COP15 begins in Montreal

The UN’s COP15 biodiversity conference has brought its 10,000 participants to Montréal this week to discuss how to protect and increase the world’s plant and animal life.

  • Montreal is co-hosting the event with the Chinese city of Kunming, which was the original host before a final cancellation due to Covid. 

Driving the news: On the agenda are 23 targets that could become part of an enforceable UN agreement—the most prominent of which is the so-called “30-by-30” goal, which would require countries to put 30% of their land and sea areas under conservation by 2030.

  • Other targets include slashing government subsidies that harm biodiversity, phasing out pesticide use, and requiring all businesses to disclose their impacts on nature. 

Why it matters: Species are going extinct at a rate not seen in 10 million years, and 40% of land globally has been classified as “degraded.” In Canada, forest fires burn through ~2.5 million hectares annually and 20% of all native species are considered at risk of extinction.

Yes, but: An agreement does not mean Earth’s wildlife can suddenly breathe a collective sigh of relief. The last global biodiversity deal expired without achieving any of its goals

  • A new agreement would require unanimous support from 196 nations to pass (and big businesses to get on board), which could mean some serious compromises. 

Bottom line: The chances of a “meaningful deal” getting done are “fifty-fifty” according to BloombergNEF. Think of it as heads (let’s save Earth!) or tails (back to the drawing board).