By now you’ve probably heard of COP26 - the shorthand name for the next major UN climate summit, rescheduled for November in Glasgow after being delayed a year by the coronavirus pandemic.

But another big “Convention of the Parties” (COP) is taking place a month earlier - one that is far less talked about but also critically important. That is COP15: the UN biodiversity summit planned for China in October.

Efforts to protect the natural world have yet to achieve the same high profile as those to limit climate change, despite advocacy by naturalist David Attenborough and many others.

Losses of crucial ecosystems like rainforests and wetlands, as well as animal species, have accelerated even as governments, businesses, financiers and conservation groups seek effective ways to protect and restore more of the Earth’s land and seas.

So what is COP15, and what does it hope to achieve?

Originally signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and later ratified by about 195 countries not including the United States, it is designed to protect diversity of plant and animal species and ensure natural resources are used sustainably.

It also aims to achieve “fair and equitable sharing” of benefits from natural genetic material, used in everything from medicines to new crop species.

In practice that means making sure indigenous communities and countries home to biological riches benefit from their use.

Why is protecting nature better so important?
Around the world, forests and other natural ecosystems are being rapidly destroyed, often to expand agriculture and production of commodities like palm oil, soy and beef as the world’s population grows.

But people depend on nature, from oceans to wildernesses, to supply clean air and water, and to regulate rainfall that is vital for food supplies. If too many ecosystems vanish, their basic life support services can falter, scientists warn.

Because plants absorb planet-heating carbon dioxide to grow, better protecting or expanding natural areas is also one of the cheapest and most effective ways to slow climate change.

Read the full article about COP15 from Thomson Reuters Foundation at Eco-Business.