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COP27 Biodiversity Day: 16 November 2022

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As the final stages of COP27 are approaching the focus of the day shifted to Biodiversity. The climate and biodiversity crises are intimately connected and an immediate commitment and resolution with respect to biodiversity is pivotal to reversing climate change. The key discussions concentrated on advancing talks over the conservation and restoration of our rainforests, oceans and promoting nature-based solutions.

Fresh commitments to biodiversity

Several countries reinforced the significance of biodiversity by announcing fresh commitments to projects that aim to conserve and advocate sustainability:

  • The UK is investing a further £12 million in the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) through the Blue Planet Fund. It will deliver projects that build resilience, adaptation, and will seek to leverage private sector finance into innovative financial tools with a gender and equity focus. Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey MP said: “Over half of the world’s GDP is reliant on nature, which is why the United Kingdom put nature at the heart of our COP26 Presidency.
  • Costa Rica announced that they had successfully halted and reversed deforestation, and that nearly all of its electricity now comes from renewable power.
  • Enhancing Nature-based Solutions for Climate Transformation’ (ENACT) was launched by Egypt with NGO the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN) . The commitment from ENACT is to ensure that sustainable management practices are implemented on an additional two billion hectares of ecosystems this decade, that 250 million hectares of ecosystems are restored and conservation processes are enhanced on a further 45 million hectares.

Alongside these developments, today saw a real push for tangible progress to be made, with respect to, committing to and signing agreements:

  • The G20 Summit’s final communique states a commitment to “fully implementing the Glasgow Climate Pact” with a specific reference to raising national action plans as necessary. The Pact plans to keep 1.5C “alive”, if on “life support”.
  • Nature for Cool Cities Pledge has been launched – it is a collaboration between NGOs and academics, overseen by the Cool Coalition which aims to ensure that, as cooling needs grow across the globe, sustainable cooling solutions are scaled up appropriately and implemented equitably. The Pledge will support cities in developing and emerging economies, to implement nature-based solutions for cooling with new funding and technical expertise.
  • New funding was announced by The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance to support its member nations which have end-dates for oil and gas extraction, to phase out fossil fuels. It also announced Fiji, Tuvalu, Kenya, and the US State of Washington as new members, bringing the total membership to 19. Satyendra Prasad, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN, said: “In our fight to tackle climate change; we in Blue Pacific now find ourselves in overtime zone.” 

Concerns about the success of COP27

Loss and damage” has proven to be a major sticking point at COP27. China and the G7 have called for a formal agreement to be struck here and now. There have been ever louder voices calling for action:

  • The Pacific Island state of Vanuatu said today that it will consider COP27 “a failure” without a new fund for vulnerable nations to tackle the effects of climate change.
  • Former Irish President Mary Robinson also said that she was concerned about the state of negotiations.

Arrival of Brazil’s President-Elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva received a “rock star” welcome. As he made his first big overseas speech since winning election, he cemented his commitment to climate change through several important announcements:

  • He declared that Brazil did not need to clear another hectare of rainforest to be a major agricultural producer, and he would use his presidency to demand that rich countries deliver on their promise of $100bn of climate finance for developing countries and to create a fund for loss and damage finance
  • On the impact of the climate crisis, he said “nobody is safe”, detailing the consequences of global heating
  • He also said he wants the 2025 COP summit to be held in the Amazon region, as he promised to fight deforestation.

Activists call for ‘Paris Agreement for nature’

Activists at COP27 are calling for a “Paris Agreement for nature” to prevent land degradation and biodiversity loss.

Lucy Almond, director, and chair of Nature4Climate, at a panel for the summit’s Biodiversity Day said “We are losing biodiversity at the fastest rate in history” and that “CBD [the Convention on Biological Diversity] must deliver that Paris moment for nature”.

Marco Lambertini, director general of World Wildlife Fund International, echoed the same message. “We want a Paris-style agreement for nature,” he said. “What we can learn is to move faster. It took too long to realise we are in a disaster.

Jane Southworth, Partner, comments: We all now recognise the link between climate change and biodiversity. Not only the dramatic impact that climate change is having on biodiversity but also how nature can help us mitigate the impact of climate change. A key element of achieving net zero is forestry. Against this background we welcome the commitments made by Lula to restore the Amazon rainforest. However, there is no doubt there will be challenges in terms of delivering on this ambition.

It is also interesting to see the UK Government seeking to maintain its leadership in this area by announcing financial commitments including an additional £12 million to the Ocean Risk Alliance and £30 million towards a public-private fund for nature projects in the UK.

Whilst these commitments are welcomed, it is clear that continued cooperation and efforts from all nations is required to properly protect biodiversity in our oceans, coastal waters, forests and global eco-systems. It will be interesting to see whether governments can build on these commitments at the upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP15) in December.