News - 15 October 2021

Biodiversity - Kunming Declaration at COP15

Governments from around the world, meeting for the 15th UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), adopted the Kunming Declaration (13 October 2021). The Declaration represents a strong global commitment to develop an ambitious post-2020 global agreement to end the problem of spiralling biodiversity loss “by 2030 at the latest.”

The Declaration comes as world leaders grapple with catastrophic global declines in nature and spiralling extinction rates, alongside - and exacerbated by - the worsening climate crisis. It is very welcome that the Declaration clearly recognises that these crises “pose an existential threat to our society, our culture, our prosperity and our planet” and that “that urgent and integrated action is needed, for transformative change, across all sectors of the economy and all parts of society”.

With scientists warning that a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history is under way, driven by human activities and impacts, politicians, scientists and experts have been laying the groundwork for a new biodiversity framework that will set international obligations for all nations to protect and conserve the biodiversity that supports our lives and livelihoods on this planet.

And Australia cannot avoid taking its fair share of the blame for this crisis or step away from being part of the solution. After all, we’re a world leader in both biodiversity and also in extinction and deforestation.

Crucially, the Kunming Declaration notes the need to protect species and ecosystems, as well as action to address unsustainable consumption and end government subsidies to damaging and destructive industries. Both are vital to ending the global extinction crisis, both here in Australia and across the globe.

This high level, global political commitment to reverse the loss of biodiversity this decade is a critical first step to addressing the current nature crisis. But it will only work if commitment is turned into clear, measurable targets that drive action by governments and industries around the world

In a previous agreement signed in Aichi, Japan, in 2010, governments agreed on 20 targets to try to slow biodiversity loss and protect habitats by 2020, but none of those targets was met at a global level. Australia only met one out of the 20 targets.

Australia must acknowledge its role as a global leader in extinction. As a developed country that is home to 10% of the world’s biodiversity, much of it unique and irreplaceable, Australia should aim to be a world leader in conservation.

Yet, we’ve failed to meet all our international obligations around the protection of species and their habitats, and Australia is ranked second in the world for ongoing biodiversity loss after Indonesia.