What is COP 15? How’s it different from COP 27?
You might have heard about COP 27, which took place in Egypt this year. That was the 27th “Conference of the Parties” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. COP 15 is a little different. The UN has a separate treaty on wildlife, genetic modification, and habitats — a “Convention on Biological Diversity” that meets every two years. This month, EnviroVoters Ed Fund attended the CBD COP in Montreal, Canada, and we brought along seven state legislators!
Is a separate biodiversity COP that important?
Absolutely! 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, and in the past 50 years, wildlife populations have declined by almost 70%.
Whether it’s bees pollinating our food, trees cleaning our air, or wetlands locking in carbon emissions, biodiversity is critical to human life. We live with the rest of nature, not above it. Other wild species guarantee our continued health and wellness. California mountaineer and environmentalist David Brower once said: “The wild places are where we began. When they end, so do we.”
So why does California have a delegation? What does that even mean?
Quebec asked us to come! California and Quebec have worked together on other climate projects for the last 10 years, and when word got out Montréal was hosting CBD COP 15, the provincial government of Quebec reached out to California policymakers wanting to collaborate.
California has been leading on biodiversity! On 30×30 (conserving 30% of our land and water by 2030) California has been leading the world on planning, funding, and action. Whether it’s 120 marine protected areas or $100 million for tribal stewardship, California has done more, spent more, and planned more for 30×30 than *any signatory to the Convention* (that is, every nation except the U.S. and the Vatican). So we thought we’d flex a little — learn from other places and share our successes.
While national governments were talking about the Global Biodiversity Framework (the 10-year plan for the CBD) we rolled up with seven legislators, four staff from the California Natural Resources Agency, and more than 50 people from “civil society” — nonprofits like EnviroVoters Ed Fund, middle school teachers who plant urban forests, scientists, activists, and more.
Sounds like a lot. So what happened? What were the biggest wins from the conference?
22 targets were set at COP 15. Here are some of the biggest ones:
The nations agreed to set an international 30×30 target! We weren’t sure if it was going to happen. Québec and California set up a team of sub-national governments (along with Scotland, the city of Sao Paulo, and others) to make this happen. Just as importantly, the COP committed to do this in collaboration with Indigenous peoples. Going into COP 15, many worried that Indigenous peoples would be evicted from their traditional lands in the name of saving the animals. But the COP committed to partnering with traditional stewards and using their knowledge and insight.
Because developing nations hold the majority of Earth’s biodiversity, $20 billion in aid will be distributed to them annually from rich nations, increasing to $30 billion in 2030. This is huge. (Developing nations temporarily walked out of negotiations over this during our last night in Canada!)
Countries at COP 15 also agreed to require businesses to disclose their activities’ impacts on biodiversity, and pledged to reduce annual subsidies for biodiversity-damaging industries from $1.8 trillion to $500 billion. Less oil drilling and plastic pollution, more eco-tourism and offshore wind!
$200 billion in public, private, and philanthropic funds will be contributed to conservation yearly. While this is a huge win, we still have much advocacy work to do in the future, as reports have shown that over $700 billion are needed to adequately address the biodiversity crisis.
What is California’s role in fulfilling these goals?
California’s not a nation, but we’ve got some tricks up our sleeve. We’ve become the world’s fourth largest economy while still caring for some of the most sensitive habitats on Earth. We’re home to about 40 million people right next to biodiversity hotspots like the Mojave Desert, the Santa Monica Mountains, and hundreds of miles of Pacific coastline. We don’t always get it right, but from the Gold Rush to the Santa Barbara oil spill to stopping plastic pollution with SB 54, we never stop trying. Other countries look at the high price of protecting the planet and freeze up: “What about the economy?” Flex alert: California can do both.
We have the solutions to the climate crisis; we just need the political will. Biodiversity is one of those sweet spots where California has both. A climate-just future is wild, and we’re so happy to be educating and empowering champions to lead the way.