COP15 Kunming: Last Boarding Call for Biodiversity

Just one year away from the COP15 in Kunming, one million species are threatened, with humans at the root of most of the damage to lands and marine ecosystems. In 2020, China will host the next major international forum on biodiversity conservation, an event that requires active preparation of the agreement to be signed. The Paris Peace Forum served as a preparatory platform to lay this foundation for the adoption of a new global framework for post-2020 biodiversity governance. To succeed, a paradigm of change in biodiversity governance is essential. Could multilateralism make a difference in Kunming?

Date : 12 November 2019

Paris, France – Grande Halle de La Villette, Agora 1

Watch the full debate


  • Moderator: Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Former Prime Minister, France, Chairman, Leaders pour la Paix
  • Brune Poirson, Minister of State, attached to the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, France
  • Huang Runqiu, Vice Minister of Ecology and Environment, China
  • Liu Ning, Executive Deputy Director, Office of the Executive Committee for COP15 to the Convention on Biological Diversity, China
  • H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director, Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund
  • Yin Myo Su, Managing Director, Inle Princess Resort; Founder, Inle Heritage Foundation

Key takeaways of the discussion

  • Brune Poirson acknowledged that until now, biodiversity has been neglected in negotiations between states, and that nature conservation should become as important an objective on the international agenda as the fight against CO2 emissions. Among the points that contributed to the success of COP21 in France, she cited the importance of high-level mobilization and strong political commitment. She stressed that states cannot achieve ecological transition alone and that the mobilization of civil society is key. She stressed the importance of preparatory steps for COP15, such as the World Conservation Congress in June 2020 in Marseille or the UN Leaders’ Biodiversity Summit in September 2020. She added that having a strong presidency with committed heads of delegation and negotiators was of the utmost importance. She concluded by saying that biodiversity was an issue that could unite Europeans and that the same level of effort should be made towards biodiversity as was put into the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Citizens expect nature-based solutions to be implemented with a comprehensive framework that encompasses biodiversity and CO2 emissions with transparency and accountability tools, as well as clear deadlines for the future.
  • On the side of the COP15 organizers, Huang Runqiu explained that the objective of COP15 should be the creation of an ambitious but realistic framework with concrete outcomes that include all stakeholders. Without real actions, a simple roadmap will be useless. According to him, a strong mobilization on the subject is already in progress in China. In spans different levels, in particular within the framework of a Commission for Biodiversity that includes the central government, the Ministries of Ecology, Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources, and provincial and local authorities. To counter the negative impact of industrialization on the environment and biodiversity in China and around the world, the Vice Minister said that China was trying to raise awareness among companies to comply with the standards of the countries in which they operate, notably through the Belt and Road Initiative International Green Development Coalition. Regarding possible synergies between the environment and biodiversity, he cited China’s “ecological red line” mechanism, which places areas with essential ecological functions under mandatory protection according to their level of vulnerability thereby enabling a reduction of CO2 emissions and the preservation of ecosystems within these areas.
  • China’s Lead Negotiator for COP15, Liu Ning, added that consultations had already begun with several governments and international organizations and that meetings with working groups were planned for early 2020 and in June in Colombia to identify common ground and differences. One of the key challenges will be the establishment of a North-South mutual financing mechanism, which is a prerequisite for success but is causing disagreement between developed and developing countries. Without this mechanism, the ambitious framework set at COP15 could never come to fruition.
  • H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak highlighted the differences between the climate change agenda, conceived from the outset in a global intellectual framework with international mechanisms and a top-down approach supported by civil society, and the biodiversity agenda, which had never been integrated into a global strategy. Biodiversity approaches have therefore always been local, and it is crucial to include civil society and local communities in the creation of a new framework if it is to move forward. She clarified that in the case of biodiversity, it is not necessary to start by setting global targets, but rather to assist local authorities in setting local targets, and then at a later stage see how these targets can be scaled up. Furthermore, she said that even if the effects of climate change are mitigated, not all biodiversity issues will automatically be solved: they need to be dealt with separately with specific methods. She added that technological innovation was useful (e.g. the use of artificial intelligence, satellite imagery, big data, etc.), but could not replace human action on the ground. Effective solutions already exist to protect nature, what is missing is the political and human will to implement them. “The greatest innovation will be a change of government mindset around the world – towards the willingness to protect biodiversity.” She went on to provide an example of successful international cooperation in this area: the reintroduction in Chad of the Scimitar Horned oryx, which was considered extinct, but was saved thanks to donations of specimens from private international reserves, including from the United Arab Emirates. Finally, she pointed out that only 3% of private donations worldwide went to the protection of biodiversity. While the funds exist, the challenge is now to direct them more widely towards conservation initiatives. She added, however, that there was not necessarily a need for a lot of resources to protect biodiversity: the MBZ Foundation, for example, focuses on “micro philanthropy” by ensuring that small donations make a big impact by allocating them to the most qualified individuals carrying out work on the ground.
  • As President of both a tourist resort and an environmental preservation foundation, Yin Myo Su explained the challenges of the dialectic relationship between environment and development in Myanmar, a country recently opened to tourism and unprepared for rapid change. She stressed the importance of raising environmental awareness among local populations and the link between the development and protection of tangible, intangible, cultural and natural heritage and sustainable development. “Protecting others is protecting oneself,” she said. She stressed the importance of educating the younger generations who will form the society and leaders of tomorrow, and of two-way learning: from the older generations to the young, but also in the opposite direction, which represents a necessary step for a lasting change in mentalities. Stabilization of the economy and the resolution of societal problems (civil war, migration issues) have an impact on the environment and must therefore also be taken into account to create sustainable solutions. She also stressed that efforts must be made to ensure that funding is as effective as possible and is not diverted through administrative costs or corruption. She also called on large countries such as neighbors China and India to set an example in terms of good practice, accountability and transparency to inspire smaller countries to do the same. Finally, she explained that civil society and populations did not have to wait for state decisions to act because change also comes from the daily consumption choices of individuals.

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