COP15: ‘Significant part’ of increased UK climate funding to go towards biodiversity

The UK government will direct a “significant part of its increased climate funding” towards tackling the biodiversity crisis, it has been announced following the conclusion of this week’s UN biodiversity talks.

The executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) - COP15 - also said today in the closing press conference that the UK has announced it will provide additional support to the on-going negotiation process. 

Yesterday, international environment minister Lord Goldsmith hinted that COP26 will deliver billions for nature, but it is unclear if this and the COP15 funding announcement are linked. When asked, a spokesperson for DEFRA said that more details would come “in due course”.

READ MORE: Biodiversity COP: 6 things you need to know

This week’s talks have been largely high-level, with the majority of COP15 negotiations delayed to May 2022, when China will host the in-person conference. Between this week’s talks and next year’s negotiations, world leaders will decide on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, which will lay out the plan to reverse the decline of biodiversity around the world, and the targets each country will need to meet by 2030. 

As part of talks, 100 leaders signed the Kunming declaration on ‘ecological civilisation’, which the CBD said “gives clear political direction” for the negotiations to come next year.

“We achieved more than expected”, said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the CBD executive secretary, adding: “Of course, a lot has been said. Those are words. And a lot has been written - even the Kunming Declaration is a document. So we are looking forward to seeing the translation of what is written in these various documents...into real action on the ground”. 

Over the course of the week, some governments made specific commitments, such as China’s announcement of a 1.5 billion-yuan (c.£170 million) Kunming Biodiversity Fund, and France’s commitment to direct 30% of climate funds towards biodiversity. The European Union also announced it will double external funding for biodiversity. 

However, in her closing remarks, Maruma Mrema cautioned that governments must “press ahead” on a few outstanding areas, particularly on the issue of implementing the post-2020 global framework.

“We must create a mechanism that ensures that we stay on track to achieve our targets and goals, in order to meet our 2050 vision of living in harmony with nature”, she told the press conference.

The issue of implementation is one that hangs over the biodiversity conference - the world’s failure to meet any of the previous biodiversity targets decided on in Aichi in 2010 is often attributed to there having been no robust way to hold nations to account on them.

According to official estimates, the UK failed 14 out of 20 Aichi targets, but RSPB analysis indicates that in fact the government may have failed on 17. The government said it had achieved the target to protect 17% of land and in-land water for nature - however this claim has been challenged by conservation groups, and recent research into how the government defined ‘protected areas’ has also cast doubt on whether the UK really met this target.