Cop15 parties urged to seize ‘historic opportunity to halt and reverse collapse of nature’

Calls to reduce agenda blockages in advance of high-level meeting of politicians in Montreal

The coming days at Cop15 present a historic opportunity to agree on a global plan with clear goals to address biodiversity loss and to secure the future for humanity, according to Marco Lambertini, director general of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Speaking in Montreal, Canada he called on countries at the UN summit to grasp the chance to halt biodiversity loss and begin restoration of nature by 2030, and to clear obstacles to progress in advance of a critical high-level meeting of ministers from more than 190 countries later this week.

Cop15 represented “an opportunity to course correct and to build a nature-positive future”, mindful of what science was indicating on the consequences of inaction, Mr Lambertini said. Nature, in addition, held most of the solutions on addressing the climate crisis and global poverty, he added.

Politicians arriving at Cop15 this week must acknowledge the “new recognition of the importance of rebalancing nature” and set clear and ambitious science-based targets. Failure to do so meant entire ecosystems and eco-regions of the world – including the Amazon and polar ice caps – would quickly head to tipping points “with tragic consequences for the stability of the planet”, he said.


Research published by the WWF shows the number of people worried about rapid nature loss in the world’s top global biodiversity hotspots has risen to nearly 60 per cent, reflecting a near 10 per cent increase since 2018.

Ambition must be based on what science says is required, Mr Lambertini said, “and not the lowest common denominator of what’s politically negotiable in a geopolicitally fractured world”.

He had no doubt that the plan for 30 per cent protection of land and water by 2030 – known as the 30x30 target – was equivalent to “1.5 degrees for nature”; a reference to the key Paris climate agreement temperature goal. This should permeate all aspects of the global biodiversity framework (GBF) at the heart of negotiations, he underlined.

There was no option but to halt biodiversity loss now, said Ladislav Miko, special biodiversity envoy for the Czech Republic, who is part of the EU negotiating team. But this needed to be underpinned by “clear targets, clear ways of implementation, clear indicators of progress and clear financing”.

A key element should also be putting in place “numerical” restoration targets while addressing the drivers of biodiversity loss including pollution and pesticide use, he said.

Florika Fink-Hooijer, director general of the environment in the European Commission, said the EU acknowledged the need for more resources for addressing biodiversity and the greater need of the Global South. Given half of global GDP depended on nature, there was also a need to identify where the required funds could be tapped, she said.

Ms Fink-Hooijer declined to prejudge the negotiation dynamics amid reports of very slow progress, adding she was encouraged by colleagues wanting to make progress, both from developing and developed countries. Cop15 co-chairs Canada and China “are getting tougher and moving faster”, she added.

“Negotiations at Cop15 are proceeding slowly and carefully, and while there has been progress on some issues, there is much yet to be agreed. The draft global biodiversity framework is riddled with brackets, with many issues presenting real challenges for negotiators,” Minister for Heritage Malcolm Noonan told The Irish Times.

The Irish delegation, he said, was playing an important role in supporting the EU bloc in advance of his visit on Thursday for the high-level ministerial meeting, which is considered critical in pushing for a substantial outcome, he confirmed.

“We are continuing to engage constructively and remain committed to an outcome that works for nature and for everyone, but it’s clear that differences still remain to be resolved. I’m hopeful that as this week draws to a close we will see progress on key issues and be able to unlock agreement. We can’t settle for anything less,” Mr Noonan said.

There was “worry and anxiety” about the slow rate of progress, so much so that the GBF was considered in jeopardy, said Richard Cronin, a member of Irish negotiation team who is principal adviser on the marine environment with the Department of Housing. But the mood has improved as the critical high-level ministerial segment is about to take place, “which has brought greater focus though clear differences remain”, he added.

The 30x30 proposal was receiving significant support but there were differences over how it could be achieved and on who might carry the burden of delivery. Some countries have indicated they risked being burdened with a problem not of their making, which was raising issues of environmental justice. “There is more work to be done on this,” he added.

Incorporating 30x30 in the GBF was now “the main deliverable” at Cop15, while other less important issues may be passed on to Cop16, Mr Cronin believed.

Following Cop27 – the recent climate Cop or conference of the parties – the issue of who needs to do the work on addressing the climate and biodiversity crises, and how it will be achieved, was much more prominent in the global conversation, he noted. This was moving away from the centre of government telling society what to do. The emerging GBF was adopting “an ecosystems-based approach” involving business, society, industry, governments and citizens, underlining that everybody had a role to play.

Head of the Irish delegation Shane Regan of the National Parks & Wildlife Service said the necessary finance for implementing the GBF appeared to be the biggest issue to be resolved in coming days.

A critical aspect of this was “how national biodiversity plans will fit into the global framework backed by the necessary financial instruments”. If this gets over the line in Montreal, “it will give Ireland’s national biodiversity action plan more teeth”, he predicted.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times