common ground on key issues such as financing before heading to Montreal. Having a firm date set for COP15 will help push negotiations forward, he says.

“Negotiators only start to commit when they are faced with a deadline. Now they have one,” he says.

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