COP15 moves to Canada but China ‘won’t step back’

UK international environment minister comments on funding gap for protecting biodiversity

The second part of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) will be held in Montreal in Canada rather than in Kunming, China, it has been confirmed this week.

COP15 began in Kunming as a virtual event last October but the latter section of the conference has been repeatedly delayed due to Covid-19. It is now confirmed talks will resume in Montreal between 5 and 17 December.

It is expected the negotiations will see parties make the final decision on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF), and on capacity building and resource mobilisation. 

According to the World Economic Forum, the GBF is due to set 21 targets and 10 milestones for governments to meet by 2030, including “protecting a minimum of 30% of the world’s oceans and land, reducing pesticide use by at least two-thirds, eliminating plastic waste, and increasing financial resources dedicated to biodiversity to at least $200bn annually.”

China will continue in its role as president of COP15. Huang Runqiu, China’s minister of ecology and environment, who is continuing as COP15 chair, said: “China would like to emphasise its continued strong commitment, as COP president, to work with all parties and stakeholders to ensure the success of the second part of COP15, including the adoption of an effective post-2020 GBF, and to promote its delivery throughout its presidency.”

Aid versus trade

UK international environment minister, Zac Goldsmith, echoed Runqiu when asked by politicians at an audit committee this week if COP15’s move to Montreal called China’s role in to question.

“I don’t think China will step back from its responsibilities as a president. We have lots of engagement with China on this issue and I do think China is fully aware of the responsibility the country has on these issues, not just as president of the CBD, but as the most populous country in the world. In a country where the slightest movement in their day-to-day patterns of living has a massive implication for the whole planet,” Goldsmith said.

The minister also commented on the funding gap for supporting nature-rich countries to protect their biodiversity and the potential of trade in negotiations: “The finance gap between where we are and the kind of money that’s going to be needed to turn things around will never be filled by ODA [official development assistance]. It’s just never going to happen.

“If you can use these trading incentives, which are worth so much more, you can create something that is going to endure and would be far more powerful and an incentive to other countries to try and qualify for the same favourable rates and conditions.”

Nature-positive portfolios

When it comes to diverting private finance to biodiversity solutions, Goldsmith said, “At the moment, the vast majority of conventional finance is investing in problems from an environmental point of view, not solutions.

Deforestation is infected throughout the supply chains and investment portfolios across the world.

“So to move the financial institutions into a position where they are not just doing no harm to the natural world, but their portfolios are nature-positive is the ultimate goal.”


When questioned about delays to implementation of the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), Goldsmith said some of the issues come from the complexity of the issue compared to carbon: “What one company needs to do to deal with in its supply chain will be completely different for another company and even more so for a different sector.

“So we don’t have the metrics, we don’t yet have the tools to properly understand what being nature-positive looks like or even the do no harm approach, which many companies are signed up to.

“Those metrics don’t yet exist and the TNFD is part of the process of creating them. And it’s key that when we do, we do it in a way that where the best doesn’t become the enemy of the good – we don’t create something which is so cumbersome and so complex it only really applies to the very largest businesses.”

Goldsmith commented to the committee he was confident the UK would make TNFD reporting mandatory “at some point soon.”


The minister emphasised the role of nature in net-zero pathways, specifically those which members of the Glasgow Financial Alliance on Net Zero (GFANZ) have signed up to.   

“One of the things we’re trying to do… is to get as many of those financial institutions as possible to commit that when they create their net zero pathways… but they do so in a credible manner. And that requires them to include nature.

“There’s no credible pathway to net zero without recognising the role of nature in tackling climate change. If we can get more of the financial institutions on board that is that is obviously going to translate into significant amounts of finance flowing in the right direction,” said Goldsmith.

He noted part of this challenge is getting the Science-Based Targets Initiative to have a credible, measurable and understandable inclusion of nature in them.