CEnv Blog | COP15: reflections and call to action
Insights from Claire Wansbury CEnv and Jenny Merriman CEnv
Photo credit: Jenny Merriman CEnv
COP15 in summary
Prior to taking place earlier this month, the UNDP described the UN Biodiversity summit as “the most significant conference on biodiversity in a decade”.
But what was ultimately achieved at the summit? We asked two leading Chartered Environmentalists working to protect biodiversity day in, day out, for their reflections and calls to action.
Jenny Merriman CEnv
Technical Director – Natural Capital and Biodiversity, WSP UK:
It was an intense couple of weeks in Montreal at CBD COP15. The experience was both exhilarating and exhausting. It was fantastic to see significant engagement from the private sector, youth leaders and local indigenous groups. A global yet local issue like biodiversity loss needs this diverse range of stakeholders to address it adequately and fairly. Discussions were rich, and the final language in the targets reflects the importance of all stakeholders in how to go about meeting the overall vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050.
Financial institutions were especially visible and supportive of the GBF being ambitious on redirecting financing. The topic of resource mobilisation was especially relevant as many examples of private finance and blended models of funding were presented in side events throughout the weeks – demonstrating that shifting financial flows towards nature positive outcomes is already happening and can be scaled up with the right governance and frameworks behind it. The reflection of this in the GBF has been a key achievement of the COP and will help to mobilise more investment from this sector – providing a necessary means of implementing the overall goals.
Ultimately, the success of the GBF will be judged on how we meet the 23 targets to 2030. This requires concerted effort to act now – to change business as usual and ensure that appropriate measurement and monitoring systems are embedded across all sectors. Above all, we need be inclusive and collaborative in the approach to halting and reversing biodiversity loss, putting nature on the path to recovery within the next 8 years.
Claire Wansbury CEnv
Atkins Fellow and Technical Director, Ecology: Infrastructure:
As Atkins is a member of SNC Lavalin, being in Montreal meant COP15 was on our corporate doorstep. That meant we could support the global call for action through a blended approach with minimal carbon footprint. Some of us were online observers while Montreal-based colleagues attended in person.
The creation of the Global Biodiversity Framework is hugely significant. However, we need to remember that this agreement is a step towards a nature-positive future, not an end in itself. For me, the key question is what do businesses need to do to be part of the solution? To my mind, there are three key things: we need to learn, we need to speak out, and we need to act.
We need to understand our impacts and dependencies on nature. We also need to upskill everyone. Its important to have specialist experts but we need nature literacy across all decision-makers and throughout workforces.
The collective voice of business can become an advocate for biodiversity.
Protecting and restoring biodiversity is good business sense. Messages like this coming from the UN and high profile organisations like WWF are powerful, but the power of that message is only truly unleashed when it also comes from the business community. This has been one of the most encouraging things for me about COP15 – seeing businesses who could view regulation as a burden calling for governments to do more.
For example we added our voice by signing the Business for Nature business statement to COP15. This statement by over 350 business leaders calls on governments to – (1) make disclosure on nature mandatory; (2) eliminate harmful subsidies, and (3) adopt a mission to halt and reverse nature loss. We also sponsored the World Biodiversity Summit, a one day cross sector event alongside COP15.
How we need to act depends on the company. Across SNCL our positive contributions need to come through the support and advice we give our clients, as well as our own corporate actions. We are looking to be part of more and more nature positive projects and initiatives and also promote exemplars others can learn from. We created a global document for COP15, sharing aspirations and case studies from our partners and clients. Titled ‘Engineering a nature-positive future’, you can access the document here.
We also need to act at all scales. Scaling up is vital. At the other end of the scale, while COP15 was happening three of my colleagues were in a school next to our office helping plant bulbs to flower next spring, to feed pollinators while also feeding the kids’ imaginations, and maybe sowing the seeds of the next generation of biodiversity leaders.