The official opening of the 15e World Biodiversity Conference (COP15), Monday October 11 in Kunming, China, appears to generate less interest than the climate COP26, which will kick off at the end of the month in Glasgow, Scotland. The stake is nonetheless no less important: the signatory States of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity must reach a new global agreement to halt the destruction of living things over the next decade, after the failure of the previous engagements.
But, in fact, the configuration between these two crucial meetings is different: due to the health crisis caused by Covid-19, which has already led to several postponements of COP15, it will ultimately be held in two time. The first sequence, from Monday to Friday, will be mainly formal and virtual, but will still see Beijing officially take the presidency of the conference. Around 1,500 people are expected to be present in Kunming, including very few foreigners – mainly diplomats or representatives of organizations based in China. The actual negotiations, which should lead to the adoption of the new global framework, will take place face-to-face during a second phase, scheduled for spring 2022.
“Although this first part is largely formal, this must be the moment when world leaders will begin to display their ambitions in terms of objectives, funding and actions for the next decade”, hopes Morgan Gillepsy, director of the “Food and Land Use” program at the World Resources Institute, an American think tank specializing in environmental issues. “This week’s meeting is the starting point for the home stretch, adds Georgina Chandler, head of international policy at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, UK. We still have many hurdles to overcome, which we urgently need to overcome if we are to achieve an ambitious framework in six months. “
“China carries very few things”
After the opening on Monday, a virtual summit bringing together heads of state and government as well as ministers from a hundred countries is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Chinese President Xi Jinping could take the floor on this occasion. “It will be necessary to monitor whether it announces new things on the protection of biodiversity at the national level, on the crucial issues of COP15 or on the climate front before COP26”, explains Li Shuo, environmental policy specialist at Greenpeace China. “Beijing will put some cards on the table, hoping that this will generate momentum at the global level but also at the national level”, also said Dimitri de Boer, the representative in China of Client Earth, an organization specializing in environmental law which advises the authorities.
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