COP 15 and the climate-biodiversity link
Just weeks before the Conference of Parties climate meet starts in Glasgow, another equally important United Nations summit, the 15th Conference of Parties to the 1992 UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15), began in Kunming, China, on Monday. An in-person gathering will follow this online session in April 2022, where a final pact to reverse the destruction of nature is expected to be inked. The discussions in COP15 are anchored in the Convention on Biological Diversity, a treaty ratified by 195 countries and the European Union, but not the United States, the world’s biggest historical polluter.
While climate summits attract political, public, and media attention (rightly so), biodiversity summits have failed to garner the attention they deserve. This is unfortunate because both issues are inter-connected: Healthy ecosystems make better carbon sinks to absorb CO2 pollution, and these, in turn, are vital to keep global warming down to acceptable levels. About 75% of crops depend on pollinators; approximately 75% of our fresh water comes from healthy forests; and more than half of the global population depends on nature for their livelihood. But about one million animal and plant species out of 8.1 million are threatened with extinction -- more than ever before in human history. Despite these warnings, previous CBD summits could not achieve much. At the 2010 summit, CBD member-states laid out 20 goals, with 2020 as their completion deadline. Unfortunately, none of them was met. COP15 is likely see a new set of targets designed to allow species to “live in harmony with nature,” with a 2050 deadline and 2030 checkpoints.
India’s sixth national report (in 2018) claimed that the country is on track to achieve its biodiversity targets. But several experts have pointed out that large-scale diversion of forest land for development and national security purposes will have a deep impact. While development is essential, it’s crucial to remember that biodiversity underpins current and future human health, well-being, and economic prosperity, and is vital for avoiding the next pandemic.