Cop15 diary week one: when is an environmental agreement like a bowl of noodles? | Cop15

Thursday, December 8

Not many see the process of reaching a major environmental agreement in culinary terms, but one observer from China suggested the Cop15 organizers could draw inspiration from Montreal’s Chinatown, which is near the Palais des congrès convention center.

Think of the final text as making noodles. People tend to think noodles just come raw like that – drop them in boiling water and voila! But making them is a calculated step-by-step process. A well-considered process brings good flavor. A thorough process to land the Cop15 deal requires many hands, including China, Canada, and other parties. The noodles in Chinatown Montreal are not bad at all. Perhaps China and Canada can draw inspiration from a simple meal, and how the kitchen makes them there.

Some are visualizing nature loss in unusual ways. There is a five-meter tall Jenga tower constructed by WWF, which it says illustrates the dangerous state of the planet. Called “The Collapse”, each brick falling represents the damage we do to the natural world, making the whole tower at risk of tumbling down.

Outside the main talks are plenty of pavilions. It’s a bit like walking around a careers fair. One pavilion is looking at the importance of preserving genetic diversity. Christiano Vernesi is telling people that when we lose biodiversity, the first thing we lose is genetic diversity. Smaller, less genetically diverse populations are weaker and less likely to be able to adapt to planetary changes.

Elsewhere, stonemasons Sebastian Brooke and Nils Kulleseid are making a plinth to nature. “This is our one speck of the universe. The fossils in this stone speak of millions of years of diverse life on earth. Now the nations must unite to ensure the flourishing of a new era of ecological restoration,” the pitch goes. Brooke and Kulleseid want to build a new museum to nature called the Biodiversity Beacon on the Jurassic coast as part of the Eden Portland project.

Wednesday, December 7

Ka’nahsohon Kevin Deer, a First Nations Elder, performs a ceremony as the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, looks on. Photograph: Canadian Press/REX/Shutterstock
  • Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s pledge of C$800m (£510m) over seven years to support Indigenous-led conservation projects was preceded by a ceremony led by the First Nations Elder, Ka’nahsohon Kevin Deer. It made a change from the day before when Trudeau was interrupted by Indigenous protesters at the opening ceremony.

  • The UN secretary general António Guterres spoke powerfully about the need to protect the rights of environmental protesters, saying “human rights must be at the center of all environmental concerns and namely, the work of the [UN convention on biodiversity] CBD”.

  • A new draft text of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) is littered with more than 1,000 brackets, which will need dealing with over the next two weeks. The text has been described as a “mess”, with many concerned about the amount that still needs to be done.

Masks are back...  in more ways than one.  A Cop15 delegate plays with a VR headset.
Masks are back… in more ways than one. A Cop15 delegate plays with a VR headset. Photograph: Andrej Ivanov/AFP/Getty Images
  • Despite more than 20 targets being negotiated, the 30×30 goal to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030 is stealing the limelight. As delegates arrived at Montreal airport, there was no escaping the slew of posters promoting the ambition.

  • Both Canada and China have given delegates welcome bags – the former containing a snood, and the latter, a silk scarf and tea. Masks are also back and each day delegates are taking Covid tests in order to get into the conference center.

  • The EU representative Ladislav Miko criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying it brings about “long-term environmental degradation”. One Russian delegate responded by saying the subject should be outside the scope of the biodiversity summit. “It’s hard to avoid the impression that these countries are deliberately trying to sabotage the adoption of a global framework,” he said.

  • It’s currently 3C in Montreal and some delegates are struggling with the cold. One was seen wearing a thick coat and woolly hat with headphones over the top in the main plenary hall.

Children looking at an ice sculpture of a polar bear.
While things were heating up in the Palais des congrès, hats were de rigeur for anyone braving the outside in Montreal. Photograph: Christine Muschi/Reuters

Tuesday, December 6

  • The opening ceremony of Cop15 negotiations finally took place after more than two years of delays due to the pandemic. Trudeau, Guterres, and the Chinese environment minister and Cop15 president Huang Runqiu spoke at the event. Guterres said humanity has become a “weapon of mass extinction” and governments must end the “orgy of destruction” at Cop15.

No excuses.

No delays.

It’s time to forge a peace pact with nature. #COP15

— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) December 7, 2022


  • There was good news elsewhere, with the EU announcing a ban on all products judged to have contributed to deforestation. The world’s second-largest importer of agricultural products has agreed to a law to prevent companies from selling to the EU soy, beef, coffee and other commodities linked to the loss of tropical forests around the world.

  • This article was edited on 9 December 2022 to remove the name of a wrongly-identified Russian delegate.

Find more age of extinction coverage here, and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features

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