Press release: 12 December 2022

COP15 halftime report: Lawyers concerned as wordsmithing stalls progress

Environmental lawyers at ClientEarth have warned that, after a week of negotiations, world leaders at COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity are getting distracted from the task at hand, and risk missing the moment to reach a bold Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).

The lawyers argue that what little progress has been made has been at the expense of making sure the agreement is actually able to deliver its objectives.

For the past week, negotiators have been attempting to agree on the text of the GBF, which will act as a strategic plan, setting global goals and targets and detailing steps to be taken for people to live in harmony with nature up to the year 2030 and beyond. But rather than focusing on what the goals and targets aim to achieve, Parties are wordsmithing.

ClientEarth environmental lawyer Ioannis Agapakis said: “We are fully aware of the importance of the words chosen for global agreements, but currently this is at the expense of making progress on the bigger task at hand, which is completing a framework over the course of the coming days that ensures nations worldwide deliver on their commitment to protect nature. This is the one chance we have and we're wasting precious time.

“Numerous unresolved technical issues and disagreements over wording will eat up time during the second leg of the COP, which is meant to be dedicated to brokering deals on the more politicised issues, like how the Framework will be implemented and funded.

“If Ministers are unable to agree on the processes and tools needed to implement the Framework’s targets and goals, then they will remain empty promises and nothing more than text on a page.

“However, what’s more worrying is that where progress has been made, it has been at the expense of ambition. When Parties spend time poring over the minutiae of the content, they actually end up watering down the language for the mechanisms needed to implement the targets in an attempt to move the discussion forward. This means that key elements are missing that would ensure further transparency and accountability on how countries deliver the Framework’s goals and targets.

“Reaching a compromise should not mean agreeing on the lowest common denominator. Parties may be tempted to opt for the easy way out, but the stakes are too high – the cost of  excessive wordsmithing will be at the expense of our future and the planet’s.”


Notes to editors:

Ministers from each country will arrive in Montreal for the second half of COP15, from 15-17 December. They will take part in the High-Level segment of the conference, which provides a space for ministers to provide political leadership for renewed commitment towards the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and securing an agreement on an ambitious Global Biodiversity Framework. The High-Level segment aims to raise political awareness of and support for the CBD, as well as promote dialogue between Parties. This will be a key phase of the negotiations as it will help secure much-needed political buy-in from the Parties, which been absent from the negotiations so far.

About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.