Delegates from 196 nations in the early hours of Monday reached agreement on a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, though observers were quick to stress that strong national implementation will be crucial to make up for some weaknesses in the text.
Two years delayed due to the outbreak of COVID-19, COP15 in Montreal on Monday approved the Kunming-Montreal Agreement, that sets out a framework for how the world will act to stop and reverse the rapid loss of global biodiversity.
The final text included some of the main points that were in the text going into the talks, such as a commitment to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030.
Though the document was somewhat watered down on other issues, most prominently on finance, where developed nations committed to increasing their contributions to $20 billion per year by 2025 and $30 bln by 2030, well below the $100 bln developing nations had asked for.
“I welcome the historic outcome of COP15. The world has agreed on unprecedented and measurable nature protection and restoration goals and on a Global Giodiversity Fund. And investing into nature also means fighting climate change. The EU will stay the course,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.
However, comments from green groups were more nuanced.
“Agreeing a shared global goal that will guide collective and immediate action to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 is an exceptional feat for those that have been negotiating the Global Biodiversity Framework, and a win for people and planet,” said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International.
“It sends a clear signal and must be the launch pad for action from governments, business and society to transition towards a nature-positive world, in support of climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.
However, the group also stressed that “the agreement’s goal of reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 could be undermined if weak language in critical areas such as the protection of intact ecosystems and tackling unsustainable production and consumption is not addressed at the national level”.
The framework includes four goals and 23 targets, of which the headline ambitions are:
- To maintain, enhance, or restore the integrity, connectivity, and resilience of all ecosystems by 2050, substantially increasing the area of natural ecosystems by that year
- Protect at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine ecosystems by 2030, and ensure that loss of areas with high biodiversity importance is close to zero by 2030
- Take urgent action to ensure the end of human-induced species extinction by 2030
- Ensure safe trade of wild species and eliminate, minimise, or reduce the impacts of invasive species
- Reduce pollution risks from all sources
- Ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits that arise from the utilisation of genetic resources via the establishment of a multilateral fund, which will be finalised at COP16 in Turkey in 2024
- Ensure the full integration of biodiversity into policy-making processes
- Take measures to encourage and enable business to regularly report on their risks, dependencies, and impact on biodiversity
- Reduce incentives, including subsidies, that are harmful to biodiversity by at least $500 bln globally by 2030
- Raise at least $200 bln per year from all sources including the private sector by 2030, and at least $20 bln per year by 2025 and $30 bln by 2030 from developed countries.
Countries are obliged to monitor or report on a set of headline indicators at least every five years, which will include the percentage of land and sea they have conserved, as well as how many national companies publish regular reports on their biodiversity impacts and dependencies.
While the finance section did not quite meet the hopes and expectations of many delegates in Montreal, the final text included details on how individual countries could go about leveraging additional private finance, including “stimulating innovative schemes such as payment for ecosystem services, green bonds, biodiversity offsets and credits, benefit-sharing mechanisms, with environmental and social safeguards”.
The text also stressed the potential for enhancing the role of collective actions, including from Indigenous peoples and local communities, and the scope for non-market based approaches, including community-based natural resource management.
“The agreement rightly places the needs, rights, interests, cultural values and knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and local communities at its heart, and recognises their role in conserving and managing 30% of the world’s land and marine areas by 2030 – an important target in the new framework,” said Tom Mitchell, executive director of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
“It also makes clear just how much finance is going to be needed to halt and reverse the destruction of nature and that local communities and Indigenous Peoples need direct access to that funding,” he added.
In general, the deal was welcomed by business, which had a larger presence in Montreal than at any other biodiversity COP previously.
“It is a surprisingly good, compromised text. A deal is made on the alignment of private and public financial flows with the goals and the targets of the Global Biodiversity Framework and private finance is included as one of the solutions to fund the finance gap on nature,” said Anita de Horde, co-founder and coordinator at the Finance for Biodiversity Foundation, a group comprising almost 130 global financial institutions.
She was especially happy about the section outlining potential market-based approaches, such as biodiversity credits.
“An enabling policy environment that supports financial institutions in better managing the risks and capitalising on the opportunities in their portfolios is key,” said de Horde.
The COP asked the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to as soon as possible establish a special Global Biodiversity Fund, which will be tasked with supporting the implementation of the GBF.
“The decision also includes a number of important elements on access, adequacy, predictability, equitable governance, and financing from all sources. Please be assured of my commitment to work with the GEF Council, countries, and parties, to operationalise the decision and to address these important elements in a timely manner,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, GEF’s CEO and chairperson.
“I recognise and appreciate the trust countries have placed in the GEF to work with you to support the early implementation of the agreement, through the Global Biodiversity Fund, complementing the ongoing support already provided from the GEF Trust Fund.”
The world agreed a set of targets on biodiversity 12 years ago as well, in Japan, but none of them were ever fully met, and no one participating at the Montreal summit is under the impression that carrying out the new GBF will be a simple affair.
“Success will be measured by our rapid and consistent progress in implementing what we have agreed to. The entire United Nations System is geared to support its implementation so that we can truly make peace with nature,” said Inger Andersen, the UNEP executive director.
As well, the need to put in continuous work to make sure the agreement bites will also require involvement from a broad group of participants, according to Li Shuo, an analyst with Greenpeace East Asia.
“This package is by no means flawless, but this is not the end,” he said.
“By the next CBD COP in 2024, governments have a lot of homework to turn these agreed goals into action at home. And have no doubt that the growing movement for nature protection, the charities, the NGOs, and Indigenous peoples will keep governments to these promises,” he said.
Li also noted the important role COP presidents China played in bridging the North-South divide at the Montreal talks, and said he was hopeful Beijing would take the outcome as a cue to play an important and constructive role in global nature talks going forward.
“It is a landmark deal that should propel China to embrace a bigger role in championing nature on the international stage,” Li said.
That’s despite some controversy at the very end of the COP when the Democratic Republic of the Congo accused the Chinese presidency of forcing through an agreement against the DRC’s objection, but that was not sufficient to overturn the deal.
By Stian Reklev – firstname.lastname@example.org