The COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal concluded with an agreement on the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, aimed at safeguarding our natural world. Part of this is the Thirty-by-Thirty (30x30) Initiative to conserve at least 30% of the world’s lands, inland waters, coastal areas and oceans by 2030.

In this podcast, recorded in Montreal during COP15, we look at how central biodiversity is to Mexico, its people, culture and economy. The podcast focuses on the ocean, and Mexico’s membership of the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. WRI hosts the secretariat for the Ocean Panel.

Kristian Teleki of WRI’s Ocean Program sat down with Martha Delgado and Andrew Rhodes from the government of Mexico to discuss targets and what happens next for the future of our ocean.


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“We eat, we breathe, we listen to biodiversity and depend upon its ecosystem services in Mexico. Biodiversity is closely related to our culture. The cost of degradation and depletion of natural resources has a significant impact. In 2019 environmental losses amounted to 4.5% of our GDP.”

Martha Delgado, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs


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“We must reflect and reimagine our relationship with nature and the linkages between biodiversity and climate change. It has driven this crisis and they mutually reinforce each other.”

Andrew Rhodes, Special Envoy to the Ocean, Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs


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“This not a bunch of governments sitting around. This is a whole range of actors, from business to civil society, to NGOs, communities, indigenous groups that are here in Montreal celebrating biodiversity, but also recognizing its importance, to culture and society.”

Kristian Teleki, Global Director, WRI Ocean Program


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Nicholas Walton 00:07: Hello and welcome to WRI’s big ideas into action podcast. And today we’re looking at biodiversity

Andrew Rhodes: “We must reflect and reimagine our relationship between nature and the linkages between nature and climate change.”

Nicholas Walton: We’ll be on the ground at the COP15 biodiversity summit that has just ended in Montreal – and looking at the role biodiversity plays in Mexico – its economy, its culture, its society

Martha Delgado: “We eat, we breathe, listen to biodiversity and depend on its ecosystems services in Mexico.”

Nicholas Walton 00:39: Hello, I’m Nicholas Walton and this is a special on-the-ground episode of the World Resources Institute big ideas into action podcast. Hot on the heels of the COP27 summit in Egypt was the COP15 biodiversity summit in the Canadian city of Montreal. In the final hours of negotiations, a deal was struck to adopt the 30 by 30 target, to protect 30% of the world’s land, inland waters and the ocean by 2030. Kristian Teleki, global director of WRI’s Ocean program, was there. He’s also the head of the secretariat of the High Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy, known as the Ocean Panel. This podcast is an interview that he did in Montreal with two representatives of the Mexican government, Martha Delgado, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, and Andrew Rhodes, Special Envoy for Oceans. They explain what marine biodiversity loss means for a megadiverse country like Mexico, and why 30 by 30 is just a stepping stone towards true sustainable management of the ocean. Bear in mind that this interview was done before the outcome of COP15 was known. Here’s Kristian…

Kristian Teleki 1:44: This conference is the biggest biodiversity summit in a decade, that has been delayed for two years because of the COVID 19 pandemic. The ambition of this conference really is to reach an agreement on the urgent policy action required to reverse biodiversity decline worldwide, known as the post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. The Framework will provide a global roadmap for the conservation, protection, restoration, and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems for the next decade. And if managed sustainably and equitably, we know that the ocean can help solve some of the world's greatest challenges. And I'm sure you're familiar with lots of these. The Ocean Panel comprises of 17 world leaders who have joined together to realise the mission of sustainably managing 100% of the ocean area under national jurisdiction. So that's, yes, getting 30% more protection of the ocean by 2030, but not leaving the other 70% open for business. So it's a very much 100% approach. And the Ocean Panel’s Ocean Action Agenda supports a profound departure from business as usual, towards a sustainable ocean economy that helps to stimulate and tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, while at the same time providing for benefits, nature and the economy. So to talk about this, I'm delighted to be joined by two Ocean Panel colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mexico. I have Martha Delgado, who is the undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights and the Sherpa for the President of Mexico. And Andrew Rhodes, who works very closely with Marta on the Ocean Panel work. And as a Special Envoy for the Ocean. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedules to join me for I think, which is a very important discussion and really relevant to the discussions going on here in Montreal. So the first question to you, Martha, if I may: biodiversity, incredibly important to Mexico, can you tell us why it is so important?

