News from abroad: BirdLife Australia at Cop15

Thursday, 15 December 2022

  • Estimated reading time 5min

Samantha Vine, BirdLife Australia’s Head of Conservation and Science, is in Montreal attending the UN Biodiversity Conference (Cop15). This two-week biodiversity summit is where once-in-a-decade plans to protect the natural world and halt its destruction will be decided. Read on for the outcomes our team hopes to see and how BirdLife Australia is responding.

Key points:

  • Birds are our early warning system for threats to nature. The State of the World’s Birds report shows that nearly half of the world’s bird species are now in decline.
  • The UN Biodiversity Conference (Cop15) will deliver a new 10- year strategy to put nature on a path to recovery. This is called the Global Biodiversity Framework.
  • BirdLife Australia’s research shows that globally between 21 and 32 bird species would have gone extinct in the last few decades without the conservation efforts undertaken to save them.

BirdLife Australia: In your own words, what is Cop15? What is the significance of it?

Samantha Vine: 75% of the world’s land surface has been significantly altered. Habitat destruction driven by unsustainable agriculture, forestry and fisheries worldwide has led to a biodiversity crisis. And now we have extreme wildfires, droughts, heatwaves and floods. As we struggle to adapt to climate change the very fabric of life on the planet is tearing under the strain of human’s impact on the planet.

Birds are our early warning system for threats to nature. The latest edition of State of the World’s Birds launched a few months ago shows that nearly half of the world’s bird species are now in decline.

In Montreal nations are at the UN Biodiversity Conference (Cop15) to negotiate a new strategy, the Global Biodiversity Framework, a new 10- year strategy to put nature on a path to recovery.

This is an incredibly important moment to reset our relationship with nature. As António Guterres Secretary-General’s opening remarks stated:

“This important Conference brings the world to Canada to focus on the future of humanity’s relationship with nature — our life-support system. He said that we are ‘waging a war on nature’.

We need to make peace.

BirdLife: What are you hoping for out of the Cop15?

SV: We need an ambitious strategy that protects biodiversity, empowers communities to care for species and most important sites, addresses key threats and the unsustainable systems that drive destruction of habitat.

A strategy that is truly transformational means that it will shake up the entire system; that it will change the status quo.

Ambition means outcome-orientated goals, quantitative targets on reversing biodiversity decline, reducing pressures and addressing equity.  And tangible deadlines – like no more extinctions and decreasing extinction risk to species by at least 20% by 2030.

And all this must be underpinned by a rights-based approach, include a strong package to recover species and ecosystems through both conservation actions and addressing the key direct drivers of biodiversity loss, establishing an implementation plan so we can measure progress and wealthy nations putting resources on the table to support developing counties deliver the strategy.

Cop15 is also a moment for the world to ensure global leaders see how much people all around the world care for nature -and how much we depend on it- in order to galvanise the political will to take action.

BirdLife: How will the outcomes affect Australian birds?

SV: BirdLife research shows that globally between 21 and 32 bird species would have gone extinct in the last few decades without the conservation efforts undertaken to save them.

In general, we know what to do to save birds. What is needed is the political will to address the big threats and drivers and the resources to do the work.

A strong strategy will have businesses disclosing their impacts on nature, will ensure we redirect the billions of dollars spent annually on harmful subsidies toward conservation.

It will conserve at least 30% of land and sea, especially Key Biodiversity Areas and other areas of particular importance for biodiversity, through effective and equitable management, recognising the role and rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities as stewards and beneficiaries of biodiversity conservation and restore at least 20% of degraded ecosystems.

A strong global strategy will be translated into National Action Plans, which will include the need to report on progress so we can keep a tally on how countries are tracking against commitments. This will mean ensuring a rights-based approach: respecting, protecting and fulfilling Indigenous rights, lands, and resources and enabling effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in the conservation of Australian birds.

It will renew the focus on taking action to recover and conserve the most threatened species through dedicated species recovery actions.

Victoria’s Riflebirds, one of the species uplisted from Least Concern to Vulnerable on the Red List. Photographed by David Bryan

BirdLife: Who else is there – what kind of political/social/environmental figures take part?

SV: Experts and global leaders, policy makers and government representatives from many of the 196 signature countries, civil society organisations, youth, women and Indigenous peoples groups as well as Business Associations, private sector representatives. It is said 170 Ministers and assistant ministers are likely to be here for the High-Level Segment that starts tomorrow.

BirdLife: And, how will the outcomes here help shape what BirdLife Australia do with our science and conservation strategy?

SV: We’ve actually built our new strategy based on what we want to see come out of the Global Biodiversity Framework. And we have built it in step with the new BirdLife International Global strategy, so we have strong alignment to not only implement our part of the strategies here is Australia as our national contribution to global efforts, but to also use birds to measure how we are tracking – and birds can tell us a lot about the health of the natural world.