I, for one, was very disappointed by the outcome of COP15. It was all too similar to the results of COP27.
Justin Francis, CEO of Responsible Travel, and the mainstream World Travel & Tourism Council have all advocated nature-positive travel and tourism. The WTTC asserts that “Taking direct action to reduce impacts and restore nature, while encouraging supply chains and destination partners to do the same, can protect our planet and also boost tourism appeal. Managed well, Travel & Tourism can reconnect people with nature, invest in species protection through effective community-led partnerships and play a leading role in a Nature Positive future.”
We can be nature positive by paying more to enter national parks and protected areas and inspiring domestic and international tourists. We can make a difference. We should seek to make a difference to our planet’s health and conserve the nature that inspires people to travel.
Nature positive, the potential biodiversity equivalent of the climate change aspiration to achieve “net zero”, did not make the final document. The best that could be achieved in Montreal was a 2030 goal to reduce extinction risk and “take urgent action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss”. There is one headline target: to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030, the 30×30 target.
There were some positives. 330 companies and investors signed a petition calling on COP15 negotiators to strengthen Target 15 of the Global Biodiversity Framework and make it mandatory, between 700 and 1,000 companies attended COP15. Target 15 calls on governments to: “Regularly monitor, assess, and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity including with requirements for all large as well as transnational companies and financial institutions along their operations, supply and value chains and portfolios….. [and] … increase positive impacts, reduce biodiversity-related risks to business and financial institutions, and promote actions to ensure sustainable patterns of production.” Target 3 recognises “indigenous and traditional territories” and calls for “equitably governed systems of protected areas”. The final text calls for $1.8tn of environmentally harmful subsidies to high-emission cattle production, forest destruction, industrial fisheries, and pollution from synthetic fertilisers – to be reduced by at least $500bn a year by the end of the decade.
Dr Imma Oliveras Menor from the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford points out that: “While this might seem like a solid plan, there are no binding commitments making the whole mechanism quite weak.”
During COP15, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance announced their new collaboration to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. They committed to adopting a nature positive approach to tourism by integrating biodiversity safeguards, reducing carbon emissions, the impact of pollution, the unsustainable use of resources, and protecting and restoring nature and its wildlife. Almost 150 organisations have signed up to the vision, including international hotel groups, tour operators, travel agents, destinations, and international wildlife charities.
The Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) announced the formation of a Hospitality and Tourism Task Force to be comprised of CEOs from across the hospitality and tourism industry, under the leadership of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance and the Considerate Group. The Task Force will provide leadership and foster collaboration “in the pursuit of tangible, scalable and practical sustainable solutions.”
The World Bank has pointed out, “We cannot ignore that nature and biodiversity loss is a material risk to our economies, our financial sector and therefore to development.”
As with the challenge of climate change, too little progress is being made to avert severe consequences for ourselves and the other species with which we share our finite planet.