Paris moment ‘impossible’ if world leaders fail to unite behind nature

With the onset of two-week negotiations of the COP15 biodiversity summit, the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) is urging heads of government, including the UK, to show strong leadership on nature and commit to attending future summits to drive ambition and progress.

This week’s UN Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) conference aims to agree on a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) outlining what countries need to do in the next decade and beyond to regenerate and live in balance with the natural world.

World leaders are not expected to turn up to the negotiations in Montreal, Canada and CISL is calling on heads of governments to commit to attend future biodiversity summits to underline the vital nature of this agenda to support all life on earth and help combat climate change.

Clare Shine, CEO, CISL, said: “If political leaders continue to devalue nature, they put at risk our ability to protect human security and health, including access to clean air, safe drinking water and nourishing food, and to control climate change.

“The planet needs a ‘Paris moment for nature’ but that will be impossible to achieve without the presence, ambition and impetus of world leaders. Business and finance leaders are starting to raise their game, and heads of government must commit to attending from this moment on.”

“Empty chairs at the top table at COP15 show how many governments and key stakeholders still treat this issue as ‘just the environment’ or ‘just about species’. Yet nature underpins global and national economies, livelihoods and future innovation. Destroying nature damages well-being, culture and prosperity. It squanders planetary resilience. We must understand these spiralling risks and act on them urgently.”

Humans are causing an unprecedented decline in nature and the ecological services it provides for free. One million species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction and WWF’s recent Living Planet Report reveals global wildlife population has seen average decline of nearly 70 per cent in just 50 years.

The survival and traditions of entire communities are threatened by deforestation and over-exploitation, while environmental degradation increases the risk of emergence of zoonotic diseases, including Ebola and Covid-19.

Science confirms nature is key to the fight against climate change. A recent UN report outlines how the protection and restoration of nature is one of the greatest strategies for tackling climate change, not just because it absorbs carbon from the air, but because forests, wetlands and other ecosystems act as buffers against extreme weather, protecting houses, crops, water supplies and vital infrastructure.

Eliot Whittington, Director of Policy, CISL, said: “There is a dramatic amount of work to do to get the nature agenda up to speed in parallel to the progress made on climate change. We must make the case for integrating climate and nature much more clearly if we are to achieve a nature-positive, net zero world by 2050.”

“COP15 and the CBD process are way behind schedule — in small part due to the painful irony of the delay caused by Covid-19, a disease accelerated into being by nature destruction, and in large part to the lack of global focus on and disagreement over how to progress nature restoration.”

“Crucial to rewiring our economy around nature and people is the creation of an enabling environment for business and finance so they can drive biodiversity-aligned activities. And key to this is pro-nature policy and regulation that embeds the benefits provided by biodiversity at the heart of our social and economic systems.”

“World leaders, including the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, need to champion the nature agenda to raise vision and ambition for collective efforts to protect and restore a living and liveable planet.”

According to last year’s Dasgupta Review into the sustainability of human engagement with nature, nature’s value must be at the heart of economics’ and in a new briefing paper released on the first day of COP15 on Wednesday, CISL explores key areas of progress needed to place nature, wellbeing and resilience at the heart of a new economic model.

Delegates of 196 nations gather for the UN biodiversity summit, referred to as COP15, to agree, among other things, on a new biodiversity framework — a crucial moment as the world needs set of goals and targets that will guide action on nature through 2030 with morte than a million species of animals and plants face extinction because of human activity.

The summit, due to take place in 2020 but has been delayed multiple times owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, is critical to focus on ambition, measurable targets, adequate resources and action by governments, businesses and consumers.

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