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December 14, 2022

Explainer: What is Cop15 and what can it achieve?

There are hopes government officials attending Cop15 can agree on a new set of objectives for nature through the Convention on Biological Diversity.

By Silvia Pellegrino

Walk on by. Will the United Nations’ Biodiversity Conference (Cop15) be a success? (Photo by Andrej Ivanov / AFP via Getty Images).
  • One of the objectives at Cop15 is to better factor in the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.
  • The event supersedes the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, a framework that outlined a critical set of goals and targets to reverse biodiversity loss by 2020.
  • … However, none of the targets set at Aichi, Japan were met.

Despite its evident failings, Cop27 allowed world leaders to address climate change and potential solutions. From 7 to 19 December 2022, a separate convention, less well-known but no less crucial, is being held in Montreal, Canada.

Governments from all around the globe will be interested in Cop15, the UN Biodiversity Conference’s 15th Conference of the Parties, to obtain an agreement on a new set of objectives for nature through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The CBD is a legally binding international agreement that requires all states to safeguard biodiversity.  This includes ecosystems, animals, plants, microorganisms, and even fungi. The CBD was formally created in 1993. Every two years, the group meets to discuss what has been accomplished and what remains to be done.

What has been discussed so far?

The most significant achievement so far is the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, a framework that outlined a critical set of goals and targets to reverse biodiversity loss by 2020.

These goals, known as the Aichi Targets since they were created at Cop10 in Aichi, Japan, were to raise public awareness of the significance of biodiversity, decrease the rate of habitat loss by guaranteeing sustainable fisheries management, conserve vulnerable species, and restore key ecosystems.

The targets were:

  • By sharing the notion of biodiversity across government and society, address the root causes of biodiversity decline.
  • Encourage sustainable usage while easing the direct strain on biodiversity.
  • Improve the state of biodiversity by protecting ecosystems, species, and genetic variety.
  • Increase the benefits to all ecosystem and biodiversity services.
  • Enhance implementation via collaborative planning, knowledge management, and capacity building.

Nonetheless, the UN stated that none of the goals above have been achieved.

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Because the plan has expired, a new one is necessary. The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which will be adopted at Cop15, will take its place. To avoid ecological collapse, this new approach must encourage all stakeholders to take bold, open-minded, and straightforward action. The framework allows for the evaluation and correction of development.

Why is Cop15 important?

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s most current Living Planet Report, the number of animal species in existence has plummeted by 69% since 1970. If nothing is done to remedy the situation, the consequences might be devastating, such as a collapse in nature’s capacity to produce the resources required for human life, such as food, medicine, clean water, and materials.

That is why Cop15 and its debates are so important: they have the capacity to change the situation and organise worldwide action to accomplish set goals.

What can Cop15 achieve?

The two-week conference includes an array of aims and objectives. One of these objectives is to include in the plans only places that are well-managed, equitably administered, and where the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities are respected, thereby safeguarding 30% of the Earth by 2030.

The GBF has already made some strides, as there is overall more agreement about its aims, especially with reference to the aforementioned 30%.

According to a recent Morningstar study, the new global biodiversity framework from Cop15 will result in changes in laws and regulations throughout the world, which will eventually affect businesses. Asset managers are also attempting to comprehend the material ramifications and reliance on the biodiversity of the firms as a result of the subject’s openness and reporting.

Engagement programmes focusing on biodiversity concerns are becoming increasingly popular. The Finance for Biodiversity Pledge, for example, has 111 signatories with a total asset value of $16trn.

The following are the main goals for Cop15: 

  • To fully recognise the importance of indigenous peoples and local communities in accomplishing the GBF’s aims and ambitions.
  • Transparent, participatory, methods must be the core elements of the implementation process.

What are the obstacles?

There are still several issues with the GBF’s effectiveness. The parties’ refusal to reach a compromise, as well as the six obstacles that arose, are the primary reasons why the earlier goals were not met.

The GBF and Cop15’s main objective is to protect 30% of land and marine regions with the support of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People (HAC), which is co-led by France and Costa Rica.

