EU aims high at COP15
Biodiversity is fundamental to a healthy planet but also to our own mental and physical well-being. From oceans to rivers, forests, parks, animal species and plants, biodiversity around the world is currently threatened by an unprecedented loss caused by human activity. Humanity is destroying nature faster than ever. One million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction. We have radically changed three quarters of the Earth’s surface and if we do not adapt our behavior, we put all of humanity at risk. The scientific community has warned us about the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, pollution and waste.
What is COP15 and why is it important?
From 7 to 19 December 2022, governments from around the world are meeting in Montréal, Canada at the UN Biodiversity Conference, or COP15. It stands for the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. During COP15, world leaders are expected to agree on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The leaders will aim to address the key drivers of nature loss to secure our planet’s and our own health and well-being. The new framework should guide global action to stop and reverse biodiversity loss and to change the interaction between society and biodiversity. The new objectives should also help us fulfill the shared vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050. To reach these objectives and solve the current crisis, countries and different actors will need to join forces: governments, civil society, businesses, indigenous peoples and local communities.
The Convention on Biological Diversity was signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and is dedicated to conserving biological diversity. It has now been ratified by 195 countries, including the European Union.
The European Union and its biodiversity strategy for 2030
Protecting biodiversity is a global challenge and actions taken at the global, regional or local level in the next decade will be decisive. In Europe, protected habitats and species continue to decline at an alarming rate. The 2020 ‘State of Nature in the EU’ report found that 81% of EU protected habitats and 63% of EU protected species are in “poor” or “bad” conservation status.
With its Biodiversity Strategy 2030, the EU aims to highlight the crucial role of nature and ecosystems in sustainable development and to reverse biodiversity loss. The EU says it is ready to adopt a transformative post-2020 global framework at COP15 to ensure that by 2050 all of the world’s ecosystems are restored, resilient, and adequately protected.
What is being done at the EU level?
Under the European Green Deal, the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 commits to planting at least three billion additional trees in the EU by 2030 in full respect of ecological principles. The EU is also doubling external funding for biodiversity to seven billion euros.
Among others, the European Commission proposed a Nature Restoration Law . This key element of the EU Biodiversity Strategy aims to restore ecosystems, habitats and species across the EU’s land and sea areas. The Commission also proposed a Regulation to minimise EU-driven deforestation and forest degradation. This Regulation seeks to promote the consumption of ‘deforestation-free’ products and reduce the EU’s impact on global deforestation and forest degradation. The new rules are expected to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and halt biodiversity loss.
It has been estimated that about 60 to 70% of soils in the EU are not healthy. The new vision for soil is anchored in the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, as soil hosts more than 25% of all biodiversity on the planet and is the foundation of the food chains nourishing humanity and above ground biodiversity.
EU priorities at COP15
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, on the occasion of the UN General Assembly Biodiversity High-Level Pledging event in September 2022 said: “We need three key commitments in Montréal. First, an ambitious global framework to stop and reverse biodiversity loss and protect 30% of land and ocean globally. Second, we need measurable goals and targets, supported by a fair monitoring system to keep track of progress. And third, we need to scale up biodiversity financing from all sources: public and private, domestic and international.”
The Commission, representing the EU, together with EU Member States, will be working with all Parties to conclude an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework – an agreement to protect, restore, sustainably use and invest in biodiversity and ecosystems.
While all Parties need to agree on an ambitious global biodiversity framework during COP15, the EU’s negotiations will aim to:
- protect at least 30% of land and oceans by 2030;
- restore three billion hectares of degraded land and freshwater ecosystems and three billion hectares of ocean ecosystems;
- put a stop to species extinctions caused by humans;
- promote sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems;
- address unsustainable agriculture, forestry and fisheries;
- tackle drivers of biodiversity loss such as pesticides, invasive alien species and plastics;
- use the existing resources more effectively, including by aligning all financial flows with nature-positive objectives.
The EU proposes to strengthen the links between biodiversity and climate action, and to have a strong monitoring and review process, as well as clear provisions on scaling up financing from all sources – public and private, domestic and international.
Ambitious commitments and rapid transformations in various areas are crucial to address environmental emergencies. Nature is a fundamental building block of a healthy planet and we need to provide it with enough space and importance, while also addressing the drivers of its degradation. Nature is our best ally in the fight against climate change. Protecting biodiversity also means safeguarding the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Without biodiversity, there is no life. We are part of this web of life, and we fully depend on it. It’s our role to protect it.