COP27, which was about climate, is now done. In case you were starting to miss it, COP15 is now underway, complete with UN Apocalypse-Now-General António Guterres telling delegates “Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction”. Hey kids. Great to see you all here. Though better if you were dead, you know. No, it’s not time travel. And no, this one is not in Egypt, it’s in Montreal. It’s the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Conference on Biological Diversity. The 15th such. With Canada as host and Communist China holding the presidency. So Canada’s always-modest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau grabbed the rather dim limelight by promising to throw $350 million of other peoples’ money at developing countries with the usual careful controls on its use. As in none at all.
“Canada welcomes the world for COP15 to protect nature” Trudeau burbled, borrowing prose from the world-non-famous “Young Canada” school of poetry:
“From the red sand beaches of Prince Edward Island in the Atlantic, to the snow-capped Rockies in the West, to the permafrost that covers much of the Canadian Arctic – Canada is known for our landscapes. Nature is part of who we are as Canadians”.
And in case $350 million isn’t enough, what the heck, there’s much more where it came from:
“This funding will support the implementation of the future GBF. This is in addition to the more than $1 billion Canada has already pledged to support climate action projects that address the effects of climate change on biodiversity loss in developing countries.”
Oh, that “future GBF”? See:
“In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister highlighted Canada’s commitment to ensuring COP15 is a success by working with international partners to reach an agreement on an ambitious Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). The GBF would provide a collective roadmap that will guide worldwide efforts on biodiversity conservation until 2030.”
As for “the world”, no other world leaders are there. Perhaps because neither Canada nor China invited them. Canada’s National Observer laments that fact, saying “World leaders need to be at COP15” because “We know when leaders turn up, negotiators get serious and there is more scrutiny over the deal. We wouldn’t have gotten so far on climate without the deliberate choice to involve world leaders.” Which isn’t as encouraging as they think.
Nature agreed, editorializing that “World leaders must step up to put biodiversity deal on path to success”. As for the Guardian, it was doing the postmodern thing of imagining the summit it wanted not the one it had: “Cop15: ‘World leaders might have to invite themselves’ to summit”.
Vox meanwhile upped the ante, hyperventilating that:
“One of the most important events for life on Earth, ever, is now underway. This week and next, delegates from more than 190 countries will come together in Montreal, Canada, for a conference known as COP15, or the UN Biodiversity Conference, to hash out a plan to halt the decline of ecosystems, wildlife, and the life-supporting services they provide.”
So, one of the most important events for life on Earth, ever, gets started and world leaders weren’t invited. Trudeau was there, of course, having nothing better to do, or if he has, he doesn’t realize it. High-minded speeches with high price tags are his thing, not governance. (For instance our newest naval vessel that showed up two years late is already um busted for some reason and the warranty has expired and, irony of ironies, this purpose-built Arctic patrol vessel will be in repair until winter ends. Not much of a photo op there.) But back to biodiversity.
Of course it’s important. And yes, it’s under siege. Not least because when people are poor they put their own survival ahead even of some iconic rhinoceros let alone a frog. And people like Trudeau, who of course already dragged climate change on stage at COP15, are determined to mire much of the world in energy poverty and hope it works out better this time than it ever did before.
We do applaud his determination to protect much of Canada’s enormous and frankly largely empty natural beauty. But it’s pretty easy to do when you’re the 2nd-largest country in the world, and rich, and have only 40 million people, though the powers that be are determined rapidly to increase that number and hope it works out for nature, and the housing market.
As usual its going to be all benefits and no costs. According to Reuters “Sustainable Switch,” this nonexistent deal “could lead to protections of almost a third of the world’s land and oceans by 2030 and more sustainable agricultural systems, forestry and fisheries, Gavin Edwards, director of World Wildlife Fund International, said on the sidelines of the debates.” And we could win the lottery.
The New York Times “Climate Forward” is equally grandiose. They claim that:
“World leaders are not yet done negotiating the future of the planet this year. Another crucial environmental meeting is about to start, and there is hope that the world could agree on an official plan to protect nature. A big question: Can the planet’s biggest predator save what’s left of our struggling ecosystems? The challenge is immense…. The decline is mainly a result of humans taking too much of planet from them, and climate change will profoundly worsen the crisis, too. At this week’s U.N. meeting in Montreal, known as COP15, leaders will have an opportunity to change this path, by setting goals for each country to work toward through the next decade and beyond. Targets could be expanding protected areas, getting rid of subsidies to industries that harm nature or agreeing on funding strategies for conservation.”
It is quite something that environmental reporters who weren’t even born when the climate COP meetings started, and who have grown up watching them fail time after time, can summon the energy to praise a similar process for biodiversity. Trudeau has of course brought all his boutique enthusiasms:
“At COP15, Canada’s pavilion will showcase Canadian action and leadership on biodiversity conservation, promote partnerships and ambitious action, and amplify the voices of Indigenous Peoples, women, and youth. An Indigenous village will showcase the vital role of Indigenous Peoples as stewards of the land and offer a gathering space for Indigenous participants at the conference.”
Great. All we need to do is export aboriginals and… um… what was that about again?
As for Reuters, it too winds up with exactly the wrong kind of enthusiasm:
“Business leaders have responded to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change with pledges to limit companies’ climate-warming emissions through measures such as switching to renewable energy sources. But while many companies say they are also considering biodiversity in their investments, fewer than half of the 7,700 surveyed by environmental disclosure platform CDP have taken fresh action on it in the past year.”
When it comes to those pledges on climate, well, search ‘greenwashing’ elsewhere on this site. And Nature also waxes weirdly enthusiastic about past failed climate deals, saying “Now biodiversity is hoping for its Paris moment.” But at least the biodiversity crisis is real and there are things we could do starting with turning your lawn from chemical monoculture to a habitat. Whereas climate change is a phantom, just like the giant international conference where Justin Trudeau saves the world.
If governments want to protect biodiversity, there’s nothing to stop them from acting in accordance with whatever inherent capacities they have. And if they’re not competent, it’s one more problem with a domestic solution or none at all.