Biodiversity Has a Paris Agreement Moment

The Montreal Framework caps a year of huge developments on the climate story

David Cooper, Deputy Executive Secretary of UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, Huang Runqiu, president of COP15 and China's minister of ecology and environment, and Steven Guilbeault, the Canadian Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, hold hands at a press conference during the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) on December 20, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Yu Ruidong via Getty Images)

Paris Agreement, meet Montreal Framework.

What UN Secretary-General António Guterres hailed as a “peace pact with nature” caps a year of huge developments in the climate story. On Monday, almost every country in the world — though not the United States — approved the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, as it is officially named. The deal carries striking parallels to the Paris Agreement that has guided climate action since 2015, parallels that cry out for journalistic scrutiny in 2023 and beyond.

Like the Paris Agreement, the Montreal Framework qualifies as a landmark achievement that nevertheless raises vexing questions. When signed in 2015, the Paris Agreement called for limiting temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably to 1.5 degrees C — a dramatic upgrade in ambition. Likewise, the Montreal Framework now pledges to “halt and reverse biodiversity loss” by protecting 30% of Earth’s land and sea area by 2030. Especially notable, if long overdue, is the Framework’s championing of the rights of Indigenous peoples, which provide the best protection for biodiversity, according to peer-reviewed science.

But both the Paris Agreement and the Montreal Framework are largely aspirational, without guaranteed enforcement or funding mechanisms. The challenge is to translate those aspirations into realities. To wit, the Montreal Framework calls for mobilizing $200 billion a year through 2030 for protection of nature. That money is supposed to come from the world’s wealthiest countries — the same countries that have consistently failed to provide the $100 billion a year in climate aid legally required under the Paris Agreement.

The news media, along with the rest of civil society, have an indispensable role to play here. Our reporting can educate the public and policymakers alike about the importance of preserving a robust diversity of plant and animal species, for our sake as well as theirs — and how protecting biodiversity and stabilizing the climate each depend on the other. And we can hold governments and other powerful interests to account for making the rapid, fundamental changes needed to deliver on both fronts.

We will have plenty of opportunities to illuminate these and other vital climate stories in 2023. But climate reporting, as we know, can be emotionally taxing. So please: Unplug over the holidays. Rest and rejuvenate. We need you back on the beat, ready to roll, in the new year. See you then!

Holiday Reading

Here are three climate-related books the CCNow team recommends for your holidays.

  1. The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1969). If you’re a parent who cares about climate change and you haven’t read your kid(s) this environmental classic, what are you waiting for? This tale of heedless deforestation in an endless pursuit of “more” concludes with a call to action relevant for all ages: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
  2. Lucky Mud & Other FOMA: A Field Guide to Kurt Vonnegut’s Environmentalism and Planetary Citizenship, by Christina Jarvis (Seven Stories Press, 2022). Although best known for anti-war novels like Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut was also a committed environmentalist who spoke at the first Earth Day in 1970. Jarvis traces Vonnegut’s evolution as a “planetary citizen” from his roots in small-town Indiana to 1960s counterculture hero who predicted that “in the future [polluters] will be looked upon as swine,” while their opponents will be welcomed at the Pearly Gates by a “cheerful, sexy brass band” playing “When The Saints Go Marching In.”
  3. The Climate Book, by Greta Thunberg (Penguin Press, 2023). For a wide-ranging, deeply informed series of essays by global luminaries about the state of the climate emergency — from what the crisis means for the planet, including terrestrial biodiversity and permafrost, to what we can do about it — pick up Thunberg’s The Climate Book. Don’t miss George Monbiot’s essay, “Changing the Media Narrative,” which begins: “If you were to ask me which industry is most responsible for the destruction of life on Earth, I would say the media.”

Noteworthy Stories

No nonsense. In an extraordinary diplomatic escalation, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will convene a “climate ambition summit” but exclude what he called “back-sliders, greenwashers, [and] blame-shifters.” Only countries that bring “credible, serious, and new climate action and nature-based solutions” will be welcomed at the September 2023 summit. By Michelle Nichols for Reuters…

Got plastics? More than enough, thanks to ExxonMobil and other petroleum companies that see producing plastics as a hedge against climate-driven calls for more renewable energy. Investigative reporting by Bloomberg reveals that an industry front group that claims to help “eliminate plastic waste” actually keeps the world hooked on plastic. By Stephanie Baker, Matthew Campbell, and Patpicha Tanakasempipat for Bloomberg Green…

New York knows best. State officials approved a sweeping plan to slash New York’s greenhouse gas emissions. Aiming to “electrify everything,” the plan relies in part on “cap and invest,” modeled on California’s example. By Marie J. French for Politico…

It’s a racket. Using the same US racketeering law deployed against mobsters and criminal enterprises, 16 municipalities in Puerto Rico are suing oil and gas companies for damages from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which led to thousands of deaths in 2017. The companies’ decades of denying that burning fossil fuels would endanger places like Puerto Rico amounts to a conspiracy to maximize profits, the suit alleges. By Nina Lakhani for the Guardian…

Coal for your stocking. Even as ever-cheaper renewable energy grabs more market share, coal consumption will reach record highs in 2022, the International Energy Agency projects. Increased demand in Europe and China will keep coal as the world’s leading source of both electricity and heat-trapping emissions. By Olivia Rosane for EcoWatch…

Amazon cheer? Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s presidential election defeat of outgoing Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro tops a list of reasons for optimism about the Amazon, but time is running out for the world’s largest rainforest. The Amazon “will never be safe while trees are worth more dead than alive.” By Jonathan Watts for the Guardian…