Experts: COP 15 UN Biodiversity Conference

Published: 25 November 2022

Despite on-going efforts, biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide, and this decline is projected to worsen with business-as-usual scenarios. The UN Biodiversity Conference will convene governments from around the world in Montreal from December 7 to 19 to agree to a new set of goals for nature over the next decade through the Convention on Biological Diversity post-2020 framework process. (UN

Here are some experts from McGill University who can comment on this topic:  

Flavio Affinito, PhD candidate, Department of Biology 

“COP 15 is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to commit to bold action for the protection of biodiversity worldwide. Biodiversity is as important as the climate, and one cannot thrive without the other. We already failed to meet any of 2020 Aichi targets. This is our chance to do better. The scientific community is more ready than ever to guide conservation action, but we need the political will and financial backing to deliver on the new pledges.” 

Flavio Affinito is a PhD candidate in the Department of Biology. He came to McGill to work with Prof. Andrew Gonzalez on applied biodiversity science to support policy. Affinito’s work is part of ResNet, a pan-Canadian effort to monitor, model and manage the nation’s land and sea-scapes. His focus on understanding how social and environmental networks behave and affect each other. 

flavio.affinito [at] (English, French, Italian) 

Gail Chmura, Full Professor, Department of Geography 

“Many of Canada’s Nature-Based Climate Solutions will help to counter the extinction crisis as well as the climate crisis. The protection and restoration of wetlands, which I research, are part of the suite of Nature-Based Climate Solutions we have identified for Canada as wetlands are not only highly effective ways to store carbon, but are habitats essential for maintaining biodiversity.” 

Gail Chmura is a Full Professor in the Department of Geography. Her research areas include biogeography, wetland dynamics, wetland land use changes and paleo-ecology. She recently co-authored the report of a new Council of Canadian Academies expert panel.

Gail.chmura [at] (English, French) 

Kyle Elliott, Associate Professor, Department of Natural Resource Sciences 

“At current rates, Arctic ecosystems will cease to exist in the next century. As our planet warms, species move poleward, squeezing out Arctic species at the top. As one of the Circumpolar Nations, it is imperative that Canada takes the lead in preserving Arctic biodiversity—before it's too late." 

Kyle Elliott is an Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Arctic Ecology. He runs two long-term ecological stations near the southern range limit of Northern seabirds, and which provide information on the long-term trends of marine biodiversity in the sub-Arctic. In his lifetime, over 100 000 species have gone extinct, and he works to prevent this from happening in his children's lifetime. 

Kyle.elliott [at] (English, French) 

Andrew Gonzalez, Full Professor, Department of Biology 

“This is a generational meeting that will decide the level of ambition for the new Global Biodiversity Framework - the new agreement to protect and restore biodiversity and the many benefits we get from biodiversity. We must be ambitious and mainstream the importance of biodiversity in policies and decisions we make across all sectors of society. The agreement is a call to all of society - time is running out to avoid a mass extinction event and ecosystem degradation on a planetary scale.” 

Andrew Gonzalez is a Full Professor and the Liber Ero Chair in Biodiversity Conservation in the Department of Biology.  He has published more than 160 articles on the causes and consequences of biodiversity change and ecosystem sustainability. He is also the founding Director of the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science and co-Chair of the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON).  

Andrew.gonzalez [at] (English, French) 

Timothy Hodges, Professor of Practice, Institute for the Study of International Development 

“COP15 is taking place at a critical time for nature, people and the planet. It will be the most difficult COP meeting in its history.  Key issues to be tackled include a potentially ambitious new framework of biodiversity goals and targets, resource commitments and financing to meet those targets, capacity building, the rights, roles and views of Indigenous Peoples and to acknowledge and address the fact on the Convention’s shortcoming in terms conservation, sustainable use, and fair and equitable benefit sharing.” 

Timothy Hodges is Professor of Practice in Strategic Approaches to Global Affairs at the Institute for the Study of International Development, where his work focuses on global governance – in particular the negotiation and implementation of international sustainable development treaties (such as the Convention on Biological Diversity) by Indigenous peoples, governments and stakeholders. 

timothy.hodges [at] (English) 

Katie Millette, PhD, Department of Biology  

“COP 15, which will adopt the post-2020 global biodiversity framework is expected to offer us a safety net to avert our environmental crises—biodiversity and climate crises. I am particularly interested in how progress towards the global biodiversity framework will be monitored because it should offer a means to see whether we are on track to meeting its goals and targets. It is important that the framework has this mechanism so that we can take stock and adjust our efforts should they be ineffective. The road to preventing species loss, lowering socioeconomic differences, and protecting biodiversity needs a navigation system to guide the way. I hope parties can agree on ambitious targets and that we—scientists, civil society, local communities and indigenous peoples, regional and national governments, and businesses across all sectors—recognize that we must all contribute.” 

Katie Millette, received her PhD from the Department of Biology and is a Science Officer with the GEO BON. Her expertise in species genetic diversity and role at GEO BON helps inform biodiversity policy.  

katie.millette [at] (English) 

Anthony Ricciardi, Full Professor, Bieler School of Environment and Redpath Museum 

“Biodiversity loss threatens myriad ecosystem services on which society depends.  It is one of the most challenging environmental issues of our time, and it should be treated with at least the same urgency as climate change.” 

Anthony Ricciardi is a Full Professor cross-appointed to the Redpath Museum and Bieler School of Environment. For nearly 30 years, his research has examined changes to freshwater biodiversity and the impacts of species invasions on aquatic ecosystems.  

tony.ricciardi [at] (English)

Jennifer Sunday, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology 

“This meeting is a focal point to seriously acknowledge our reliance on nature as a species, and to commit collectively to halt biodiversity loss. It is an opportunity for Canada to show leadership, through respectful collaboration with indigenous peoples, to protect and reduce the loss of species and genetic diversity on land, freshwater, coastal areas, and the ocean.” 

Jennifer Sunday is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology. She is the Canada Research Chair in Global Change Biology. In her research, Prof. Sunday is interested in understanding how species distributions respond to environmental change, through direct effects, adaptive capacities, and biotic interactions. 

jennifer.sunday [at] (English) 

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