Wild animal populations are down 96% since 1970, declining annually by about 2.5%, as a result of climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, overfishing, and hunting to name just a few. Wild tigers and Amur leopards are among the millions of animal and plant species living perilously close to the brink of extinction.
For years biodiversity has taken second place to the climate on the international stage, but it is increasingly being recognised that the two crises are irrevocably interlinked. Many individuals and organisations have been sounding the alarm about the climate & biodiversity crises for more than half a century, and yet no meaningful action has been taken. So much has already been lost, but the future could still be a positive one for the next generation.
In the closing months of 2022 environmentalists, indigenous people, conservationists and scientists from across the world have been convening at three separate COPs in an attempt to persuade the world’s governments to take direct action against climate change, biodiversity loss and address the planetary crisis we currently face.
COP27 – UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Where: Sharm El-Sheikh
When: November 2022
What: Climate change
UNFCCC stands for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is an agreement between 197 countries of the United Nations to “stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-induced) interference with the climate system”. The UNFCCC COP is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention. All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP. The goal of the UNFCCC COP is to review progress made by members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to limit climate change. The COP meets every year and is the largest annual United Nations conference, attended on average by around 25,000 participants.
Some key outcomes of the Cop27 climate summit – more can be found here.
- Loss and damage fund
COP27 talks ended with a “historic” deal: a global fund for “loss and damage”, providing financial assistance to poor nations stricken by climate disaster.
- Low emission energy
To boost “low-emissions energy”. From wind and solar farms to nuclear reactors, and coal-fired power stations fitted with carbon capture and storage. It could also be interpreted to mean gas, which has lower emissions than coal but is still a major fossil fuel.
- Fossil fuels
Some countries – led by India – wanted to include a commitment to phase down all fossil fuels, not just coal. That was the subject of intense debate, but in the end, it fell through.
The warming climate is harming most large carnivores and the ecosystems they inhabit. It is predicted that large carnivore habitats, diets, and behaviours will be affected by climate change as our planet warms. But how will tigers and Amur leopards be affected?
Climate change will impact the abundance of preferred prey availability and therefore increase competition for resources. Vegetation decline may also alter behaviours of tigers and Amur leopards that may have to rely on a hunting method other than ambushing prey due to lack of vegetation cover. Loss of suitable habitats and decreased food availability, which has been forecasted for most large carnivores, will induce these species to shift their home ranges in search of alternative food sources. These may include areas where they are more likely to experience more conflict with humans. Tigers live in many different habitats but the most vulnerable is the Sundarbans, a mangrove area in the Ganges. Sea-level rise will trigger the decline of suitable tiger habitat with predictions suggesting almost 50% loss by 2050 and a 96 to 98% loss by 2070.
COP19 – Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
Where: Republic of Panama
When: November 2022
What: Wildlife trade
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is a global policy helping to fight the extinction crisis through wildlife trade regulations. The policy advocates for the sustainable use of wildlife and the conservation of wild species. CITES has 184 signatories (called Parties) who will collectively meet every three years to review progress and amend regulations. A CITES COP covers a wide range of topics, from policy-related topics to more specific species issues. Parties can propose adding or removing species from the CITES Appendices to ensure there is sustainable trade or request the movement of a species between protection levels. At CITES COP19 there were 52 proposals in total.
During the discussion on Asia’s big cats, some key decisions around tiger farming, transnational enforcement cooperation, illegal leopard trade, wildlife trade tourism markets, and demand reduction were renewed.
The CITES missions to examine tiger trade, tiger farming, and the regulations that create an enabling environment for tiger farms to thrive in Thailand, Lao PDR, and Vietnam are scheduled to take place in January 2023. At that point, having examined the mission reports, Parties can call for more specific and targeted action to phase out tiger farms and end trade, including domestic trade, in captive-bred tiger parts.
To find out more about the illegal trade of tigers listen to our podcast episode ‘How are tigers being reduced to just skin and bone’ where we hear from Debbie Banks, the Tiger and Wildlife Crime Campaign Leader at the Environmental Investigation Agency.
COP15 – Conservation of Biological Diversity (CBD)
When: December 2022
What: Biodiversity loss & sustainable development
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force on 29 December 1993. Signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity is dedicated to promoting sustainable development. It is a pact among the vast majority of the world’s governments that sets out commitments for maintaining the world’s ecological underpinnings as we go about the business of economic development.
It has 3 main objectives:
- The conservation of biological diversity
- The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity
- The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources
This COP is still in session but scientists and conservation teams have been making use of the last days with ministers on the ground, trying to get a deal across the line that sets out a meaningful framework to halt the loss of biodiversity. NGOs are working closely together to maximize the ambition of what is being agreed. The upside here is that we have seen unparalleled engagement from the finance and private sector at this COP, which is fundamentally needed if we are to succeed.
You can find out more by visiting their website.