The most important biodiversity conference in 10 years is about to kick off in China. It could change how Australia deals with our nature crisis. 

You’ve likely heard of COP26, the global climate negotiations due to be held in Glasgow this November — a year late (just like the 2020 Olympics and the Bieber World Tour) thanks to the COVID19 pandemic. 

But there’s another COP flying under the radar. It’s COP15, ‘the Nature COP’, and it's to be held over two stages, kicking off in October in Kunming, China, and concluding in April 2022. It’s the most important biodiversity conference in a decade. 

What is COP15?

COP15 is the ‘15th conference of the parties’, in this case the parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, or CBD. 

The CBD was established at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. It is the main international agreement for countries to collectively manage the diversity of life on earth. The 2050 vision of the CBD is for ‘a world living in harmony with nature’ (umm, yes please).

COP15, ‘the Nature COP’ is the most important biodiversity conference in a decade. 

The reason this year’s Nature COP is so important is because countries will sign off on a new Global Biodiversity Framework — a set of goals and targets for the next 10 years that countries will try to deliver together, for nature. 

Let’s call them the ‘Global Goals for Nature’.

Wet_tropics_(1).jpgWet tropics. Photo: Kerry Trapnell

Why do the Global Goals for Nature matter?

Nature underpins our lives, our health and our economy. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. The places we escape to. Our identity. 

But, in case you missed it, nature is in crisis. More than one million species are threatened with extinction around the world. Nature is being destroyed at a rate never seen in human history. 

Nature is being destroyed at a rate never seen in human history. 

According to the intergovernmental panel set up to provide objective scientific advice to governments (IPBES), about 75% of land-based environments and 66% of marine environments have been significantly altered by human actions, leading to a global environmental crisis.

Much of the destruction is connected to the global food system as more and more land is converted to raise livestock and grow commodity crops (much of it to feed livestock).

Few industries rely on nature more than farming — 75% of the crops we eat are pollinated by animals, like bees and butterflies.

To paraphrase Sir David Attenborough: humans and the livestock we farm to feed ourselves now make up 96% of the mass of all mammals on earth — all the kangaroos and wombats, tigers and elephants, mice and monkeys together only make up the remaining 4%.

To escape a crisis, it helps to set clear goals. The Paris Agreement goals, for example, are helping us develop pathways to reach ‘net zero emissions’ by 2050, which is needed to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees. 

Nature needs a ‘Paris moment’ — COP15 is an opportunity to lock in international and domestic commitments to do what nature needs in the next decade. 

Bees.jpgSouth Coast bees. Photo: Annette Ruzicka/MAPgroup 

Why Australia should back ambitious Global Goals for Nature

When it comes to nature, few countries have as much at stake as Australia. Our ancient landscapes and amazing array of wildlife are found nowhere else on earth. We have koalas and platypuses, and world-renowned places to relax and breathe.

But Australia is a global deforestation hotspot alongside places like the Amazon and Congo: 19 of our most important ecosystems from the Great Barrier Reef, to the Murray Darling River Basin, and the Australian Alps are collapsing. We also have one of the worst extinction records in the world. 

Our nature needs us — and all nations — to come up with some big goals to solve this crisis.

Luckily there’s a lot of science to tell us what nature needs. 

For starters, we need an overarching goal or mission to halt and reverse biodiversity destruction and set the world on a path to recovery so by 2030 nature is in better health than it is now* — AKA ‘nature positive’.

Alpine.jpgSnowy Mountains. Photo: Jen Watson

To achieve a ‘nature positive’ world will require a bunch of clear and measurable targets

  • End extinctions and recover threatened species
  • Restore ecosystems we’ve already degraded
  • Embed the value of nature in all government and business decision-making
  • Recognise First Nations rights and stewardship
  • Protect at least 30% of our land and our oceans
  • Do our fair share of what’s needed — commit to protecting at least 30% of our own diverse lands by 2030 as other nations have. 

Nature needs a ‘Paris moment’ — COP15 is an opportunity to lock in international and domestic commitments to do what nature needs.

The world is acting with urgency. Will Australia? 

Australia can be a leading contributor at the Nature COP. But it’s going to take a big step up. 

World leaders from more than 80 countries have endorsed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, committing their nations to work together and reverse biodiversity destruction by 2030, embed the value of nature in all decision-making, and recognise the crucial role of Indigenous knowledge as well as conventional science in the fight against our nature crisis and climate change.

Australia is not yet a part of the Leaders’ Pledge. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, should sign it too.

Reef.jpgGreat Barrier Reef. Photo: Tanya Puntti 

In June, all members of the G7, some of the world’s richest economies, signed a global compact for nature to reverse biodiversity loss, halve carbon emissions, and protect at least 30% of the land and 30% of the sea in their own countries to contribute to a global ‘30x30’ target.

While Australia supports the global 30x30 target, we haven't committed to protecting 30% of land at home. 

Th UK Prime Minister said: “Protecting our planet is the most important thing we as leaders can do for our people. There is a direct relationship between reducing emissions, restoring nature, creating jobs and ensuring long-term economic growth.”

The World Economic Forum lists biodiversity loss as the third greatest risk to humanity and the global economy, along with climate action failure, and extreme weather.

In response, thousands of global businesses have called for more ambition at this year’s COP15 and  global goals for nature to halt and reverse biodiversity destruction and set us on a path to a nature positive world. 

In 2012, just after the last set of global goals were written, Australia created what was then the largest network of marine protected areas in the world. We've show we can be a leader before. We can do it again. 

Australia has more at stake than most, and more to gain from a transition to a world living in harmony with nature. It’s time we were a leader.

Let's speak up now

Australia must work with other nations to deliver ambitious global goals for nature to halt and reverse biodiversity destruction and set us on a path to a nature-positive world. Add your voice to the petition to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Environment Minister Sussan Ley, asking them to support ambitious global goals for nature to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and achieve a Nature Positive world by 2030 — and invite your friends to raise their voice for nature too.


Header image: Pygmy possum. Photo: Annette Ruzicka/MAPgroup


Nathaniel Pelle

Business and Biodiversity Campaign Lead