100 nations back global declaration on ‘ecological civilisation’

Today’s Kunming Declaration on Biodiversity has been welcomed as a clear demonstration of political intent to tackle global biodiversity loss and the catastrophic failure to meet previous commitments.

The agreement, formally titled ‘Ecological Civilization: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth’, was reached following the high-level segment of the COP15 UN biodiversity talks in the Chinese city earlier this week, held online and offline. The Chinese government said that it had received more than 100 signatures, indicating that it was signed by half of the 196 parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office confirmed that the UK was among them.

The second part of COP15 will be held physically next year, where hopes are that the declaration will inform the establishment of binding commitments, set out in draft earlier this year.

The paper “highlights that #biodiversity is moving towards the centre of policy making around the world. The Kunming Declaration is a concise expression of this political momentum,” said CBD executive secretary Elizabeth Mrema after the talks.

While it notes that many countries have called for 30% of land and seas to receive protected status by 2030, it does not explicitly back the proposals, seen as too much by some states – thought to include China itself.

In a preamble, the text recognises that progress on biodiversity has been made over the last decade, but the signatories are “deeply concerned that such progress has been insufficient to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets”, which were agreed in 2010. It says that the main drivers of this failure have been land use change, overexploitation, climate change, pollution and the growth of invasive alien species.

In response, the declaration’s signatories commit to, “ensure the development, adoption and implementation of an effective post-2020 global biodiversity framework… to reverse the current loss of biodiversity and ensure that biodiversity is put on a path to recovery by 2030 at the latest.” It also mentions the ‘mainstreaming’ of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity into political decision-making and economic accounting – a seeming reference to natural capital and the UK Dasgupta report on the economics of biodiversity.

For its own part, Chinese vice premier said the country would develop a national conservation strategy and promote the integration of biodiversity into economic and social development, during the meeting’s opening ceremony on Monday.

EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius welcomed the commitment “as a good starting point towards the ambitious and transformative post-2020 global biodiversity framework that we need to achieve” in the second round of talks next year. “Our work continues!” he added.

Lin Li, director of global policy and advocacy at WWF International, said: “The Kunming Declaration is a show of political will and adds much-needed momentum by clearly signalling the direction of travel to address biodiversity loss.

“The world is waking up to the fact that the nature crisis is as serious as the climate crisis, but unfortunately this is not happening fast enough. Biodiversity loss is threatening human health and livelihoods, and increasing the risk of the next pandemic, yet leaders’ pledges are yet to be translated into ambition in the negotiation room. Now is the time to step up,” she added.