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Reflections on COP15

January 18, 2023 | Insights, News,

The biodiversity loss that is occurring around the world right now is unprecedented in human history. Researchers estimate that the current rate of species loss varies between 100 and 10,000 times the background extinction rate (which is roughly one to five species per year when the entire fossil record is considered). Biodiversity is a critical component of human, animal, and planet well-being, and has historically been left out of the climate conversation. COP15 helped change that.

The conference was held in Montreal from the 7th to the 19th of December. There had not been a large-scale meeting on nature for several years due to the pandemic, making COP15 a particularly important opportunity to bring the best of the best together to secure the future of our planetary life support system. This was my first COP. I was excited to be entering a space where key world leaders would hopefully decide on a suitable action plan for how to address biodiversity loss moving forward. At the end of the conference, my hopes were partially met; I left Montreal feeling simultaneously informed, invigorated, impressed, impatient, and somewhat irritated.


Informed & Invigorated

There’s just such a buzz at an event of this nature! It’s exciting to see how business is leading on biodiversity – financial institutions, pharma companies, consumer goods companies, construction materials companies, food & beverage companies…the list is endless. Firms are voluntarily setting biodiversity targets, working in tandem with the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) and the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN), and effectively flying the plane while it’s still under construction. They recognize the urgency of the situation, that proactivity is key, and that doing something through the lens of compliance is not what true sustainability is about. I learned so much from many of these businesses, civil society organization, and NGOs on the work they are currently doing, and similarly got to experience many indigenous peoples and local communities partake in important decision-making processes that respect not only their rights over lands, territories, and resources, but as importantly, their deep, generations-based knowledge of how to work with Nature sympathetically.


I am impressed with the passion of the people that I met, particularly with the youth contingent at COP15, several of whom I chatted with at length at the Eat4Change dinner. I felt privileged to be part of this evening- a thoughtfully curated menu, consisting of seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, prepared by wonderful chefs, that started with a blessing from a tribal elder. It was a fitting end to the official COP15 Food Day on 14 December – grounding us all in the value and importance of good food systems. The youth are our leaders of the not-too-distant future. We need their energy and can-do attitude to drive change now. Thank you to WBCSD, WWF, WEF and others for arranging this.



Biodiversity loss is a real crisis happening in real time. These losses will not simply be solved, or reversed, if we deliver on the promise of the 2016 Paris Agreement. Biodiversity loss has its own drivers and needs its own solutions. All that said, we absolutely must connect the dots between climate change and biodiversity loss and the twin impacts that they have on human health and wellbeing as well as on plants and animals. Time is running out; if we do not act now, 8% of mammals will lose half their habitat with +2C in warming.



The biggest source of my irritation: we need politicians to put the planet first, and put self-interest in a box, on a top shelf, and leave it there. The Paris Agreement of 2016 was a good start, but ultimately failed on its goals; a report from UN Climate Change states that the climate pledges of 193 parties under the Paris Agreement could increase warming by 1.5C by the end of the century, not limit it to 1.5C as originally intended. COP15 was a chance for policymakers, governments, and lay people to come together to finally advocate for biodiversity as a pertinent climate change topic. After two weeks of discussion, the conference ended with almost 200 nations signing the ambitious Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. The historic framework includes the 30×30 target – calling for 30% of land and ocean to be protected by 2030 – along with other goals to finance biodiversity conservation, work on restoration, and reduce the use of pesticides.

Despite this major win for biodiversity, the United States is notable by its absence from the signatories, being s one of two countries, (the second being the Vatican), to not sign the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Although President Biden committed the US to the 30×30 goal in 2021, the full commitment that being a signatory brings is missing. We need the US to set a precedent for other countries, and show commitment to halting, and ultimately reversing, biodiversity loss, and linking it with climate change.

My overall takeaway from COP15 is one of gratitude. Thank you to those who argued, hustled, lobbied, and fought even, to get an agreement together on how to share resources and information, and how to use financial systems to ensure the effective protection and enhancement of nature. Now, let’s go fulfill those goals!

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