COP15 – what’s it all about and why it matters to the business community

November 08, 2022

COP15 (Montreal, 7-19 December) presents the opportunity to achieve a legally-binding agreement putting global biodiversity on the same footing as climate, says the RSK Group’s Chief Sustainability Officer Dr Stephanie Wray.

Dr Wray is an ecologist, non-executive chair of the Mammal Society and managing director of Nature Positive, an environmental consultancy which is part of RSK, a global leader in the delivery of sustainable solutions with its headquarters in the UK. Dr Wray also recently joined the RSK Group board as Chief Sustainability Officer.

COP15 is the 15th meeting of the parties who signed the Rio Convention on Biodiversity in 1992. The meeting has been delayed several times and should have taken place in Kunming, China, but has been moved due to ongoing Covid restrictions. China retains the presidency at the meeting.

Dr Wray described the COP15 goal as a “a Paris Agreement for Nature” designed to reverse the damaging loss of biodiversity being experienced across the world, adding: “It is crucial that we act now to secure this global agreement. Nature is being lost at an increasing rate with over a million species at risk of extinction.”

“But it is not just about the loss of those species – nature is a complex system of interrelationships and, as we damage parts of nature, like the extinction of individual species, we start to see the entire system breaking down. When that happens, the services we expect from nature (like sufficient clean water, pollination of our crops and climate regulation) cannot be reliably provided any more. And that is why the biodiversity crisis is closely linked with the climate crisis – we cannot solve one without the other.”

She emphasised that biodiversity was an essential issue for both economists and ecologists.

“This matters for all our businesses and the whole of society. World Economic Forum data showed that half of global GDP ($44 trillion) is directly reliant on nature – this clearly includes everything with an agricultural supply chain, fishing, mining etc.  But arguably everything we use in our businesses has its origin in nature.”

Dr Wray added: “There is a draft of a Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) at present which is the text that parties will try to agree. My biggest worry is that COP15 will not reach an agreement at all because time is running out – if nature loss goes too far, it may never be able to recover. All the targets are essential, of course, but one that the business community in particular should take note of is target 15. This is the target which acknowledges the fact that, only by having mandatory disclosure of impacts on nature, will we operate on a level playing field and truly understand what the extent of the damage we need to address.”

There are 22 GBF targets including:

  • 3 – protect 30% of land and seas for the benefit of nature
  • 14 – ensure the integration of biodiversity into policies, regulations, and development processes
  • 15 – take legal administrative or policy measures for business and financial institutions to assess and disclose impacts on nature and act to reduce impact.
  • 16 – ensure that people are enabled and encouraged to make sustainable consumption choices.
  • 18 – identify and phase out subsidies harmful to biodiversity

Dr Wray said the new strategic framework to be adopted at COP15 has been designed to build on and replace the current Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, which includes the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Despite government and stakeholder commitments, none of the targets were achieved in full by 2020 and only six were partially achieved. This has been attributed to unclear targets, a lack of political will, monitoring tools and financial resources to effectively implement them.

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