A group of people at the COP15 biodiversity conference in 2022

Lincoln Institute Staff Promote Private and Civic Land Conservation at Historic COP15

By Shenmin Liu, January 23, 2023


This is an edited excerpt from an article published by the International Land Conservation Network.

Leaders and conservationists from more than 190 countries came together in Montreal from December 7 to 19 to address urgent threats to biodiversity at the COP15 global conference. A team from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy participated in the historic event, promoting the role that private and civic land conservation can play in the international effort to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by the end of the decade.

Formally known as the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, COP15 resulted in a historic agreement, the Kunming̵–Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which serves as a roadmap toward a nature-positive future in which species and ecosystems thrive. COP15 has been compared in significance to its better-known counterpart, COP21, the 2015 UN climate conference where nearly 200 parties pledged to take action to mitigate climate change by signing the Paris Agreement.

A pillar of the Kunming–Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework is the formalization of the 30×30 goal, an effort to protect at least 30 percent of the world’s lands, oceans, coastal areas, and inland waters by 2030. This goal prioritizes areas based on the value of their biodiversity and aims to create ecologically representative, well-connected, and equitably governed systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures. It also recognizes Indigenous and traditional territories and emphasizes respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. The Kunming–Montreal framework also addresses issues including financial support for developing countries, harmful subsidies, food waste, and corporate transparency.

Four staff members from the Lincoln Institute joined more than 18,000 participants from 196 countries at COP15: Jim Levitt, director of the International Land Conservation Network (ILCN); Chandni Navalkha, ILCN associate director of sustainably managed land and water resources; Zhi Liu, director of the Peking University–Lincoln Institute Center for Urban Development and Land Policy (PLC); and Shenmin Liu, ILCN regional representative for Asia.

On the first day of the conference, ILCN and PLC co-hosted a daylong event with the Global Environmental Institute, Africa Wildlife Foundation, and other non-governmental organizations. The event, which centered on strengthening non-state actors’ efforts to support multi-goal and multi-benefit biodiversity conservation and sustainable development initiatives, attracted more than 100 participants from civil society, academia, the business sector, youth groups, and local communities. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, spoke about the critical role of civil society organizations in implementing the new framework. Levitt gave a keynote presentation on leveraging international and cross-sectoral expertise to help create an effective, trusted, and connected global network for private and civic land conservation. He described successful examples of collaborative civic conservation including the FONAG water fund in Quito, Ecuador, and Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area in Nunavut, Canada.

At a separate event, Shenmin Liu spoke about the importance of engaging youth in the conservation movement and the power young people hold as the future stewards of the planet. The ILCN and the Nature Conservancy of Canada also hosted a gathering for ILCN network members attending COP15, with participants hailing from Canada, China, Australia, Spain, South Africa, Kenya, Liberia, and other countries.

In addition to yielding a landmark agreement among the world’s nations to protect and restore biodiversity, COP15 served as a springboard for ongoing work. For example, delegates sowed the seeds for the establishment of a multilateral fund to enable equitable benefit sharing between providers and users of emerging agricultural technology. Details of the fund are set to be finalized at COP16 in Turkey in 2024, where signatories of the Kunming-Montreal Declaration will assess progress on their efforts to address the current biodiversity crisis and ensure a sustainable future for the planet.



Shenmin Liu is a research analyst with the Lincoln Institute and ILCN representative for Asia.

Image: Lincoln Institute staff and global partners at COP15 in December 2022. Credit: Shenmin Liu.