COP15: An opportunity for Scotland to lead the way on nature’s recovery

07 Dec 2022

The COP15 biodiversity summit will take place in Montreal, Canada 7 – 19 December. The Montreal conference is the latest in a series of international UN biodiversity summits, equivalent to the climate COPs, aimed at conserving and ensuring the sustainable use of global biodiversity.


What is the Convention on Biological Diversity?

COP15 is the 15th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. COPs take place every two years under the CBD. The CBD’s purpose is to conserve and ensure the sustainable use of biological diversity at every level.

At the 2010 talks in Nagoya, Japan, 194 countries (or parties) signed up to a series of 20 targets to be met by 2020. Dubbed the Aichi targets after the region in which Nagoya sits, they were created to address a wide variety of issues in support of global biodiversity. Following the conference, signatories were also required to devise national biodiversity plans to meet the targets. In the UK, biodiversity is a devolved policy issue, and so the devolved governments are responsible for creating and delivering their own action. The Scottish Government plan to publish the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy this month which is to be “the starting point in a process which will lead into the development of rolling delivery plans and, through the introduction of a Natural Environment Bill, statutory nature restoration targets.”

Fast forward a decade to 2020, and the 5th Global Biodiversity Outlook report revealed that these targets were spectacularly missed across the world. Despite world leaders promising a decade of concerted efforts to tackle the inexorable decline of nature, the world collectively failed to meet a single one of the 20 targets. Scotland only met nine of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity targets. This lack of progress and the deepening ecological emergency make it clear that while the last UN decade on biodiversity failed, this coming decade on ecosystem restoration cannot.

What’s the plan for COP15?

As parties prepare to meet in Montreal, initial plans for the new post-2020 biodiversity framework have already been drawn up. The final version will be decided at the conference but is expected to include an agreement to put global biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030, and a target to protect 30% of the Earth’s land and seas by 2030.

We cannot afford to make the same mistakes and miss these targets a second time. The evidence is clear that continuing nature’s destruction will lead to thousands more extinctions, pose a serious risk to global food insecurity, and increase the likelihood of further pandemics like Covid-19. And as the climate crisis worsens, degraded ecosystems also limit our resilience and ability to adapt to extreme weather events.

What role can Scotland play in influencing the outcome of COP15?  

A new international deal for nature must be matched by domestic ambition to bend the curve of biodiversity loss and deliver commitments made under the CBD. Although the UK is a party to the convention and will therefore be expected to deliver on the targets that are agreed, Scotland is responsible for the implementation of international agreements in devolved areas like biodiversity.

The Scottish Government has committed to protect at least 30% of Scotland’s land and seas for nature by 2030, and highly protect 10%. This commitment goes beyond those of the other governments in the UK and aligns with the European Union’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. LINK also welcomed the Edinburgh Declaration on post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which has called for a collective commitment from subnational Governments, cities, and local authorities to raise ambition for nature’s recovery.

However, whilst these announcements are welcomed, Scotland needs to show that they are serious about tackling the biodiversity crisis by translating these promises into genuine action on the ground. We want to see: 

  1. Targets: To meet the ambitious commitments set out in the Scottish Government’s statement of intent, Scotland’s Biodiversity Strategy and Natural Environment Bill must contain ambitious and meaningful legally binding targets, and be supported with the resources needed to deliver nature’s recovery.
  2. Programmes of Ecosystem Restoration and Species Recovery: A habitat-focused approach, working to restore specific ecosystem types via dedicated programmes of action, will enable efforts to be targeted to where it is most needed. We need a national programme of species recovery targeted at helping threatened species to recover.
  3. Adequate financing and a framework to track progress: A robust monitoring, enforcement, reporting, and verification system will also be crucial for assessing progress towards targets, and efforts to reach them must be supported by appropriate funding.
  4. Mainstream: Mainstreaming biodiversity delivery across government will be critical to halting and reversing nature loss. Furthermore, integration of an effective biodiversity duty across all government sectors is now urgently needed with appropriate and transparent reporting to enable progress monitoring.


If it can make these things happen, and if it can help inspire the world to treat nature and climate with equal urgency, the nature COP might just be our next big chance to save the planet.


Juliet Caldwell, Advocacy Officer at Scottish Environment LINK


This blog is part of the LINK Thinks COP15 series. Click here to read the series of blogs by LINK staff, members and Honorary Fellows who will be highlighting the importance of targeted action in protecting and restoring our precious nature over the course of the conference.


Image: Sandra Graham

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