It also precisely adheres to the Paris Agreement since the structure of the target replicates the focusing function of the 2°C global warming limit.

Even while its general purpose has achieved a historically significant agreement, its fundamental intricacies are still being contested and is the topic of heated disputes. The main considerations are whether or not to include territories outside of national authority, indigenous peoples’ and local residents’ access to protected areas, and the availability of implementation mechanisms to ensure efficient protection inside protected areas.

As a result, in order to attain the aim, a global consensus must be established.

Review and compliance mechanisms

At Cop14 in 2018, none of the CBD goals set in Aichi in 2010 were acknowledged as having been accomplished. The lack of a system for tracking and evaluating how successfully national governments were carrying out their goals was one of the main reasons for this failure.

The post-2020 GBF intends to address this problem. This will be accomplished by creating a monitoring framework with scientific backing, mandating that parties include their GBF goals and targets in their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), and mandating that they regularly report on their progress in a transparent and comparable manner.

Means of implementation

The Cop15 should focus on determining how to provide poor countries with the financial and non-financial resources they need to maintain biodiversity.

Many countries, particularly developing ones, have emphasised the importance of establishing a new Global Diversity Fund, streamlining the grant application procedure, and speeding up implementation. Donor governments are vehemently opposed to this strategy due to concerns about institutional sprawl and a preference for working with a “global environmental facility”.

Because the strategies used to achieve the Aichi aims had obvious faults, they were generally ineffective. The amount of money required to address the financial gap for global biodiversity protection must triple by 2030 and quadruple by 2050.

Even if some parties have committed, such as the EU, China, Japan, and certain corporate and financial parties, much more will need to be done at Cop15 in order to convince other developing countries to sign up for an ambitious GBF.

Rights-based approaches

In almost every goal and area of the GBF, delegations and members of civil society have aggressively engaged to include references to the rights of marginalised persons.

As a result, the GBF now includes a new target for gender equality (Target 22).

There will undoubtedly be discussion over the many civil society organisations’ worries that section B.bis would help to exclude such rights from aims that can be put into effect.

Digital Sequencing Information

Another concern is Digital Sequencing Information (DSI), that relates to genetic sequences that are stored and sent digitally.

The attitudes of developing and developed countries on the topic are different and contradicting. According to developing countries, DSI should be considered a component of genetic resources and covered by both the GBF’s rules and the CBD’s access and benefit-sharing (ABS) mechanism.

Developed countries, on the other hand, have advocated against measures that would restrict this access and in favour of a deliberate approach and sustained multi-stakeholder participation after Cop15.

The fundamental question is whether parties can agree on a short-term plan to reach a suitable long-term settlement because parties are unlikely to reach an agreement on one of the financial interests at stake.

Cop15: biodiversity and climate change

Climate change and biodiversity are intricately intertwined. The Cop15 and Cop27 conferences have been viewed as critical for developing comprehensive policies and synchronising strategies and objectives.

Despite the publication of certain studies indicating progress, more work has to be done. According to studies by the IPBES and IPCC, the supporting scientific organisations of the biodiversity and climate conventions, nature-based solutions offer a road forward to achieving the aims of the international climate and environmental treaties. A number of initiatives targeted at protecting biodiversity were also launched during Cop27.

However, in the context of the CBD, the GBF’s Target 8, which particularly addresses the climate issue, has come under scrutiny. Many argue that the CBD’s ecosystem-based solutions should be implemented instead.

China’s presidency

Because of the constraints imposed by China’s zero-Covid policy, Cop15 was relocated to Montreal, Canada. This calls into question China’s ability and ambition to lead in order to secure a difficult deal.

China has taken a back seat to the majority of the other programmes, although being loud on a few issues, such as the ’30 by 30′ goal and the need to accept a compromise between the nature-based solutions and ecosystem approaches.

This suggests that great efforts will be necessary from all parties to prevent the much-anticipated Cop15 from becoming another missed chance to discuss the future of the planet and nature’s relationship with humanity.

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