After four years of discussion, the second and final part of COP15 took place in Montreal, Canada from 7th to 19th December. Over 20,000 people came from all corners of the world to secure a deal that will set us on a path to living in harmony with nature.
WDC representatives, Vanesa Tossenberger and Ed Goodall were in attendance to push for the strongest possible protections and measures that will benefit whales and dolphins. By working with governments directly, we can proudly say that WDC played it’s part in helping to shape positions of several countries and increasing ambition for the Ocean. We held a joint event on Ocean Action Day with Marine Conservation Society and Blue Marine Foundation, calling for no backsliding of ambition on Ocean targets. All three attending UK environment ministers were present (Rt Hon Secretary of State Therese Coffey, Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith and Rt Hon Lord Benyon), along with Sebastian Unger, who is responsible for Ocean protection for the German Environment Ministry and government representatives from Panama and Tanzania.
After delays of nine hours and last-minute talks between countries, a plenary room of exhausted delegates cheered the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework by the Chinese presidency. It’s not a perfect deal but working with 196 countries requires compromise and this is nonetheless, a momentous achievement for global biodiversity conservation.
Perhaps the most important aim within the deal is to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. With only 8 years to go, this will require a monumental global effort. To get us to this goal, there are a number of targets which, if implemented in good faith, will help to restore whale and dolphin populations after centuries of decline. A last-minute push saw the wording on the 30x30 initiative edited to ensure that this target is 30% of the land and 30% of the Ocean, whereas the previous wording seemed to combine the two. We know that protected areas, if delivered properly, can genuinely restore the ocean and be safe havens for whales and dolphins.
There is also a commitment to ensure urgent action is taken to halt human induced extinction of known threatened species. Taking the IUCN definitions, this could be a major tool to push for hugely expanded measures and funding to reverse the declines of 24 whale and dolphin species. Critically endangered species include the Vaquita, the North Atlantic right whale, Rice’s whale and Atlantic humpback dolphin. Endangered species covered would include blue and sei whales, and Hector’s and Irrawaddy dolphins.
We also have 2030 targets around reducing pollution from all sources, transitioning to biodiversity-friendly fishing practices and the elimination of subsidies which are harmful to biodiversity by 2030. All of these targets could see the Ocean become a less hostile place for whales and dolphins, contributing to the restoration of their populations.
We have seen international targets set before and not achieved, but we simply cannot allow the ambition set in Montreal to not turn into immediate action. What this agreement does, is set highly ambitious targets for countries who have not been engaged in conservation at the level required, meaning a significant mobilisation of action is needed. Those countries who wish to achieve more have no limits placed upon them and as we have been pushing for during this whole process, we encourage the most ambitious targets and most precautionary approach to conservation.
WDC will continue working with countries and partners to make sure that these lofty words and targets are transformed into effective and meaningful local, regional and global implementation of conservation measures that benefit whale and dolphins, and by extension wider biodiversity.