UN Biodiversity Summit Delayed Until Spring 2022 as Climate Deadlines Rapidly Approach

UN Biodiversity Summit delayed

The United Nations COP15 biodiversity summit has been delayed once again, this time until 2022. The Chinese ministry of ecology and environment confirmed that the event, planned to be held in Kunming, China will be held in two phases split between fall 2021 and spring 2022. Environmental and biodiversity advocates say that although the world is running out of time to stop biodiversity loss and global temperature rise, they won't quit working in the meantime. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this decision "inevitable."

Why This Matters

The world is currently experiencing what some scientists (including a UN Panel of experts) believe may be a mass extinction event -- one million species are now threatened with extinction. Environmental advocates say that one of the fastest and most effective routes to halting rapid biodiversity loss is to protect 30% of all lands and waters by 2030, which President Biden has pledged to achieve. In July, UN negotiators released a set of draft goals intended to propel member nations toward the 30×30 goal and include targets like reducing pesticide use, curbing plastic pollution, and providing annual funding for conservation in developing countries. Now implementing those goals is delayed, and according to the recent IPCC report, the world has no time to waste.

UN: A major new UN climate report issues a code red for humanity, August 10, 2021.

Center for Western Priorities: Why America must protect 30x30 (w/ Sen. Tom Udall, Dr. Enric Sala), June 18, 2020.

Greenpeace: Wasteminster - A Downing Street Disaster, May 17, 2021.

Pandemic Delays

The conference has already been delayed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, instead of entirely postponing this time -- the conference will be split into two phases. The first will be largely procedural, taking place as initially planned in October, with most attendance being virtual. The second phase will be from April 25 to May 8, 2022, and attendees will negotiate targets in person for the global biodiversity framework to be drafted in July.

Stakeholders are disappointed in the delay but say that the decision was in the best interest of public health as Delta variant cases continue to rise. "Given the urgency of the biodiversity crisis, the decision to delay talks is not ideal. But in light of the global pandemic and the need for face-to-face negotiations, it is an inevitable choice," said Li Shuo, a policy adviser for Greenpeace China. "Today's decision does not mean a negotiation holiday."

Shuo is calling on the Chinese government to rise to the challenge of ensuring a successful COP15 conference. Meanwhile, UK environmental groups hope their government will do the same at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow this November. "Our leaders must take this opportunity for the UK to live up to our ambition to show global leadership on the environment," said Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. "This will send a powerful message to the international community that our words are being backed by urgent action to revive our world with clear, legally binding targets to halt and reverse the wildlife decline in the UK by 2030."

National Geographic Society: The Campaign For Nature - A New Vision for Nature, November 4, 2020.

UN: How nature can protect us from pandemics, April 23, 2020.