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CEO Statement: Unlikely confluence of UN climate and biodiversity conferences brings nature to the fore like never before

Momentum is everything and what happens in Sharm will also have implications for next month's UN Biodiversity CBD-COP15, says CEO Jennifer Morris

Reef and fish with sunset, Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt
Coral Reef in Egypt Reef and fish with sunset, Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. © Y.M. Michael Fung/TNC Photo Contest 2018

From November 6-20, 2022, negotiators from around the world will be in Egypt for the next round of United Nations climate negotiations – COP27.

This represents the first time since Marrakech (2016) that a climate COP has been hosted on the continent least responsible for historic greenhouse gas emissions, but most vulnerable to the resulting effects. Expect calls from emerging nations for increased finance for climate adaptation to feature high on the agenda in Sharm, as these countries seek to build resilience.

And, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, UN Biodiversity Conference CBD-COP15 – originally due to be hosted in Kunming, China, in 2020 – will now take place in December in Montreal. Here, the focus will be on securing approval for the much-delayed Global Biodiversity Framework – humanity’s shared roadmap to slow and reverse the accelerating collapse of Earth’s ecosystems and move towards a nature-positive world by 2030.

The climate and biodiversity crises are fundamentally interconnected; momentum is everything and what happens in Sharm El Sheikh will also have implications for the outcomes in Montreal. 

Commenting on the opportunities and challenges presented by this rare confluence of UN environment COPs, The Nature Conservancy’s CEO Jennifer Morris said:

“As we head into another season of global policy conferences, this year feels different. The recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act puts the U.S. back in the game. Its historic investment in clean energy and climate solutions helps move the world’s second-highest annual carbon emitter within reach of its international commitments. We also expect to see a much-needed focus on delivery and implementation of previous pledges and promises, which has been sorely missing from recent COPs.

“The urgency of the moment has never been more acute. From Pacific islanders losing their homes to rising sea levels, and Indigenous communities watching their forests burn, to Floridians rebuilding after another supercharged hurricane, as well as floods in Pakistan and Nigeria - we see vulnerable communities suffering and nature in retreat. Never has the depth of our shared dependence on a stable environment been clearer. And never has it been more vital to call for follow-through on pledges to protect our climate and arrest the biodiversity emergency. We must push for durable financial solutions and ambitious action that reaches across geographies, cultures, generations, and political divides.

“Despite the urgent threats we face, there is good news. Last year in Glasgow, there was a powerful depth of consensus behind nature-based solutions like reforestation, wetland restoration, and mangrove recovery as cornerstones of our collective response to the climate crisis. We have clearly established that nature is one of the most powerful tools in our toolbox to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience – now we need to move swiftly if we want to leverage this momentum.

“With UN Climate Change COP27 and UN Biodiversity COP15 happening in such quick succession, these next few months present a golden opportunity to address these intertwined crises together and put real action in place.

“At TNC, the momentum we want to see is around people, partnerships, and progress. It is critical that countries quickly meet the overdue pledge for $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020. Moreover, to make real progress, negotiators need to start planning sooner rather than later for a significantly higher sum from their next pledge, rather than waiting for 2025. We don’t have time to waste.  The longer we delay, the more it will cost – in terms of climate finance and trust between countries and, most importantly, impacts on vulnerable people.

“Funding also needs to be responsive.  As we seek to define the path forward for adaptation, mitigation and how to address loss and damage, we need to lean on nature-based solutions, which we know can deliver over 30% of the emissions reductions required by 2030 as well as building natural resilience to climate impacts.  We welcome the commitments from leading donor countries to align 30% of their climate finance for nature-based solutions and call on all donors to follow suit in order to optimize both climate and nature outcomes. We need to revamp the way the bilateral and multilateral development banks work and do a much better job of leveraging private capital for climate action.

“This rare confluence of climate and biodiversity COPs presents us with an opportunity to put aside our day-to-day differences and achieve collective progress on challenges that, left unchecked, have the potential to affect all life on our planet over the coming decades. Let’s not miss this chance.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories—37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners—we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.