COP15 on Biodiversity

Biodiversity loss is a significant global risk and a growing topic of interest within the international Actuarial community.

COP15, held in December 2022 in Montreal Canada, is one of a series of Conferences of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Canadian meeting was actually the second part of COP15, with the first part held in Kunming, China in 2021, but partially conducted virtually because of COVID-19. Here’s a summary of what happened. 

COP15 is not directly related to COP27 (a climate change conference held in Egypt in November 2022), although climate change significantly effects biodiversity.

The Convention has three main objectives[1]:

  • The conservation of biodiversity.
  • The sustainable use of its components.
  • The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits of genetic resources.


Importance of biodiversity

The degradation of nature has immense effects on the planet and its people. These include[2]:

  • Over 3 billion people (40% of Earth’s population) are adversely effected by land degradation.
  • Around US$575 billion annual crop production is at risk from the loss of pollinators.
  • About 25% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are generated by land clearing, crop production and fertilisation.
  • The increasing proximity of animals and humans increases the risk of spread of disease. About 60% of human infections are estimated to have an animal source.
  • 100 to 300 million people are at risk of floods and storms through loss of coastal habitat.
  • Declines in nature and biodiversity at current trends undermine around 80% of sustainable development goals (SDGs) related to poverty, hunger, health, water cities, climate, oceans, and land.

Drivers of the nature crisis

The key drivers of the crisis are[3]:

  • Changes in land and sea use: This includes the conversion of natural land covers, e.g., forests, wetlands and natural habitats, for agricultural and urban uses. Around 420 million hectares of forest have been converted to other uses since 1990. Agriculture is the main driver.
  • Climate change: Global warming impacts the most vulnerable ecosystems and may threaten as many as one in six species globally.
    The conservation of forests, peatlands and wetlands is vital as they are significant carbon stores.
  • Pollution: Chemical and waste pollution have a major impact on freshwater and marine habitats. The use of non-selective insecticides is also causing plant and insect populations to dwindle. Marine plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980 and adversely impacts more than 260 animal species, including turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals.
  • Direct exploitation of natural resources: The unsustainable use of plants and animals threatens the survival of a million species globally and the livelihoods of billions of people reliant on wild species for food, fuel and income.
  • Invasive species: Invasive alien species (IAS) are animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms that have entered an environment that is not their native habitat. IAS can have a devastating impact on native flora and fauna, leading to the decline or extinction of native species.

Biodiversity in Australia

The Australian Government commissions an independent assessment of the environment’s health every five years. Here are the key findings of the 2022 report[4]  

  • Habitat being destroyed: Between 2000 and 2017, 7.7 million hectares of threatened species habitat were destroyed. About 93% of this was done without Federal Government assessment or approval despite environmental laws meant to protect endangered species’ habitats.
  • Too many weeds: There are now more introduced land-based plant species (27,000) in Australia than native plants (24,000 different vascular (advanced) plants).
  • Extinction record: More mammal species have become extinct in Australia than in any other country. The list of threatened species continues to grow, exacerbated by the 2019-20 bushfires.
  • Conservation funding slashed: Since 2013, federal funding for nature conservation is estimated to have been cut by nearly 40%.
  • Climate change impacts are here: Australia now is often experiencing extreme weather events, which severely impact the environment. There have been massive fires in rainforests from Queensland to Tasmania for the first time, severe droughts causing extensive fish kills in the Murray Darling basin, and widespread extreme flooding wreaking havoc on people and nature.
  • Before it’s gone: Some well-known animal species are now on the endangered list, including koalas, the Greater Glider, the Gang Gang Cockatoo and the Bogong Moth, which now has an estimated 98% population loss.

 

COP15 Outcomes[5]

Almost 200 countries agreed to a set of goals and targets to ‘halt and reverse’ biodiversity, by the end of the decade. This is known as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). The headline target is ‘30×30’ – to conserve 30% of the world’s land and 30% of the ocean by 2030. A second ‘30×30’ goal saw developed countries agreeing to provide US$30 billion to developing countries by 2030.

The GBF includes four overarching global goals:
  1. All ecosystems’ integrity, connectivity and resilience will be maintained, enhanced, or restored, substantially increasing the area of natural ecosystems by 2050.
    Extinction of threatened species is halted, and by 2050 extinction rate and risk will be reduced tenfold. Also, an abundance of native wild species is increased to healthy and resilient levels.
  2. Biodiversity is sustainably used and managed, and nature, including ecosystem functions and services, are valued, maintained, and enhanced. Those currently in decline are restored, achieving sustainable development by 2050.
  3. The monetary and non-monetary benefits of knowledge and use of genetic resources are shared fairly and equitably with indigenous peoples, and local communities will substantially be increased by 2050. Traditional knowledge is protected, contributing to the conservation of biodiversity.
  4. Means of implementation, including finance, technology and knowledge, are secured and equitably accessible to all parties, especially less developed countries. The goal includes closing the biodiversity finance gap of US$700 billion per year and aligning financial flows with the GBF.

There are also 23 specific targets, including, among other issues, the 30×30 targets, the halting of human-induced extinctions and the maintenance and restoration of genetic diversity.

References

[1] Carbon Brief; ‘COP15: Key outcomes agreed at the UN biodiversity conference in Montreal’; Aruna Chandrasekhar, Daisy Dunne, Orla Dwyer, Yanine Quiroz, Giuliana Viglione; 20 December 2022

[2] UN Environmental Programme (UNEP); ‘Facts about the nature crisis’

[3] UN Environmental Programme; ‘5 key drivers of the nature crisis’; 08 December 2022

[4] Australian Conservation Foundation; ‘State of the Environment 2021: diving into the findings and response’; Jess Abrahams; 30 August 2022

[5] Carbon Brief; ‘COP15: Key outcomes agreed at the UN biodiversity conference in Montreal’; Aruna Chandrasekhar, Daisy Dunne, Orla Dwyer, Yanine Quiroz, Giuliana Viglione; 20 December 2022

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