Addressing environmental issues that have global implications requires coordinated international efforts. Did you know the first modern environmental treaty between nations focused specifically on wetlands? The Ramsar Convention was established in 1971 to recognize and conserve wetlands of international importance, especially those providing important waterfowl habitat. Ramsar’s ongoing work continues to be a positive example of international cooperation and action.
Today, there are numerous international environmental agreements, including treaties, addressing broad environmental issues including two urgent global crises: biodiversity loss and climate change. Countries that show their commitment to addressing these issues sign on to these treaties and become “contracting parties.”
What is a COP?
A COP, or Conference of Parties, is the term for a meeting where parties to an international treaty gather to discuss current issues, propose resolutions and move key issues forward. COP is a curious acronym in the conservation lexicon, usually followed by a number (e.g., COP15). The number attached to the acronym is a tally of how many times the parties have met about a particular convention.
Depending on the specific treaty, the frequency at which the parties meet varies, and in any given year there may be more than one meeting of the parties to different international treaties. The country that hosts the conference for each treaty changes with each new COP, too. So, for example, when you hear about COP15, be sure to ask which international convention it refers to. In 2022, you’ll hear a lot about COP14, COP15 and COP27.
COP events being held in 2022
Let’s have a closer look at three key COPs that Canada will be attending around the world this year:
COP14 – The 14th Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat
Dates and Location: November 5–13, 2022, Wuhan, China (in-person meeting: Geneva, Switzerland)
Number of Contracting Parties: 172
About the Convention: The Ramsar Convention was first adopted on February 2, 1971. Canada joined the Convention on January 15, 1981. The contracting parties are committed to working towards wise use of all their country’s wetlands. They work together to designate Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites) and help make sure they’re well-managed. The convention’s anniversary is celebrated each year on February 2 as World Wetlands Day.
Up for Discussion at COP14:
- Wetland education for youth
- Guidance for enhancing small wetland conservation and management
- How waterbird population estimates and other criteria are used to designate Ramsar Sites
- Preparations for updating a strategic plan for the Convention on Wetlands to ensure “wetlands are conserved, wisely used, restored and their benefits are recognized and valued by all”
- Protection, management, and restoration of wetlands as nature-based solutions to address the climate crisis
COP15 – The 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity
Dates and Location: December 7–19, 2022, Montreal, Canada
Number of Contracting Parties: 196
About the Convention: The Convention on Biological Diversity, or Biodiversity Convention, was first signed in 1992 at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. The contracting parties are committed to the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and equitable sharing of the benefits of its genetic resources.
Up for Discussion at COP15:
- A new global framework, including specific goals and targets, for cooperative action around biodiversity conservation over the next decade
- Protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures as ways to address the global biodiversity crisis
- Invasive alien species and their threats to biodiversity
- Sustainable wildlife management
- Climate change, agriculture, and human health: how they relate to biodiversity
COP27 – The 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Dates and Location: November 6–18, 2022, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt
Number of Contracting Parties: 198
About the Convention: The Convention on Climate Change was also first signed in 1992 at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. The contracting parties are committed to preventing “dangerous” human interference with the climate system. It sets lofty but specific goals for stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
Up for Discussion at COP27:
- Ways to fight climate change, including nature-based solutions like conserving and restoring carbon-rich ecosystems such as wetlands
- Financial solutions to climate change, including ways of getting resources to developing countries to help address the crisis
- Promoting technology and tools for fighting climate change to developing countries
- The risks and burdens of climate change for women and the role of gender in climate change response
As Canada’s leading wetland conservation organization, DUC is proud to support the Government of Canada’s participation in these important global efforts, which are all closely linked to wetland conservation. In collaboration with countries around the globe, Canada can take meaningful action to address the global biodiversity and climate change crises, as well as support wetland conservation.