Billionaires and Biodiversity

Life in the corridors of power at COP-15 – the Montreal Biodiversity Conference

In her first missive, Michele Rattray Huish, a parishioner at Montreal’s Christ Church Cathedral and a member of the Anglican Diocese of Montreal’s Stewardship of the Environment Committee described the daily rush and roar of the COP-15 The Biodiversity Conference. She updates her experience below.

Negative Covid test in hand (having taken one with breakfast that morning) I headed off to COP-15 to see what was to be seen that day.  It was my lucky day it turns out as I finally met up with the three other members of the delegation from the Anglican Diocese of Montreal that I had not yet met in person; Wendy Evans, Neil Whitehouse and  Mercy Awori.  Granted I only saw Mercy very briefly as I was heading out and she was just arriving, however it was good to finally meet in person after all the e-mails and WhatsApp contacts.

Neil, Wendy and I went looking for events taking place and interesting activities at the COP.  First up for us was a presentation from the High Level Event – on Financing the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).  This was a well attended event with no seats left available.  We had to form part of the standing crowd.  A very slick brochure was available – “10PP – Political Vision – The 10 Point Plan for Financing Biodiversity” – which gave a pretty positive note on how countries are committed to funding biodiversity.

We next briefly sat in on a presentation on the financing mechanisms for biodiversity – the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – not so interesting – lots of detail for project managers on how to structure proposals to get funding – presented by the IISD, GEF and the Flyways Initiative.

Quickly moving on we visited the Canada Pavilion where we were treated to little maple cones – very sweet indeed. 

While at the Canada Pavilion we were fortunate to find ourselves practically rubbing shoulders with the Minister of the Environment – Stephen Guilbault, who was rushing past (body guard in tow) to attend a press conference.  Wendy rushed after them and tried her very best to get into the room – but the security was having none of it.  No Press Badge – No Entry!   Ah well, no doubt we’ll see the coverage of the event on the TV later.

Heading back toward the Faith-based kiosk, and who did we encounter but Elizabeth Mrema – the Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.  She was giving a press conference – this one was out in the open – but yet again we were politely asked to move along – as we were blocking the passage!

By far the most interesting press conference was the last one we attended on Billionaires and Biodiversity, where we heard passionate testimony from the following organizations – Rainforest Action Network (Australia); Friends of the Earth International (Costa Rica); Global Forest Coalition (Netherlands/Paraguay); Panganga Pungowlyl – indigenous Environment Network (US) – about how billionaires are destroying the planet with their money – funding capitalist ventures of extraction and destruction.

As Neil commented later – you couldn’t have gotten a more diametrically opposite take on how things were going than to contrast the first and the last presentations we had attended that day!  

AFTERWORD – The final agreement from COP-15 has surprised and delighted many, including Canadian Minister of the Environment, the Hon. Stephen Guilbault. Even The Guardian seems pleased.

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