23 Dec 2022


Written by Rachel Lowry, Chief Conservation Officer, WWF-Australia

For many cultures around the world, this time is known as the ‘season of giving’. This year, along with many people that love our wildlife and wild places, I’ve had my hopes pinned on receiving the gift of securing an ambitious global deal for nature.

This December, I ventured to Montreal, Canada, to join the World Wide Fund for Nature's delegation at the 15th Conference of the Parties (BioCOP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. For 12 days, 196 delegations from 160 countries gathered for a once-a-decade opportunity to secure what many were calling ‘the New Deal for People and Nature’ that would guide nature conservation efforts over the next decade.

There was much to be discussed, as we started with 1,800 ‘bracketed’ matters across 22 targets that soon turned to 23 targets. By the second to last day, there were still 300 matters unresolved. At the heart of all the unresolved tensions was ambition. How ambitious do we want to be? What’s realistic? And of course, the question dominating discussions - who is going to foot the bill?

Through it all, I had the immense privilege of working with the global WWF team and other leading Australian environmental non-government organisations (eNGO) to help refocus negotiations and coordinate messages so we could act as a strong collective voice.

WWF at COP15 in Montreal, Canada
WWF at COP15 in Montreal, Canada © WWF-Australia

Most impressively, our collaboration with the Australian government helped cement what we soon dubbed as the ‘Team Australia’ approach. Every day, the Australian delegates would meet with the Australian eNGO delegation to listen to their recommendations on areas within the draft text that the Australian government would champion, support or block. This experience opened my eyes to the important role that civil society plays in the COP process and the impact we can make together on a global stage.

The Australian Government were strong champions for securing a target of ‘zero (human induced) extinctions of known species’. They were also on the right side of history when they supported the mission to ‘halt and reverse the decline of biodiversity loss’, which many see as the 1.5oC equivalent to the climate Paris agreement.

One of the iconic targets within the new deal, is a global commitment to protect 30% of the earth’s lands and oceans by 2030, a target Australia had already committed to months prior to joining these negotiations. While we still have a way to go before reaching our targets - our voice was an important one on the global stage.

The strong language on the respect for the rights of Indigenous people and local communities was another significant step forward and formally recognised by The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity.

While this ‘New Deal for People and Nature’, now officially known as the Kumning-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, is far from perfect, its strength is worthy of celebration.

WWF at COP15 in Montreal, Canada with signs
WWF at COP15 in Montreal, Canada with signs © WWF-Australia

It cements a global agreement to reverse nature loss and sends a clear signal to governments, businesses and society that we must transition over the next decade towards a nature-positive world. Importantly, it recognises the role of protecting and restoring biodiversity in supporting climate action.

In the years that follow, there’s an enormous amount of work to make sure the targets that were hard fought and won are met. Most importantly, the deal cannot sit with the government alone. Civil society will need to work with business and government to ensure that the deal builds genuine, catalytic momentum, not just rhetoric.

It's our deal. All of ours. To rally behind and make count for people and nature. And as I head home to embrace the final days of December, I think that’s the best gift we can give one another.

To dive into the details of the new landmark global agreement, click here.