Our CEO, Susan Davies reflects on what COP15 signals for nature's recovery.
COP15 - The 15th meeting of the global Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) - concluded on the 19 December 2022 in Montreal, Canada when 196 signatories to the Convention reached an agreement on a Global Biodiversity Framework.
At the start of a 2-week negotiating process, the President of COP15 the Chinese Minister of Ecology Huang Runqiu, described the moment as a time to “conclude a peace pact with nature”. Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) focused on a need to tackle the “nature apocalypse” that arises from countries not tackling the key drivers of biodiversity loss - climate change; changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of natural resources; pollution; and invasive alien species which were set out by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in 2019.
The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework is strategically important and sets out 4 goals and 23 targets that include commitments for marine ecosystems, habitats and wildlife. It is intended to galvanise action for:
- Ecosystems: Manage and restore 30% degraded ecosystems globally (land, freshwater, coast and sea) by 2030.
- Areas: Protect, manage and connect 30% areas (terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine) by 2030 through site and area-based conservation measures.
- Extinctions: Halt human induced extinctions of known threatened species and by 2050 reduce tenfold the extinction risk and rate of all species.
- Sustainable use: Prevent over-exploitation by ensuring an ecosystem-based approach is taken to the use, harvesting and trade of wild species to bring social, economic and environmental benefits to people.
- Invasives: Reduce the rate of introduction and establishment of invasive alien species by at least 50% by 2030 and eradicate or control invasive alien species in priority sites, such as islands.
- Pollution: Reduce pollution risks (including nutrients, pesticides chemicals and plastics) and impacts from all sources by 2030 to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity and ecosystem functions.
- Nature-based solutions: Minimise the impact of climate change and ocean acidification on biodiversity through nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches.
- Mainstreaming: ensure the full integration of biodiversity into policies, regulation, planning and development processes and into national accounting.
The framework also has a clear focus on addressing over-consumption / promoting sustainable consumption patterns which requires a circular economy approach. It also sets out to mobilise through the Global Environment Facility significant additional funding to help developing countries respond to the nature loss challenges.
Whilst we welcome the Global Biodiversity Framework, which tasks Governments with reporting on progress, it is not a legally binding agreement. History shows that real progress requires countries to backup political statements with legislation that holds Governments, now and in the future, to account in delivering targets for nature protection and restoration. We also know that significant public, business and private finance needs to be mobilised to support action at scale, and that we need to build and enable capacity within communities to take action.
The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy: tackling the nature emergency is also positive step. The strategy signals that it will be accompanied by robust delivery plans and investment plans where the detailed actions, leads and costs will be spelt out. Of particular importanWece is the commitment, through the Natural Environment Bill, to put in place statutory targets for nature restoration which can then be used to hold the Government of the day to account. The intention to have a body that provides independent scrutiny of progress is also welcomed.
We are also pleased to see within this Strategy a stronger commitment to embed learning about nature within Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence and through the Scottish Government's Blue Economy Vision to ensure that Scotland is an ocean literate and aware nation where people have access to knowledge and learning about the ocean, its benefits and its role in tackling the climate and nature crises.
"Leading through our Curriculum for Excellence, we will mobilise our whole wider education and skills development system to promote increased understanding of our relationship with nature and positive action to secure its sustainable use."
Inspiring and educating people aboute the marine environment and its benefits is of course our primary charitable purpose - through our Discovery Experience, our education and outreach activities and a whole suite of digitally accessible learning resources. We welcome the direction signalled in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy - it is good to be able to finish 2022 with an optimistic feeling that nature is finally being placed at the heart of policy and practice which will bring benefits to all of us.