The past few months have seen some significant progress in preserving biodiversity. Notably, COP15 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) and COP19 of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) were successes, the United States banned deadly driftnets.
In mid-November, COP15 of the UNCBD culminated with a landmark agreement to guide global action on nature through 2030. The present parties adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which aims to address biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems, protect indigenous rights, and a lot more. This agreement’s four main goals are to halt the human-induced extinction of threatened species, to increase the sustainable use and management of biodiversity, to increase the fair sharing of the benefits from the utilization of genetic resources, and to ensure that all nations, especially developing nations, can implement this framework effectively. The plan includes concrete measures (which are uncommon in international agreements about nature) to halt and reverse nature loss. It also emphasizes the goal of protecting 30% of the planet (both land and ocean) and 30% of degraded ecosystems by 2030, which is necessary if we want to reduce the impacts of climate change and avoid catastrophic tipping points. It also contains proposals to increase finance for developing countries, which was also discussed at COP27 of the UN Climate Change Conference earlier this year. This conference was surprisingly successful for an international agreement about nature, but there is a lot that still needs to be done.
At the end of November, COP19 of CITES culminated with a lot of new progress as well. Member states agreed on new trade regulations and protections for more than 600 animal and plant species, including sharks, songbirds, frogs, and tropical timber species. These protections are a huge improvement in international wildlife trade policy since so many species are unsustainably harvested to use as food or exotic pets. These protections are sadly not enough, as many protected species are still traded illegally and many more are not protected yet, but it is a huge step in the right direction.
Another victory was that the US banned the use of deadly driftnets in federal waters. Driftnets are fishing nets that can be as large as 1.5 miles long and extend 200 feet deep. They are used to catch swordfish, but they often kill sea turtles, sea lions, whales, and sharks as well. In fact, as many as 60 other species are at risk of being unintentionally injured or killed by driftnets. This new driftnet ban will greatly reduce the unnecessary killing of sea life in US waters.
All of this progress is hopeful, but it is not enough. We’ve damaged nature so much already, and unless we stop climate change, we will continue to destroy more for decades if not centuries to come. We must put more pressure on those in power to act faster if we want to preserve what is left.