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A hundred nations just signed a landmark biodiversity declaration—what does that mean for the climate?

The world has been holding its breath for some time, waiting for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity—postponed for over a year due to the global pandemic—to resume. Just this week, part one of the 15th Conference of Parties to the 1992 UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15), was held in Kunming, China.

The discussions during COP15 were anchored in the Convention on Biological Diversity, the first global agreement to cover all aspects of biological diversity, signed at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit by 150 world leaders (though notably not the United States). In Kunming this week, nations came together to discuss the development of a global biodiversity framework that will put the world on a path to recovery by 2030 at the latest. The result of this conference was the Kunming Declaration, where participant nations agreed to work together to develop, adopt and implement the framework, which can be found in draft form here.

The landmark post-2020 global biodiversity framework is due to be adopted at part two of the UN Biodiversity Conference in May 2022, following further negotiations in January 2022. The Kunming Declaration gives clear political directions for those negotiations.

At this week’s conference, several nations made important commitments—India vowed to mainstream biodiversity across all sectors, Japan extended the Japan Biodiversity Fund by 1.8 billion yen (about $17 million), the European Union doubled external funding for biodiversity, and Chinese President Xi Jinping invested 1.5 billion yuan (about $230 million) to establish the Kunming Biodiversity Fund in support of biodiversity conservation in the developing countries.

The new Kunming Declaration addresses the key elements needed for a successful post-2020 framework: biodiversity inclusion across all decision-making; phasing out harmful subsidies; strengthening the rule of law; and prioritizing meaningful participation of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Biodiversity is the tapestry that weaves the world together, but it continues to weaken under human pressures—and devastating consequences (like the COVID-19) pandemic emerge from the frayed edges of wild places where diversity has been stamped out. As Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Program, said, “what we do [at this convention] will be remembered. Because we can no longer rely on biodiversity to operate like clockwork and deliver what humanity needs to survive.”

As momentum begins building toward adopting the biodiversity framework in 2022, it is important to remember how tightly intertwined biodiversity is with climate—especially in the ocean, where Blue Carbon habitats can only successfully mediate the effects of climate change with diverse and intact ecosystems. The best way to ensure biodiversity conservation and its accompanying climate benefits is through fully and highly protected MPAs, such as the growing network of Blue Parks around the world. As the UN moves closer to adopting its new biodiversity framework, it will be more important than ever to ensure that conservation gestures are accompanied by true and lasting benefits to biodiversity. At sea, the quality of protected areas can be tracked on the Marine Protection Atlas, which is rooted in The MPA Guide Framework, designed specifically to measure biodiversity outcomes of different regulations and management practices in conserved ocean areas. Find your local ocean reserve and see how it stacks up, here!

There is much reason to be hopeful and also much work to be done, now that Convention on Biological Diversity conferences have resumed. The future of our blue planet hangs in the balance. As the details of the framework come into focus, in the words of David Brower, let us never compromise but “hold fast to what we believe is right, to fight for it.”