3 Things to Look for at CBD COP15

by Caleb McClennen, Ph.D.
  • Caleb McClennen Ph.D.
December 6, 2022

It is increasingly clear that people-centered, nature-based, and locally led solutions are central to climate action. When world leaders came together at last month’s climate negotiation in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt (UNFCCC COP27), the interconnectedness of the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity was clearly recognized in the outcome, further supporting the need for this approach.

Now, the world’s attention will turn to the conservation, use, and sustainability of the planet’s incredible biodiversity and ecosystems at the UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) COP15 in Montreal, Canada. The highly anticipated outcome of the CBD COP is to adopt the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which includes a list of 21 action targets to be achieved by 2030. The target gaining the most attention is Target 3, the focus of the “30×30 campaign,” and the support by the High Ambition Coalition of more than 100 countries that seek to protect 30 percent of the planet’s land and sea by 2030.

I joined Rare as President last month, and it could not be a more auspicious time to do so. Given the interconnectedness of climate change and biodiversity loss, Rare’s work has never been more urgent. Our team in Montreal will be focused on building political support for people-centered and community-led sustainable management of natural resources — a proven and vital solution to a growing array of exogenous threats – and making sure our solutions are brought to scale.

As we approach CDB COP15, here are the top three things I will be looking for:

  1. A focus on the territorial seas. As the draft language of Target 3 and our friends at the Campaign for Nature say, it’s not just about 30 percent. It’s about the right 30 percent. There is simply no area of the ocean of greater importance to people and our planet than its territorial seas—home to most of the ocean’s biodiversity, 100% of the world’s mangroves and seagrass meadows, and 83% of coral reefs globally. Nearly 500 million people depend on these waters for their livelihoods. And yet, only 11% of territorial seas are protected. Local rights-based approaches, like pairing areas of Managed Access with no-take reserves are effective at protecting biodiversity while meeting the needs of coastal communities. These regional approaches could also be considered a “potential OECM” (other effective area-based conservation measure). At CBD COP, we’ll be highlighting this approach and calling for its recognition by nations as a key contributor to their 30×30 plans, implemented and led by Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
  2. Spotlight on local leaders. One reason I have been most enthusiastic to join Rare is its core ethos of promoting locally led, community-driven climate and conservation action. At COP27, Rare’s delegation included Mayor Jean Te of Libertad, Philippines. She provided a vital perspective from the frontlines of climate change and shared real-life examples about how her community supports ecosystem-based adaptation approaches.This month at COP15, we will seek to promote and share the experiences and voices from coastal communities through the Coastal 500 network and Rare’s Fish Forever program. Rare will continue to elevate the importance of local government leadership in global policy discussions and our team will be seeking to partner with other organizations’ committees to elevate local perspectives to shape the negotiations.
  3. The new Global Biodiversity Framework will require behavior change. The drivers of the biodiversity crisis include climate change, overfishing, pollution, and deforestation. Millions of people reside both within and around the world’s protected area estates. Perhaps most importantly, the key to 30×30 will require significant investments in the lands and waters under the guardianship of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Implementing the Global Biodiversity Framework will require a people-centered approach that leverages the best of the rapidly advancing field of behavioral science. At the last World Conservation Congress in 2020, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its members overwhelmingly supported a Rare-backed effort to promote behavior-centered solutions to conservation challenges. Today Rare stands ready to support our government, NGO, and community partners around the world to provide the best of behavioral science to secure durable people-centered solutions to address the global biodiversity crisis today.

COP15 represents a once in a decade opportunity to advance solutions that benefit people, biodiversity, and climate. Success will mean progress on these three fronts. Rare stands ready to support the commitments made, strengthen our partnerships, and forge new ones to best support communities around the globe bearing the greatest burden of the twin climate and biodiversity crises.

Caleb McClennen, PhD, is the president of Rare.