Capping a year of “environmental milestones,” 2022 ended with a flurry of intergovernmental meetings focused on forestalling the looming collapse of nature’s life-supporting ecosystems. The United Nations COP27 Climate Change Conference in November was the biggest of these gatherings and got the most attention. But in December, the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity—which includes 196 nations, but not the U.S.—met at its COP15 summit in Montreal to grapple with the ever-more-urgent crisis of diminishing global biodiversity.
In the most comprehensive assessment to date, a 2019 U.N. report found that “nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history.” Some 1 million species are threatened with extinction. According to Robert Watson, chair of the committee that produced the report, the evidence presents an “ominous picture,” with profound implications for human life and livelihood. “We are,” Watson says, “eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
Chaired by China, the Montreal conference took two weeks of intense and sometimes bitter negotiations to produce the Global Biodiversity Framework, which the U.N. Environment Program calls a “landmark biodiversity agreement to guide global action through to 2030.” Building on the successes and failures of agreements over the past two decades, the framework has four overarching goals: to stop species extinction and restore ecosystems; to sustainably use and manage biodiversity; to fairly share the benefits of genetic resources; and to support developing countries and small Island States to implement the framework.