COP27: Progress or standstill on nature?
The final statement from COP27 in Egypt recognized the urgent need to address the interlinked crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
This echoes the widespread recognition that the world can’t achieve necessary greenhouse gas emissions reductions to protect against climate breakdown without stopping the destruction and degradation of global forests, wetlands, grasslands and oceans.
But did COP27 achieve progress in protecting nature?
The good news is that a number of notable announcements were made related to nature. The bad news is that the heavy lifting on actually halting and reversing nature loss is being left to the Nature COP in Montreal next month.
First, the United States’ committed to invest $25 Billion in nature-based solutions. However, little detail was provided on how those funds will be spent and what nature-based solutions will be prioritized. More generally, concern expressed at COP27, by indigenous people and others, that the lack of clear definition of nature-based solutions leaves them at risk of being co-opted by corporations in rich countries to “offset” business-as-usual climate pollution, while causing harm to land rights of Indigenous people and other front-line communities in the South. Strong social and environmental safeguards are needed to ensure that nature-based solutions bring climate, biodiversity and human benefits.
Second, Canada and 25 other countries officially launched the Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership, announcing that more than half of the $12 billion committed at COP26 to protect and restore forests has been spent or committed. However, no new funding was announced, and the level of funds still falls far short of what is required to protect forests (only about 24% of what is needed has been committed according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development). There is also concern that the Partnership is focussing on deforestation in the South, while allowing degradation from industrial logging in northern countries to continue. Indeed, over 100 scientists released a letter on November 15 calling for signatories of the Glasgow Declaration on Forests to recognize – and halt – the degradation caused in primary forests by clear-cut logging in industrialized countries. Canada, in particular, needs to do better in recognizing and addressing the climate harms caused by logging: Nature Canada and over 70 health and environment groups recently called on Canada to more clearly reporting GHG emission from logging – one of the highest emitting sectors of the Canadian economy – and to act to reduce these emissions.
Third, President Lula of Brazil garnered significant attention with a commitment to halt forest loss from logging by 2030, stating that if logging companies want timber “they have to buy a piece of land and grow a new tree. A 200- or 300-year-old old tree is not necessary.” Here’s hoping that this will leverage stronger commitments to protect primary and old-growth forests in Canada!
On the climate side, the key achievement of COP27 was clearly the win by Southern countries and global climate activists of a loss and damage fund paid into by industrialized countries whose emissions have driven climate-caused harm and destruction.
And while there were some “nuggets” of new commitments to reduce emissions, there was still no breakthrough on language on the necessary phase out fossil fuels, something that was pushed for by the EU and the US, but which Canada very disappointingly opposed.
As a result, 1.5C seems to be slipping out of reach.
All of which makes the protection and restoration of critical ecosystems – and success in reaching a new agreement to halt and reverse nature loss globally – all the more critical.
COP15 will be a key moment.
Nature Canada has joined with 15 other national organizations to advocate for Canada to deliver key commitments at COP, including its intention for an ambitious national action plan to halt and reverse nature loss at home; new Indigenous-led protected areas, action to advance nature-based solutions, and additional international funding for biodiversity action.
With COP in Montreal – now is the time for Canada to lead. Find out how you can help leverage this once and a decade moment for action to protect nature – at home and around the world. Join thousands of Canadians by sending a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau on the NatureBus tours that will be collecting messages from people across the country – including very likely a city near you!