South Island Kaka

UN Biodiversity Summit Update

As we previously wrote about, the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), held in December 2022 in Montreal Canada, passed with a landmark agreement across a total of 188 governments (including Australia). It was labelled a “once-in-a-decade agreement” on biodiversity and stated its aim to pave the way for humanity and nature to live in harmony by 2050.

Nations across the globe agreed on four goals, and twenty-three targets. The four goals are centred around conservation, sustainable biodiversity, cost sharing, and equitable accessibility to and among all parties. Additionally, the 23 targets agreed upon span diverse issues that contribute to biodiversity and environmental conservation. Examples include: reducing overconsumption, raising finances across the different countries, and reducing the introduction of invasive alien species. A critical inclusion was the “30 x 30” target - that at least 30% of the world’s lands and waters will be conserved and managed by 2030 and that 30 per cent of degraded ecosystems will be restored at the centre of the COP15 targets. Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek championed many critical inclusions such as the 30x30 feature. 

What does cop15 mean for australia’s biodiversity?

Australia pushed for many of the critical targets and goals at COP15, most importantly the ‘30x30’. Currently, 19.75% of Australia’s landmass is protected in the National Reserve System. Australia is now in a critical position to protect areas of importance for biodiversity.

As reported in The Conversation, ‘the historic COP15 outcome is an imperfect game-changer for saving nature”. However, it goes on to say “Australia did us proud”. 

When experts write: ‘Billed as the event that’ll determine the fate of the entire living world”, we know the issue is important. As academics Professor Sarah Bekessy, Professor Brendan Wintle, Adjunct Professor James Fitzsimons and Jack Pascoe, state: “The planet is entering its sixth mass extinction event and new evidence suggests the crisis is twice as bad as scientists previously thought”.

Pros and cons

The academics continue “Australia is a global leader in wildlife extinctions so has a special part to play in the negotiations… Australians can be proud of our representation at this one arguing for strong targets and promising to host an international nature summit in 2024.”

The authors applaud the “30 x 30” aspiration, the strong species extinction target, targets to restore degraded lands, stronger regulation and targets for plastics and plastic pollution, requiring companies to disclose how they depend upon and impact biodiversity, including targets for nature- based solutions to protect against extreme events and climate change, and including a reference in the deal to the circular economy which emphasises reusing materials to produce the things we consume.

They caution: “Unfortunately, the final text of the agreement removed targets to halve business impacts on biodiversity, and disclosure of impacts is only required for large and transnational companies”. Other areas that need to be addressed include ensuring Indigenous rights are upheld, legal responsibilities for wealthier countries to support developing countries, and the slow pace of key targets.

It seems that “nature positive” is still a hypothetical aspiration.