I joined many conservationists last week in cheering loudly when the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) finally announced that COP15 – the global biodiversity summit – will go ahead in Montreal (Canada) from 5 – 17 December 2022.
The previous location of Kunming (China) had experienced two years of setbacks and there were even doubts whether the vital conference would take place in 2022.
COP15 seeks to secure the commitment of 196 countries (Parties to the CBD) to ratify the proposed Global Biodiversity Framework and adopt its nature protection goals. Effective implementation will require the efforts of global governments, businesses and all sectors of society to reduce and reverse environmental damage if the ambitious 2030 and 2050 targets are to be met – to halt biodiversity loss and restore nature.
The Good news is that confirmation of the COP15 dates will help to focus minds during the current negotiations. The additional time between now and December can be used to mobilise the high-level commitment required to avert a cataclysmic loss of biodiversity. We are already experiencing the Sixth Mass Extinction, with the rate of extinction of plant and animal species at least 1,000 times faster than would be expected without human influence. Time is of the essence, but we do still have a chance to lessen the decline and prevent ecosystem collapse. Failure to do so will threaten our wellbeing, prosperity and survival. The urgency must surely spur action.
ANIMONDIAL is proactively focused on supporting the travel and tourism sector. Our Services provide guidance for businesses that wish to adopt a Nature Positive approach, including capacity-building training, a directory of nature-friendly project partners, and an evaluation tool, in development, to identify dependency and impact on nature.
As with all industries, travel and tourism is implicated in driving biodiversity loss. However, unlike many other sectors, it has a unique opportunity to become a significant influencer for transitional change. I would go so far as to say that nature-aware travel and tourism, that values nature through all its offerings across destinations, could be a vital part of the solution to this biological crisis. This was a conclusion in our upcoming publication, Towards a Nature Positive Travel & Tourism, produced by ANIMONDIAL and the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The Bad news is that the content of the Global Biodiversity Framework has yet to be agreed by all Parties. While the pre-COP15 negotiations in Geneva and Nairobi have refined the targets, specifically those related to conservation and sustainable use, progress in other areas is reportedly slow and lacks ambition. Issues over money for protecting biodiversity, proposals to protect 30% of land and sea, and concerns over the stealing and commercialising of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources (biopiracy) have hindered an advance. Civil society is reportedly “appalled” at the lack of progress following the emergency meeting in Nairobi last week, calling on countries to “step up [and] show the leadership that this moment requires, and act urgently to find compromise and solutions.” It is hoped that governments will take the opportunity between now and December to overcome their differences and commit to ambitious actions to halt biodiversity loss and ensure stronger protections for life on land and in the sea.
The Ugly matter of benefit-sharing and biopiracy continues to divide ‘Developed Countries’ and ‘Developing Countries’. In fact, it threatens to derail the global agreement. Countries, including Brazil, India and Gabon, are demanding payment for drug discoveries and other commercial products based on their biodiversity. Meanwhile, additional demands on richer countries to pay £80bn in biodiversity finance to help subsidise conservation efforts, are causing further divides – similar to those currently hampering negotiations for the next climate change conference (COP27) scheduled for this November in Egypt.
There is a desperate need to overcome this impasse for the Global Biodiversity Framework to be ratified and biodiversity protections applied. Focused discussions and creative solutions will be needed to find common ground and move the process forward.
Travel and tourism, and the huge revenues generated through nature-based tourism, could well provide a solution. Not only does tourism underpin national and local economies, but job creation and community empowerment bring heightened value to nature, encouraging positive attitudes towards its protection. When structured well, our industry can help to provide income and development opportunities to fairly compensate lower-income countries for protecting their biodiversity. Often the most biodiverse locations on Earth, the low-income countries also help sustain travel and tourism and its revenues.
The increased international attention on commercial impacts on nature will present travel and tourism with an opportunity to demonstrate its potential for positive contributions and to play a leading role in building a global Nature Positive future.