(c) Fiona Dobson 

Today’s blog is written by Fiona Dobson, International Policy Officer, to share calls from parliamentarians for the UK to play a strong leadership role at the upcoming crucial UN Biodiversity Summit, COP15.

 

Yesterday in the UK Parliament, MPs and Peers from all parties came together to “stand up for a nature-positive world”, urging and supporting the UK Government to take a strong leadership role at the upcoming UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP15 summit.

Due to be held soon under the Chinese Presidency, the COP15 summit will gather 195 nations to agree on a new global framework to take action to save nature this decade.

A call to action

The scene was set by a powerful call to action from Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the CBD, (taken from a recording of an RSPB event from last summer): “We know the problem, we know the solution to the problem, … we also know how to solve the problem. What is still missing – and which we all talk about day and night – is actually the action on the ground to make the changes needed … to move us to where we are to the better world we all want to see.”

Ms Mrema’s words must be our rallying call, to remind our politicians that we are tired of waiting, and that nature itself cannot wait. We strongly call for the COP to be held as soon as possible in 2022, even if that means the Chinese presidency having to host the summit in an alternative location outside of China.

Hosted by the Environment All-Party Parliamentary Group, the RSPB and nine other conservation NGOs, (including Marine Conservation Society, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Soil Association, Wildlife and Countryside Link, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust, WWF-UK, Zero Hour (CEE Bill campaign) and Green Alliance) organised the event to raise awareness among parliamentarians of the importance of the CBD and COP15, and to encourage them to pressure and support the Government to raise ambition. This must be through both through championing the development of a strong global framework for nature, and by showing leadership through taking action on the ground.

Decision time

The parliamentary event took place as tense discussions by the UN Secretariat and countries on the official CBD bureau were reaching boiling point. The long road to COP15 has been pitted with potholes, delays and U-turns. Originally meant to be held in Kunming, China in October 2020, the summit has been delayed 4 times already, and the tentative date of September 2022 is looking in peril of being moved again. As president of COP15, China is supposed to host the summit in the country (just as the UK’s Presidency of the UNFCCC COP26 meant that the climate summit was held last year in Glasgow). However, China’s ‘zero-COVID’ policy is at odds with hosting a large, in-person summit. There are calls to move the meeting elsewhere in order to avoid further delays, which have already eaten into the decade. A decision should be taken shortly on when and where the COP will finally take place.

A lot of heavy lifting is required

The keynote speech for the event was given by Zac Goldsmith, Minister for the International Environment and Climate, with responsibility for the UK’s engagement in CBD COP15. He said: “We have an opportunity this year to build on the momentum of COP26 and make this the moment we put nature on a path to recovery. But it will require a lot of heavy lifting internationally, particularly in relation to finance for nature and targets to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and sea by the end of the decade, and the UK will do all we can to raise ambition globally in the run up to and at the UN Biodiversity Summit, COP15, later this year.”

In response, Alex Sobel MP, Shadow Environment Minister, raised the alarm, reflecting on the declining numbers of much-loved UK species, including water voles and puffins. He said: “We must use COP15 to challenge other countries to reinvigorate their COP26 commitments and actions on the climate and nature emergency.  Using it to highlight the importance of nature-based solutions for climate and nature, and how they can serve social justice.”

Caroline Lucas MP, who is leading a COP15 debate in the UK Parliament, made a strong call for the need for rapid action: “The climate and nature emergencies are two sides of the same coin, demanding an urgent and joined-up strategy. COP15 is our best chance to galvanise international action - to work towards a nature-positive economy, and protect and restore biodiversity for future generations to come. Our window of opportunity is rapidly closing - we need to seize it”

 

Parliamentarian pledges

By holding up a series of placards, MPs and Peers promised to take action to halt and begin to reverse nature’s decline by 2030, telling their constituents that they would “stand up for a nature positive world”. This is an encouraging show of support, and we now look for this to be backed up by delivery. In order for COP15 to drive outcomes for nature and people, the framework must, once agreed, be translated into effective domestic policy which will lead to real action at home and overseas. We will be holding our politicians to account to ensure that commitments made on the global stage are honoured, so that this really can be the ‘decade of action’. Even before the new framework is agreed, the governments of the UK can be showing leadership through progressive policies to kickstart nature’s recovery.

This event showed that our parliamentarians want to stand up for a nature positive world, and care about fighting for a better future. As COP15 finally looks to be on the horizon, bringing together the global community to take decisions for change, it’s more important than ever for our politicians to be true to their words, and lead the way through taking meaningful action.

Watch this space

As we continue on the long road to COP15, we’ll be reporting out on progress as we put pressure on the global process, and on the UK government to show leadership and drive ambition.

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