After two tense weeks, world awaits COP15 plan to save Earth’s species

The clock is ticking in Montreal, Canada as representatives from over 190 countries wrap up two tense weeks of negotiations over a framework to reverse Earth’s extinction crisis. The United Nations meeting, known as COP15, is set to conclude Monday.

Clashes over how to finance the plan, among other obstacles, have led to uncertainties about the meeting’s prospects for success. However, yesterday COP15 president Huang Runqiu, China’s Minister of Ecology and Environment, announced he would release a text of the final framework on Sunday.

The convention’s timing couldn’t be more critical. Human activities such as deforestation, overfishing, and agriculture have driven an estimated one million species to the brink of extinction.

“It’s a really, really important meeting in which, in a way, the future of the planet is at stake,” said Patricia Balvanera, a professor at the Center for Ecosystem Research at the National University of Mexico.

COP15, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, centers around finalizing the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, an ambitious document designed to steer the world towards its 2050 vision of “living in harmony with nature.” The first draft contains 21 targets to be completed by 2030, which include protecting 30% of global land and oceans (the 30×30 initiative), restoring 3 billion hectares, and halting species extinctions. The framework would replace the failed Aichi targets set in 2010 and comes on the heels of the COP27 climate change conference that took place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt in November.

While the US has never ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity, the 1992 agreement on which COP15 and previous meetings are based, the US committed to a 30×30 target in 2021 and has sent representatives to Montreal.