What is COP15?

by | Sep 17, 2021 | Blog, News and Updates | 0 comments

The United Nations conferences on climate change have been instrumental in bringing about global progress against the climate crisis, although much work remains to be done.

This year, rightfully so, much of the world has been focused on the 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow, and making sure world leaders establish plans that help them meet the goals of the historic 2015 Paris climate agreement.

But before COP26 takes place from 31 October to 12 November, the first part of an equally important – if not more important – UN conference will occur: online meetings for the 15th UN Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP15.

What is COP15? Why is it so important? And why are Catholic leaders across the globe urging the faithful to advocate for all members of creation and to protect biodiversity ahead of the UN summit?

What is COP15?

The UN convention is how countries around the world agree to protect nature and our common home.

The convention was first signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It is an international treaty on biodiversity conservation, the sustainable use of biodiversity, and equitably sharing the benefits of natural resources.

This year’s convention, to be held online from 11-15 October and in-person from 25 April to 8 May 2022 in China, is especially crucial because little progress has been made in protecting nature during the past 20 years.

Countries around the world agreed to key targets in 2002 and again in 2010, yet little action followed such agreements.

As Reuters recently reported: “The summit hopes to set both long-term goals for mid-century and shorter-term targets for 2030 and, crucially, push for those to be enshrined in national policies.”

During the past 20 years, “Nobody actually owned those targets. No wonder in 10 years’ time we discover none of those targets are fully fulfilled,” said Li Shuo, a senior climate and energy policy officer for Greenpeace China.

A look at the official draft of the 2030 targets shows the needed, ambitious action that all members of God’s creation have been yearning for in recent decades. Such actions will require all of the world working together, and all people of faith making sure that their elected officials and others are doing everything they can to meet the goals.

A few examples of the 21 targets include conserving at least 30 percent of land and sea areas, reducing by half nutrients lost to the environment, and applying at least 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent from nature-based contributions to global efforts against the climate crisis.

Why does protecting nature and biodiversity matter?

On a practical level, we can’t stop the climate crisis without healthy ecosystems and thriving nature. As the “Healthy Planet, Healthy People” petition makes clear, “the climate crisis and biodiversity collapse are twin crises.”

The petition states: “A warming world is exacerbating the spiraling loss of blameless species. And further loss of nature will jeopardize our capacity to deliver on the 1.5 degree limit to global warming. We are hurtling towards a global catastrophe, one that looks to be irreversible for our common home, with tragic loss of life across all creation – unless we act now with great urgency.”

Put plainly, humankind needs nature to survive and prosper. We can’t have healthy people without a healthy planet, and that’s especially the case as we work to tackle the climate crisis. For example, vibrant forests store carbon, helping keep the harmful greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere.

In March, the Laudato Si’ Research Institute published a landmark report titled, “The Wailing of God’s Creatures.” The report makes clear once more how all Catholics are to advocate for the care of creation and how humankind needs God’s creation in numerous ways:

“Aside from food and shelter, humans depend on ecosystems to provide them with, among other necessities, energy, climate regulation, purification of air and water, flood protection, medicine, as well as cultural, recreational, aesthetic, and spiritual services. When ecosystem health is compromised due to the extensive loss of biodiversity, all life, including human life, is at risk of losing the foundation of survival.”

Spiritually speaking, as Catholics led by the Holy Spirit, we are called to care for the least among us, the most vulnerable members of God’s Creation. The ecological crisis is affecting them the most.

Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si’, “Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right” (LS 33).

Pope Francis also shares how vital caring for God’s creation is to being a Catholic in the age of rising seas and warmer temperatures: “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (LS 217).

If protecting creation is essential to our faith, the Laudato Si’ Research Institute report states, “participating actively or inactively in the destruction of biodiversity, then, is an ecological sin.”

Moreover, as one global Christian family, all of us are called to care for creation. It is a tenet of the Christian faith that unites the world’s 2.4 billion Christians annually from 1 September to 4 October in celebration of the Season of Creation.

How to help all of God’s creation before COP15

As Catholics and Christians, it’s on us to make sure that the upcoming agreement at COP15 protects all of God’s creation. We must have audacious targets that protect our common home.

Get started advocating by signing the “Healthy Planet, Healthy People” petition.

Laudato Si’ Movement
Laudato Si’ Movement

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