Biodiversity is in danger. We need to act right now.
According to a 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. That destruction is primarily associated with human activities, which are jeopardizing the livelihoods and food security, the health and quality of life, of billions of people.
The Living Planet Report 2022 from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) notes that the abundance of animal populations has declined by 69 percent on average in the world since 1970. In Canada, the Living Planet Report Canada 2020 specifies that at-risk species populations in the country declined by 59 percent.
The COP15 conference on biological diversity
This biodiversity loss applies worldwide. The United Nations’ 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15)1 to the Convention on Biological Diversity is a unique opportunity to counteract the trend. This international gathering will be taking place at the Palais des congrès de Montréal from December 7 to 19, 2022. The international community will have the mandate to define new goals for protecting nature and identifying the means to halt the loss of biodiversity on the planet between now and 2030.
Using conventions as legal instruments
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed for the first time by 150 government leaders at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.2 Countries signed the “Rio Declaration” and implemented legal instruments as a means of ensuring the protection of the global environment. Since then, 196 countries in all have signed it. The CBD is the result of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which also gave rise to the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement on climate issues.
The goal of the Convention on Biological Diversity
The CBD, whose Secretariat is located in Montréal, is a legally binding international treaty with three principal objectives: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources. Its overall goal is to encourage measures that will lead to a sustainable future.
Goals of COP15
In 2021, some one hundred countries agreed on a text, the Kunming Declaration, which describes 17 commitments to counter the loss of biodiversity. Among these are the protection of 30 percent of land and sea areas by 2030, a goal supported by Canada.
Given that 640 species are at risk in Canada and that a good number of wildlife populations are in decline, the government of Canada has committed itself to protecting 25 percent of land and water in the country by 2025.
“We are facing our moment of truth. If we are to meet the 2050 Vision of Living in harmony with nature, we must take actions this decade to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.”– Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity
A united civil society
Collectif COP15, which brings together 80 organizations from across Québec, is demanding concrete actions from the two levels of government, such as the enlargement of the Saguenay–Saint-Laurence Marine Park and the “integral” protection of the Magpie River. In Montréal, the group is seeking the creation of a major nature park on the east end of the island. According to Collectif COP15, the upcoming conference could be the most important event of the decade for biodiversity.
Ambition and action: the key to success
Since the CBD came into effect in 1993, experts estimate that the extinction of nearly 70 bird and mammal species has been avoided. The areas protected have a significant impact on species at risk while at the same time advancing the rights of indigenous peoples and protecting carbon reserves.
Our responsibility as citizens is to make it crystal clear that biodiversity matters to us very much, and to contribute to its protection. How? By communicating to our political leaders that we are in favor of these nature-protection measures. By taking part in community-science projects and nature-protection projects, by financially supporting conservation projects, and by rallying to protect the stream behind our house and the woods in our neighborhood. By visiting nature museums, and national and municipal parks. A passion for nature and its protection is a clear sign to decision-making bodies that this is a priority for all living things.
Espace pour la vie is involved
Climate change makes the headlines in the media and dominates conversations among many political players. Its impact on the survival of living beings is well documented. What people are less aware of is the importance of biodiversity in reducing the impacts of climate change, notably through conserving the quantity of stored carbon, which is greater in diversified forests according to a study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Climate change and biodiversity loss are challenges that we have to meet together. The Biosphère offers artistic and scientific works that underscore the complexity of the situation and inspire the public to take an interest in it.
As COP15 makes its way to the city, Ville de Montréal and the Space for Life Foundation are consolidating their commitment to the protection of nature by announcing, together, the creation of the Imperiled Species Fund, whose goal is to support and drive Espace pour la vie’s conservation and research activities. This is a long-term project that will contribute to halting biodiversity loss, a legacy benefiting future generations.
References and clarifications:
1The term COP refers to the conference of the parties (countries that are signatories to a convention). A COP is a large summit bringing together all the countries that have signed and are bound by that convention. The number 15 specifies that this is the 15th conference of the parties to take place since the signing of this convention. There are COPs on climate (like COP27, which just took place in Egypt) and COPs on biodiversity, such as COP15.
2The United States signed it, but has not ratified it.