COP15: Government must step up ahead of biodiversity summit, urge peers

Peers have called on the government to step up efforts to protect nature ahead of the major UN biodiversity conference (COP15) in October, which they say is set to under-deliver.

In a letter to the environment secretary, Baroness Parminter, chair of the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee (ECCC), said that based on current indications COP15 “will not deliver what is needed for the world at this critical moment of opportunity”.

“There is a gulf between the urgency and importance of halting biodiversity losses and protecting and restoring nature, and the level of action being taken in pursuit of this,” said Parminter in the letter. The UK cannot afford to repeat the mistake of failing to take adequate action after the agreement of the Aichi biodiversity targets in 2010, she added. 

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She urged departments from across government to be “far better aligned and more involved if we are to tackle biodiversity losses”.

In the letter, the committee calls on the government to include an “ambitious, overarching state of nature target” in the Environment Bill, going on to warn that “a weak or ambiguous domestic target would surely send an unhelpful signal ahead of COP15”.

The committee also calls on the government to step up its diplomatic efforts ahead of COP15, saying it should be reaching out to international partners to promote compromises on issues including funding and digital sequence information.

In a statement, Baroness Parminter said: “We all stand to benefit if success can be achieved at COP15, but if it fails to galvanise the action urgently needed on biodiversity then all of us will suffer the consequences”.

At COP15, the international community are to agree on a framework and targets seeking to halt the decline of global biodiversity over the following decade. 

The ECCC says that the government must ensure that the framework provides “a clear role for businesses in tackling biodiversity”, and that following the summit, the government must ensure that the environmental land management schemes (ELMS) “live up to expectations” as they are rolled out. 

Last week, the environment secretary told MPs “we need almost universal uptake” of ELMS from farmers and land managers to meet targets on water quality and biodiversity in the Environment Bill.

COP15 is due to take place in October this year in China, having already been delayed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, there have been persistent suggestions that it could be delayed yet again, with some reports that the summit may instead take place in the first half of 2022. COP15 organisers have been unable to confirm this to ENDS.