The Impact of the fifteenth Biodiversity Conference of Parties (COP 15)
In December 2022, nearly 200 countries (not including the USA) signed on to an agreement to manage the planet’s lack of biodiversity. In keeping with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP):
“The United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) led to Montreal, Canada, on 19 December 2022 with a landmark agreement to guide global motion on nature through to 2030. Representatives from 188 governments have been gathered in Montreal for the past two weeks for the essential summit… COP 15 resulted within the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) on the last day of negotiations. The GBF goals to deal with biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems and protect indigenous rights. The plan includes concrete measures to halt and reverse nature loss, including putting 30 per cent of the planet and 30 per cent of degraded ecosystems under protection by 2030. It also incorporates proposals to extend finance to developing countries – a significant sticking point during talks.”
When the conference was underway, I used to be struck by the dearth of media attention it was attracting and the contrast to the media circus that surrounds the Climate COPs. It’s remarkable how much attention the climate issue gets and the way it has develop into almost synonymous with the issue of environmental sustainability. Climate is a critical issue, but frankly, it just isn’t a graver threat than either the lack of biodiversity or the presence of the human-made toxic chemicals we’ve set free in our air, land, and water. Climate change is less complicated to grasp than these other problems and its solution is comparatively straightforward. The issue is that the mitigation of climate change will take an extended time to implement resulting from the importance of energy to modern economic life. Other environmental issues also pose economic trade-offs, but none appear to be as clear and central as climate and energy. Nevertheless, climate is removed from the one environmental threat that we face.
These U.N. conferences are beneficial because they raise awareness of the problems they’re addressing, although few have been as distinguished because the Climate COPs. I worry concerning the expectations raised by these meetings, despite the U.N.’s lack of authority. Within the case of biodiversity, I also fear that this critical issue is being ignored since it just isn’t seen as an “existential” threat to humanity, a label often assigned to climate change. As I wrote last December:
“I all the time find the coverage of those conferences fascinating as reporters and delegates gather and pretend that they’re participating in and covering an important arena of worldwide decision-making. Actually, whatever is agreed to—if anything is agreed to—can’t be enforced in a world of sovereign nations. Any resemblance to operational reality may be purely coincidental. Even perhaps worse: it seems that nobody is being attentive. I do know that when pressed, many individuals at COP 15 will admit that the true goals of the meeting are far less dramatic than the stated goal of stopping species extinction and maintaining biodiversity. Like their older and more popular sibling, the Climate COP, they’re hoping to focus the world’s attention on a critical environmental problem. Their focus just isn’t climate change but ecological well-being. America will attend the meeting but just isn’t a celebration to the convention. Biodiversity and ecology usually are not at the middle of worldwide diplomacy or national policymaking. If this can be a media extravaganza, it’s decidedly low-key. Biodiversity loss just isn’t a latest story, it’s centuries within the making.”
While the European Union and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are promulgating rules requiring corporations to reveal their carbon emissions and climate risks, measuring the lack of biodiversity has not yet reached the political agenda. Nevertheless, it seems that some corporations are starting to concentrate to their impact on biodiversity and are slowly moving toward motion. It jogs my memory a little bit of the start of ESG reporting a couple of decade ago. Writing within the Wall Street Journal last week, Joshua Kirby reported that:
“Six months ago this week, nearly 200 countries signed a landmark agreement in Montreal to guard biodiversity. While mandatory reporting on nature should be a good distance off, for some corporations, measuring their impact on nature makes good business sense. Managing reputations, minimizing costs and ensuring their very own survival are amongst the explanations these early-mover corporations give for making a head start on analyzing and reporting on nature-related risks equivalent to deforestation, pollution and over farming.”
Mr. Kirby’s piece notes a small movement of some corporations to deal with these issues, particularly firms that depend directly on functioning ecosystems to provide what they sell, from tobacco to bourbon. One problem is the complexity of biodiversity impacts. Ecosystems, by definition, are highly interdependent, and the connection of 1 human impact to a set of specific ecosystem changes may be difficult to watch and understand. In keeping with Kirby:
“… assessing impact on the natural world stays trickier than measuring greenhouse gases. Emissions may be calculated in metric tons, and corporations use shared rules that enable comparisons between businesses, even when reporting stays patchy and partly based on estimates. Biodiversity impact, then again, stays a more nebulous concept, with widespread uncertainty about what to measure and tips on how to measure it.”
The quantity of economic resources dedicated to the study of ecology and biodiversity is nowhere near the size needed to make substantial progress in scientific understanding. The funding dedicated to medical research dwarfs the funding available to review our natural environment. Current ecosystem measures need refinement. We use species population and extinction as a kind of surrogate measure of ecosystem health. If a living creature is dying off, we typically view that development as a sign that the ecosystem supporting the creature is in trouble, but we don’t all the time understand why this is occurring. Ecological relationships look more like an online of interconnections than a straight-line linear model of causes and effects. Data collection could also be difficult in some ecosystems, and the fee of field commentary and evaluation may be prohibitive. I even have some hope that using drones, automation, and artificial intelligence might reduce the fee of research and facilitate a more rapid understanding of threats to biodiversity.
The political challenges presented by climate change initially of the 21st century can increase our understanding of the political salience of biodiversity. The issue with climate change as a political issue back within the yr 2000 was that in comparison to problems like air and water pollution, it was difficult to directly experience cause and effect. The causes and effects of air pollution may very well be seen and smelled; you possibly can often tell where dirty air got here from and where it ended up. In contrast, climate change was caused all over the place, and its impact wouldn’t be apparent until the long run. For climate change, that future has arrived, and everybody experiences the hotter world we now live in. Losses of biodiversity could also be too subtle for the casual observer to visualise. We will see when our old campground has been developed as a strip mall. In that case, the lack of natural systems is obvious. But when the forest stays, and no mall was built, however the bird population has been cut in half, we may not have the option to see the damage. Even when we notice the bird loss, we have no idea what caused it.
Twenty-first-century environmental issues like climate change and biodiversity loss usually are not as visible and native as air, water, waste, and toxic substances. Conferences like COP 15 can enhance their visibility and increase understanding. But we’d like to do not forget that the agreements reached are largely symbolic. The actual motion is on the national, community, and organizational level. All change is guided by self-interest. The important thing to successful environmental change is to construct the case for enlightened self-interest and to mobilize public resources to stimulate the profitable allocation of personal capital to keep up and rebuild endangered ecosystems. Our wealth and well-being rely upon functioning ecosystems. We’re, in any case, organic, living creatures—a component of and never divorced from the natural world.