Biodiversity COP15: Where, when, and what’s at stake?

The major United Nations biodiversity summit will no longer take place in China this summer, following years of delay. Here’s everything you need to know about the latest on COP15.

Pair of gannets Photograph: Catherine Clark/Getty Images

New location, new dates

The United Nations’ Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) announced today that the major global biodiversity summit, COP15, will now take place in Montreal, Canada, instead of Kunming, China. The conference will take place 5th - 17th December 2022, as opposed to this summer.

The change of date constitutes the fifth delay to the conference, which was initially set to take place in 2020. 

Despite the change of location, China will retain the COP presidency, and will work with Canadian officials to bring the summit together.

Final preliminary talks are taking place in Nairobi this week 

This week, officials from across the world are meeting ahead of COP15 to thrash out what commitments and targets will make it to the final summit negotiations in December. These follow previous negotiations in Geneva, in March, which were reported to have moved “at a snail’s pace”, with agreements on finance proving a particular roadblock.

Commenting, Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said it was “mind-boggling that governments have so far failed to reach common ground on an ambitious global biodiversity plan with all the ingredients necessary to secure a nature-positive world by 2030”. 

“This week’s negotiations in Nairobi will reveal whether governments are truly serious about tackling the nature crisis,” he said, adding that “we cannot afford another missed opportunity or a drawn out process - sticking points such as action to tackle unsustainable agriculture, and the mobilisation of funding must be addressed head-on.” 

It’s not certain that Boris Johnson will attend 

At a joint Lords and Commons committee on Monday 20 June, international environment minister,  Lord Goldsmith, was asked if the prime minister would attend the summit, to which he replied that he could not “answer that directly”, due to the logistics of the conference being “in flux”. 

Environment minister, George Eustice, who also attended the committee hearing added that it was “likely” that he or the prime minister would “play a role”, but that it was “too early to make commitments on those diary points”.  

Speaking more broadly about the UK’s ambitions for COP15, Eustice said that the government was looking for much more “granular and specific targets” to build on the Aichi targets that were agreed by nations in 2010 - but which the world failed to meet

The UK is set to coordinate a ‘High Ambition Statement’ in talks this week 

The UK-led statement, supported by 46 other high ambition countries, will call for the halting and reversal of biodiversity loss globally, and the adoption of the ‘30by30’ target to protect at least 30% of land and ocean by 2030, according to DEFRA. 

In partnership with other nations, the UK’s High Ambition Statement will also seek to prioritise the increase of finance flow to “eliminate incentives for harmful activities”, and build capacity amongst the international community on technical and scientific knowledge. It will also prioritise generating an outcome on the digital representation of genetic resources, referred to in the negotiations as Digital Sequence Information (DSI).

Commenting yesterday to the joint committee, Goldsmith said that the UK would have a particular role to play in securing a direct finance commitment from nations at COP15, because of the networks built up ahead of COP26 last year. 

Ahead of the climate summit, the UK was seeking a commitment of £100bn on climate finance. Goldsmith said that there would need to be a number “of that sort” going into the biodiversity talks in December, but that “there is not yet a consensus on what that number looks like”. 

Solving the climate and nature crises must be a joined up strategy, say scientists

180 scientists have written to Goldsmith calling for the UK government to seek a global goal to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 against a baseline of 2020. 

The scientists, from over 60 universities and research bodies, are presenting the letter today, which also calls for the UK to strengthen its own commitment to protecting biodiversity, including the enactment of the Climate and Ecology Bill which is currently in Parliament. 

One signatory, Dr Nathalie Pettorelli from the Zoological Society of London, said: “We need COP15 to result in ambitious, strong targets for biodiversity, backed by clear metrics and accountability; and we need those targets to be integrated into national government policy. 

“The Climate and Ecology Bill, which I support, is all about simultaneously addressing climate and biodiversity concerns, while pushing for the country to become nature positive by 2030. We need to see alignment between the Climate and Ecology Bill’s aspirations and what the UK is pushing on the international stage, something I will be making the case for during the meeting today”.