California Success: from Biodiversity Campaign to COP 26 Action

In spring 2020, dozens of environmental organizations and leaders — in a campaign spearheaded by Rosalind Helfand — joined the call for California to become an official observer to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. In December 2020, CA Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot announced that California was on board!

We did not predict the events we’d set in motion!

At the November 2021 climate change conference or COP 26, California’s state leadership took our new commitment to biodiversity policy leadership to the next level: We became the first US state to sign Scotland’s Edinburgh Declaration. This Declaration commits subnational and city governments worldwide “to take transformative action to protect nature and halt biodiversity loss around the globe.” It will “ensure the voice of sub-state governments and authorities is reflected within the [Convention on Biological Diversity’s] post-2020 framework and targets.” It’s intended outcomes include “a dedicated Decision and updated  Plan of Action for subnational governments, cities and local authorities, – to be adopted by the [Convention on Biological Diversity] at COP15.”

By signing the Declaration, California committed to three things:

  • Recognize the critical link between the health of nature and the health of our climate.
  • Engage on a key agreement that is intended to increase ambitious action with the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • Begin partnering with other subnational governments who are acting on the biodiversity crisis.

California’s Ocean Protection Council posted an announcement titled “California Joins Global Network of Subnational Governments Promising Action on Biodiversity Conservation.” California Lt. Governor Kounalakis said, “I am proud to sign the Edinburgh Declaration on behalf of Californians and our strong commitment to this global effort. As a subnational party with 40 million people to protect, 105 million acres we rely on for food, water, and habitat, and the fifth largest economy in the world to sustain, we understand what is at stake. There is no future in business as usual.”