Martha Delgado 3:40: First of all, thank you, Kristian, for having us today. Here, Mexico as a megadiverse country is part of a select group of nations with the greatest diversity of animals and plants. Almost 70% of the world diversity of species are in Mexico. So in addition, Mexico is one of the three mega diverse countries, along with the United States and Colombia, with coastlines on both the Atlantic and the Pacific. So we are home to about 10% of the species registered in the world. So we are the fifth place with the largest number of plant species. We are the fourth in amphibians, second in mammals, and the first in the world in reptiles There are more than 100,000 described species in the country, although they could be millions of those that inhabit our soils, or waters or remote places because they are not enlisted right now, but they are not described as a species. But we have an enormous part of land and ocean of animal habitats, plant habitats and all the foregoing can only be translated into a great bio cultural richness, which is impregnated in being or people or history, or uses and customs and what gives us identity as a nation. So biodiversity is embedded in our cosmogonic way of living in Mexico. We eat, we breathe, listen to biodiversity and depend on its ecosystem services in Mexico. Biodiversity, as I said, is closely related to our culture. Our food, for example. And in addition to the above the cost of environmental degradation, and depletion of natural resources have a significant impact. Only in 2019, the National Institute of geography and statistics of Mexico reported that environmental losses amounted to 4.5% of the GDP. So that is the equivalent approximately 1,096,000 million pesos. So we need to halt the loss of biodiversity, we need to halt the loss. And we need also to spread the word and to protect culturally speaking, this heritage we have given.

Kristian Teleki 6:14: So clearly the stakes are high. You know, you've outlined some great examples of the connection of biodiversity to people to the health of people, to climate. So reflecting on that and thinking about that in the context of Montreal here, COP15. I mean, what does this conference mean to you? I mean, what does this mean to you. And then perhaps what what does Mexico hope to see as a result of this conference? Are you going to see the outcomes that you that you hoped and came to Montreal to see?

Martha Delgado 6:42: I would hope to have a very simple reply, answer to this question, but it is not. We have faced very complex and very difficult debate and negotiations. The conference is much more than a once a decade opportunity. This, as you may know, has been postponing this - we're supposed to be in China in the first place. But we are now in Montreal. And this conference is how to change the rhetoric and the … that can genuinely transform. The decadent patterns of consumption for a new story of humanity that take care is really for all of us living in the planet, and to Mexico is very important. We will emphasise that the priority of the Global Biodiversity Framework must be to achieve an effective and inclusive implementation. In this sense, the new instrument must balance the resources and responsibilities associated with both the coordination and implementation of the concrete actions of the NBSAP, such as improving and facilitating the reporting process, with a view to strengthening transparency and accountability, which is very important in this phase of the negotiations. And Mexico, we are pledging, but most importantly, working actively to achieve a robust and ambitious post-2020 GBF. So we need a successful negotiation pathway right now, where the constituent elements and goals of the framework it means of implementation and financing and other important aspects of it, are clearly showcased and adopted by all the countries. Very, very often we heard about the need of conservation of the biodiversity around, but actions must be well defined, how to really preserve the biodiversity, use it responsibly, and in our perspective, also, protecting the rights and the knowledge of indigenous communities, which, at the end of the day, they are those who have been protecting and conserving those different species and ecosystems and habitats for centuries. So that is why we are here and we will be very vocal, defending those rights, heritage. And also these policies.

