COP15: Major biodiversity summit to be delayed again to 2022, negotiators told

A COP15 co-chair has told negotiators to expect the biodiversity summit to take place in May 2022, as green groups warn the UK government not to use the delay as an “excuse for inaction” at home.

COP15 is set for a third delay to 2022, negotiators have been told. Photograph: Francesco Riccardo Iacomino / Getty Images COP15 is set for a third delay to 2022, negotiators have been told. Photograph: Francesco Riccardo Iacomino / Getty Images

In a briefing last week COP15 co-chair Basile van Havre presented stakeholders with a new timetable showing there are now likely to be two parts to the international summit, with main negotiations set to take place in May 2022. 

A source close to proceedings told ENDS that there is likely to be a high-level opening session for ministers in October which may produce a declaration of some kind, leaving the bulk of discussions to May.

Referencing the preliminary session, van Havre was clear that “this [will not be] a negotiation”, adding “let’s try to see how we progress”. 

Van Havre also said that he is working with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Bureau on a face-to-face session for the early part of 2022, likely to be an additional negotiation in January in Geneva, Switzerland.

He told negotiators that the delay would allow them to do more work on the framework, particularly around funding.

COP15 was due to be held this October in Kunming, China, having already been delayed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ENDS has been told it is unclear as yet whether or not COP15 will still be held in Kunming in May 2022, with public health concerns the key driver for delaying the summit. 

Despite van Havre’s comments, COP15 officials were unable to confirm the delay, but said they expect to make an announcement in the coming days. 

COP15 is to be the biggest biodiversity summit in a decade, with hopes to reach a Paris-style agreement on preventing wildlife extinctions and the human-driven destruction of the planet’s ecosystems.

On hearing the news, Baroness Parminter, chair of the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee, said that “given the urgency to tackle this situation a delay would be very concerning". The committee called on the government just this week to step up efforts to protect nature ahead of the summit, which they say is set to under-deliver.

Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of the conservation coalition Wildlife and Countryside Link, also urged ministers to make use of the delay: “If the government uses this time well and adds a strong ‘state of nature’ target to the Environment Bill, it can take to the negotiating table the world’s first legal target to halt the decline of species”.

He added that this could help clinch the global ambition and accountability needed to make COP15 a success.

“'Super 2020' slipped to 'Super 2021'”, Benwell continued, “and now it looks like we’ll have to wait for 2022 for global leaders to agree their ambitions for nature”.

“Will it be super? Well, that’s in the balance. The critical goal of halting and beginning to reverse the decline of wildlife by 2030 still needs to be pinned down”, he added.

Georgina Chandler, senior international policy officer at the RSPB warned that “just because negotiation is delayed again, that doesn’t mean that biodiversity loss is being delayed”. 

“This shouldn’t be used as an excuse for inaction”, she said, adding that there was still a lot of work to be done on resource mobilisation ahead of the summit.