Californians Drive Ambition on the Global Stage: 10 Achievements

The California Global Biodiversity Working Group Jumps Into Action!

Photo: Members of the extended California delegation.
When over 15,000 delegates showed up to the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in Montreal, Canada in December to negotiate and advocate for a new global deal for nature — California was there! Nearly 50 people, including seven state Assemblymembers and Senators, Secretary Wade Crowfoot of the California Natural Resources Agency and his lead team, the leadership of California nonprofits like California Environmental Voters and the California Native Plant Society, representatives of the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, and local and Indigenous leaders were there to press for ambition, forge new partnerships for nature, and to engage in knowledge exchange about how to protect the ecosystems we depend on.

California Drives Ambition on the Global Stage — 10 Achievements

This collective California presence was organized by the California Global Biodiversity Working Group (CGBWG), an incredible initiative that Rosalind Helfand co-leads. During COP 15, California delegates launched vital partnerships and initiatives and led key discussions. Here are a few highlights:

Photo: A California delegates orientation at COP 15.


1. Cities Pledge for Biodiversity: Los Angeles signed “The Montreal Pledge for Cities United in Action for Biodiversity.” 47 cities across 5 continents have signed the pledge, which includes 15 actions to protect biodiversity. Michelle Barton of the City of Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment attended COP 15 on behalf of the city.


2. Centering Multi-Stakeholder Action: California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, Co-Founder of the California Global Biodiversity Working Group Rosalind Helfand, and CEO of California Environmental Voters Mary Creasman led, “California Takes Action on Biodiversity: A Roundtable Discussion at COP15.”  This action focused convening included state legislators, California Natural Resources Agency leadership, nonprofit and local community leaders, youth and Indigenous leaders and more. It was a vital exploration of key issues and ways to work together for the future our state and our planet.

 Photos: California Takes Action for Biodiversity Roundtable: 1) Moderators and California state legislators 2) The full room!


3. Raising Ambition Locally and Globally: California became a founding member — with Quebec, Sao Paulo, Campeche and Scotland — of the Subnational Governments Taskforce of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People.

“As a subnational government that understands what is at stake in the fight to protect nature, California is honored to join the High Ambition Coalition Subnational Task Force as a founding member. Through this new partnership, we look forward to showcasing our global leadership on biodiversity, as well as learning from other members as the world looks to implement the new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.”

Wade Crowfoot, California Secretary for Natural Resources


4. California Signs Biodiversity Partnership MOU with Quebec: California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot and Quebec’s Minister of the Environment Benoit Charette signed a joint declaration committing to action and partnership on biodiversity.

Watch the news coverage of this event.

Photo: California and Quebec MoU signing at COP 15.


5. California Wildlife Crossing in the Spotlight: Beth Pratt, California Director of the National Wildlife Federation, attended COP 15 and educated audiences from around the world about the importance of wildlife crossings, with the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing that is under construction illustrating both the need for and success of these efforts. The California Natural Resources Agency, California state elected officials, and California Environmental Voters then led a global press conference on wildlife crossings.

Photos: COP 15 California led wildlife crossings press conference and the wildlife crossing engagement area at the COP 15 Action Hub.


6. Knowledge Exchange with Cities: During the 7th Summit for Subnational Governments and Cities, which took place at COP 15, city officials from San Francisco and Los Angeles were deeply engaged. This was following commitments by both cities to join the CitiesWithNature platform, and to San Francisco, Los Angeles and other C40 cities, signing onto the Urban Nature Accelerator. During COP 15, California cities joined key knowledge sharing sessions on urban conservation. Learn more in this report by Peter Brastow of the San Francisco Environment Department.


7. State of California Leads on the 7th Summit for Subnational Governments & Cities and Joins RegionsWithNature: The state of California — under the leadership of the California Natural Resources Agency — was enormously engaged and led or joined discussions on taking concrete action for biodiversity, increasing biodiversity investment at the subnational level, and contributing to the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework. California also became a founding member of the RegionsWithNature  platform for subnational government cooperation.

 Photo: 1) California Ocean Protection Council Executive Director Jenn Eckerle discusses raising ambition with subnational leaders. 2) California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot speaks at the 7th Summit.  

8. Legislators Meet with Subnational Government Counterparts: California state legislators met with elected subnational government and civic leadership for targeted discussions on how to advance biodiversity action through legislative processes. They also communicated back to their constituencies to raise awareness of their work at COP15.

 Photo: 1) California State Senator Lena Gonzalez (Long Beach), Assemblymember Ash Kalra (San Jose), and Assemblymember Phil Ting (San Francisco) at COP 15. 2) California State Assemblymember Laura Friedman speaks to audiences back home. 


9. Attending COP 15 Negotiations — Learning the Issues: It’s important to remember that California is the 4th largest economy in the world and has enormous influence. In addition, our policies, procurement decisions, and more can influence the ambition and speed of change for our environment across the nation and abroad. What’s more, we understand that the impacts of biodiversity loss and climate change don’t know boundaries. We need to understand issues worldwide, engage, learn, exchange knowledge, and bring that knowledge home to consider as we continue to develop our own local and statewide policies. Because of this, it was very important that members of the California extended delegation attend the negotiations between parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity treaty during COP15. And they did!

Photos: At negotiations –California Assemblymember Phil Ting, Sarojini Lall (CA Global Biodiversity Working Group), Michelle Barton (City of Los Angeles), Peter Brastow (City of San Francisco, Scott Webb (Turtle Island Restoration Network), Chance Cutrano (Resources Renewal Institute & Mayor of Fairfax, CA)


10. Bringing it Home: The around 50 California based delegates attending COP 15 brought back a wealth of information, new partnerships and collaborations to grow, and motivation to raise ambition and action for biodiversity in California and to apply the new Global Biodiversity Framework Targets and Goals to our work at home. Within a few weeks of arriving back, the California Global Biodiversity Working Group met to debrief and start planning next steps (more on this to come!). Many reflections and articles about this experience were published as well. Here is a list of several of them:


Watch the Press Conference that launched the California delegation to the UN Biodiversity Conference!


Civil Society Reflections:

Reflections on the UN Biodiversity Conference: California Native Plant Society

California Environmental Voters roundup

Turtle Island Restoration Network: Super Coalition of Electeds, Nonprofits, and California Go Global

ICLEI: US Representative

s Champion Nature-based Solutions at COP15

California Natural Resources Agency Reflections:

Ocean Protection Council: California at COP15

California Takes Action to Protect Biodiversity at UN Negotiations

CNRA Secretary Speakers Se

ries: Live from Montreal!


Spectrum News 1: California Only State at UN Biodiversity Conference

San Francisco Examiner: Can California’s Leadership Make a Difference at UN Gathering?

Politico: Keeping the California Dream Alive Under Bid


CalMatters: Will California Keep Up Its Climate Moment


Newswire Canada: 47 Cities Join the Montreal Commitment

Global News: Quebec Signs Agreement with California

Yahoo!: Subnational Governments in Action