Kristian Teleki 9:22: I mean, it's terrifically important when you talk about the indigenous cultures and that they have been the stewards of nature and biodiversity in Mexico for hundreds of years. An certainly now's not the time to marginalise them, now's the time to empower them. And you talked about this, or the inclusive dimension of the global biodiversity framework, and implementation and financing, following up with action and financing is going to be incredibly important. And the other thing that I wanted to note that you said it was incredibly important, was this is a once in a decade opportunity, we have had two years of incredibly intense period, we have a threat to our economies, our relationship with nature, COVID has really forced us to re-explore that. And I think we have an opportunity to get that right. And sort of talking about that. And we talked about, you know, Andrew the connections between biodiversity. And some of the other big challenges that are talked about here. And, you know, a whole range of them. But we've just had COP27 and Sharm el Sheikh. The connection, you know, is that you know, you cannot have any Paris without a Montreal. And I'd love to hear about some of your thoughts on this, re these connections between biodiversity and the challenges like climate change mitigation?

Andrew Rhodes 10:36: Thank you, Kristian. And we've been deprived of the opportunity to be in China thanks to the pandemic, and the pandemic is a result of the loss and the crisis of biodiversity. And as you probably remember, in December 2020, as a scientific outcome was produced by participants in the first ever joint workshop between the IPCC and IPBS. And the peer reviewed report output by more than 50 world leading biodiversity and climate experts confirmed that nature and climate are intrinsically linked. And then, that unprecedented change in climate and by the biodiversity …, obviously, by human activities have merging into an increasingly threatened nature. Human lives, livelihoods and overall wellbeing around the planet. The pandemic is a perfect result of it. So we must reflect and reimagine a relationship between nature and these linkages between biodiversity and climate change. Really set them off. It's fundamental that biodiversity loss and climate change are driven, this crisis is driven by human activities, and they mutually reinforce each other. This was a first let's say, call to order from nature to us, to our means of living. It's, it's an excellent opportunity. And as Martha said, once in a decade opportunity to reflect and adjust and be ambitious.

Kristian Teleki 11:59: You know, obviously, in the context of this, and we talked about the ocean, this unprecedented opportunity to use your membership in the Ocean Panel. And the President has been very clear and committed to a whole range of actions that would improve the state of the world, the state of the oceans, state of biodiversity in Mexico and beyond. How has your membership of the Ocean Panel with these other 16 heads of state and government helped shape your work?

Martha Delgado 12:28: The exchange of information is important. But also, in our case, the ability to coordinate several different ministries, at the Mexican government, in order for all to gather information, and the willingness to explore the possibility of having a sustainable ocean economy. It’s very interesting to say that, for first time, we are not fighting against environmentalists and the fishers, for example, or the industry. Why? Because both we need the sustainable ocean economy and the very approach of a sustainable ocean economy that brings the conservation and also the  fisheries, to the discussion and having this balance between these two important matters for the country has been instrumental for Mexico.

Kristian Teleki 13:22: I mean, it's an incredible example in the Panel. I mean, I think, and I know that the work that you've done has led to exchanges with other countries outside your region. You know, and I think that's what the Panel is all about is sharing this knowledge and information with other countries, leading by example, and making sure that everyone is brought along and leaving no one behind, which I think is very important of the things we talked about. And it really is emblematic of that, you know, in a time when we are increasingly in a geopolitical polarised world, that multilateralism is alive, and not reliant on formal processes. We can move with speed and space, pace and scale in order to achieve some of these ocean outcomes. And so I'm incredibly it's sort of an important what you to hope to achieve. But Andrew, you know, where do we go from here? In the back of my mind, I'm a little worried. I'm walking in the hallways here and I'm hearing the chatter. And I'm hearing that there's maybe a dilution of ambition. You know, “Let's push the target timeline beyond 2030, 2045, 2050”. We don't have the luxury of time with some of these issues. We all know, you know this, and you are acutely aware of them, especially when we're talking about the state of the environment, importance of biodiversity in Mexico. And certainly you don't want to go at this alone, you want to go together, because we need together we can go faster. So Andrew, where do we go from here?

