COP15: Curtailing an ‘Orgy of Destruction’

António Guterres, UN secretary general, didn’t hold back at the opening of the COP15 biodiversity conference this week as he told delegates, “Multinational corporations are filling their bank accounts while emptying our world of its natural gifts… This conference is our chance to end this orgy of destruction.” We hope he’s right. Here’s our quick guide to what it’s all about and how to find out more.


What is COP15?


Governments have met every decade since 1992 — when the convention on biological biodiversity (CBD) was established at Rio’s Earth Summit — to agree on targets to reverse the destruction of nature. The three aims of this convention are the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of biodiversity, and the fair use of genetic resources. Sadly, every target set so far has failed, including those set at the last summit in Japan in 2010, known as the Aichi biodiversity targets, when governments signed up to halve the loss of natural habitats.

The 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets set by the CBD

Why does it matter?


Biodiversity (short for biological diversity) underpins all life on earth. It’s the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. Biodiversity also underpins over 50 per cent of global GDP.


In thriving ecosystems, everything is interconnected and dependent on nature’s careful checks and balances. In the last 100 years, large parts of humanity have been slow to recognise and respect this. For example, over 90 per cent of the food we eat depends on healthy soil. Yet, almost half of the world’s soil is degraded by irresponsible agricultural practices.


Since 1970, earth’s wildlife populations have decreased by a staggering 69 per cent, and many scientists believe that we have already entered the sixth mass extinction. This is the most significant loss of life since dinosaur times and the first mass extinction caused by humans thanks to land and sea use change, rising temperatures, exploitation of natural resources, invasive species, and pollution.


Nature also plays a role in the nine tipping points that climate scientists believe will ‘tip’ the earth into irreversible and abrupt change. One of these is the risk of Amazon rainforest dieback caused by deforestation and hotter, drier conditions.


Are people feeling hopeful about this one?


Some are more hopeful about COP15 since the climate crisis is more urgent than ever, and the link between biodiversity loss and climate is now unequivocal. We have more evidence that nature is a critical ally in our fight against rising greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures. We also understand in greater depth what we need to conserve and restore and how to go about it.


The goals to be discussed include:


  • Reducing pesticide use by two-thirds.
  • Removing government subsidies that harm nature.
  • Funding the protection and restoration of nature.
  • Combating plastic pollution.


Some are hopeful that governments will reach a commitment to the 30×30 goal to protect 30 per cent of land and marine environments by 2030.

Nikoi's permaculture farm on Bintan provides much of the resort's food while protecting nature and offering training, employment, and learning opportunities for surrounding communities.

Where does The Long Run fit into all this?


So urgent is the task at hand to reverse biodiversity loss that everyone needs to play a role, including businesses. 


The Long Run works with privately protected areas (also known as PPAs) around the world that use tourism to fund conservation that benefits community and culture. This underpins our 4C framework — a holistic balance of Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce. 


Before joining our community, each member must demonstrate influence over a significant ecosystem (marine or terrestrial and of varying sizes) and commit to operating it according to the 4Cs. Our Global Ecosphere Retreats — spanning from Brazil to Kenya to Indonesia — are those members that have passed the rigorous offsite and onsite assessment (by external auditors) to meet all 89 criteria within the 4Cs.


Our members’ collective impact on biodiversity include:


  • Conserve and regenerate 23.5 million acres of nature.
  • Invest more than 18 million USD in the conservation of biodiversity, well-being of communities, and cultural stewardship.
  • Protect over 400 endangered plant and animal species.
  • 82% of members create wildlife corridors to increase habitat connectivity.
  • 69% of members create buffer zones for a National Park System, Biosphere Reserve and/or World Heritage Site.

We believe that the best way to have a positive impact when travelling is to fund the restoration and protection of nature. Although not 100 per cent dependent on tourism, because we help our members achieve financial diversity, many of these projects thrive on the funds and awareness building that tourism brings. Some of our members, like Grootbos, have conducted extensive carbon balancing studies to prove that their destination is carbon negative due to the carbon the ecosystem sequesters.


We also believe that for the protection, restoration, and conservation of nature to be socially and financially sustainable in longevity, it must put community and culture needs at the heart of operations. A great example is the holistic vision of Global Ecosphere Retreat member Borana Conservancy in Kenya.


At our Annual Meeting there recently, we heard from Borana’s Community Liaison and Development Manager Ochen Maiyani about the recently completed Social Assessment for Protected areas (SAPA) project. The comprehensive audit of community attitudes and challenges, which used external auditors to speak with 350 households in six surrounding communities, has provided the conservancy with a robust understanding of needs and concerns to guide decision-making.


Ochen talking Long Run members through the SAPA project on Borana Conservancy.
Ochen talking Long Run members through the SAPA project on Borana Conservancy.

These are just two of many examples of how our members are proving that the private sector has a role to play in tackling biodiversity loss. To achieve the 30×30 vision, we need everyone to get involved and ensure that conservation has community and cultural needs front of mind.


If you’d like to learn more about joining The Long Run movement, contact [email protected]. You can find out more about our members, sitting at the intersection of conservation and tourism, in our brochure HERE. Next year we’ll launch a quarterly newsletter — sign up below to be the first to hear our news!


KEEP IN THE LOOP. Add your name to our mailing list and keep informed on The Long Run.