Andrew Rhodes 14:46: Cop15 is sometimes seen only as the Conference of the 30 by 30. Now, there's this general confusion that people are only thinking about the proposed target that relates to protecting 30% of the planet by 2030. And it's much more than that. You said it in the beginning, the vision of the 100% of the Ocean Panel should be mainstreamed into the ambition of COP15 results. Mexico, in fact, taking advantage of the learning and this platform of the Ocean Panel, we announced our active participation in the High Ambition Coalition for People and Nature of 30 by 30, because of the panel. So the hope of reaching a theory of change, where human beings, correct the course, for the benefit of ourselves and nature will be fundamental in this conference, even in face of the worst scenario of probably not having an agreement being reached by the end of the week, or under a scenario of scarce ambition of its instrument, we must reinforce and put, again, the vision of 100 percent. We have to push, we cannot leave Montreal without an ambitious framework. And although we've mentioned it, this is a huge opportunity that that rarely occurs, even in decades. We must also remember that there are multiple spaces and instruments, both multilateral and local, where we can have a positive impact year after year to benefit the goals set out here and hopefully for this new GBF. It really requires commitment, will and without any doubt, diligence,

Kristian Teleki 16:28: It's great to have your optimism. You know, I think in a world, we're very short on that, and especially in some of the hallways, I think you find there's some people that are maybe not sharing that sense of optimism, and I hope that you can certainly take that forward into some of the negotiations and really say, you know, let's, let's really go forward together, and really see this as as an opportunity to, you know, to keep that ambition, but also making sure that we have a balanced view of that that includes the dimension of people planet and the economy. And that those are critically important to countries. Mark, I just want to come to you just you know, we've sort of talked about a whole range of things. And I just wondered if you had any sort of final sort of thoughts and reflections that you'd want to leave some of the listeners with?

Martha Delgado 17:11: Well, I have to say that we have Conference of the Parties regarding a lot of matters, environmental ones, but also regarding population, peace, security, economy, a lot of matters. Environmental Conferences of the Parties have become the places not just where the countries make agreements, but also where other organisations can gather, exchange information and move on even without the government. And that is very interesting, not just for oceans, but for biodiversity and for any other purposes. So it is a great opportunity for knowing understanding the last research, for example, in biodiversity, what is the status of the species in the world, to meet people that maybe are not politicians, but are devoted of protecting the planet. When we connect with these NGOs, with the citizens, with young people, with indigenous communities, even with some private sector in the entrepreneurs that want to do things better and good. Then we are as government representative, or officials, we get inspired, we get committed, and I hope we can deliver. We can deliver for all those fighters that are working everyday for a better world.

Kristian Teleki 18:48: That's a terrific note to end on. I mean, I think there's obviously a great deal of optimism. You know, we are thinking about this. And I think it's important to convey this message to those that are not in Montreal, that this is not a bunch of governments that are sitting around. These are a whole range of actors, from business to civil society, NGOs, community, indigenous groups that are here, celebrating biodiversity, but also recognising its importance in culture, in society, and I think but what better place to hopefully make some progress on that in Montreal here at COP15. Perhaps the sort of a final thought for me on this in terms of, you know, the mantra of the High Level Panels, that we know that if we effectively protect the ocean, we can sustainably produce from it and equitably prosper. And so those three P's are fundamental to how we move forward with the ocean.

Nicholas Walton 19:38: And that was Kristian Teleki of WRI’s Ocean program at the COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal, with Martha Delgado and Andrew Rhodes from the government of Mexico. You can find out more about the summit and its outcomes on our website – including much more on our Ocean Program. If you go to you’ll find some of our podcasts about how a sustainable ocean economy is possible – and critical for the entire planet. Or simply subscribe on your favourite podcast app. That’s it for this episode. I’m Nicholas Walton and goodbye for now.