From negotiations to implementation: Why COP15 must deliver a strong Global Biodiversity Framework
This blog was written prior to the closing of COP15. It documents the state of the negotiations in the afternoon of 18 December, 2022 prior to the closing plenary.
At the COP15 Biodiversity negotiations in Montreal, the High-Level Segment concluded its work at its closing plenary held on 17 December. With its conclusion the negotiations have entered the final phase. The future for the planet and people is at stake. While some progress has been made, differences persist on some of the key issues.
COP15 is where negotiations take place to set out new goals, and targets, and develop an action plan for nature - the draft agreement, known as the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) has been in development for over 3 years. After the conclusion of COP15, implementation of the GBF will begin. What comes next depends on a strong outcome in Montreal. The Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to the Convention on Biological Diversity that will follow COP15 will be tasked with advancing the implementation of the biodiversity framework. This is why Montreal is so critical. This is a negotiation focused COP. A successful outcome with the passage of a strong GBF will blaze the path for implementation in years to come to meet the ambitious targets that are being pushed for my member states, scientific experts and civil society alike.
Throughout the conference, civil society, indigenous peoples and local communities, cities and subnational governments, the scientific community, representatives of the business community and the financial sector have sent clear messages asking delegates to deliver an ambitious GBF. At a COP where negotiations for a global agreement are taking place, such engagement is crucial. Stakeholders play a key role observing the negotiations, engaging the process, and communicating their policy expectations from governments. They also communicate how they would support implementation, provided that agreement is reached on ambitious, goals, targets and an action plan. Within the COP15 venue, Place Québec provided a space dedicated for multi-stakeholder gathering, action and dialogue. It has been a centre of gravity for statements and pleas for the ambition that stakeholders want to see. The momentum created in this space shows potential for an action agenda for a whole of society implementation. But successful implementation needs a strong GBF to create the enabling conditions for action. It needs the mechanisms and the resources for accelerated implementation alongside signaling to the global markets for the need for increased investment in nature. This is why multi-stakeholder engagement has been focused primarily on sending a strong message and asking for an ambitious outcome.
In the closing plenary of the High-Level Segment on 17 December, subnational and local governments, businesses, the financial sector, the scientific community, the IPLCs and Youth gave statements asking for an ambitious GBF with an action agenda statement.
The statement by the Consortium of Scientific Partners highlighted that there is a unique opportunity to lay the groundwork for living in harmony with Nature and effective implementation for the GBF. Science-based standards can lead the shift toward the goals and targets, while concurrently supporting increased resilience to climate change. The scientific community can do its part in implementation. To achieve this, the world needs a biodiversity framework with a strong monitoring framework, strong data and sharing data.
The statement of Local Governments for Sustainability, known as ICLEI, reinforced the commitment of subnational and local governments to collaborate for implementation. The statements from the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Biodiversity (IIPFB) emphasized land and territorial rights, fair and equitable benefit sharing, recognition of the value of nature, including of those people who live with nature. And the voices of Youth were also heard. The inclusion of Indigenous voices in the negotiating spaces and the recognition of their vital contribution of IPLC's to the protection of nature is crucial.
This COP has seen a sea change in business engagement asking for an ambitious GBF. There were hundreds of more businesses from around the world at this COP than before. A strong voice at COP15 was Business for Nature, a global coalition that brings together business and conservation organizations and forward-thinking companies to amplify a credible business voice for nature. They have asked for an ambitious GBF that provides political certainty with smart targets that address the key drivers of biodiversity loss and mandatory requirements for disclosure. “Forward looking businesses are asking you to be ambitious, they are asking for stronger regulation,” said Eva Zabey, Executive Director of Business for Nature, speaking on behalf of the business community at the closing plenary of the High-Level Segment. Zabey underlined that “there is no livelihood, no economy, no business without nature.” Biodiversity and nature are on the corporate agenda, she added.
The financial sector asked for agreement on a financial architecture. One of the glaring limitations of the Aichi Targets was that no financial mechanism was agreed. It is crucial for the GBF to include a financial architecture. However, at the closure of the HLS, there were strong disagreements among parties. Three options has been tabled. One option would be to use the existing finance architecture, which is the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). A second would be to create, under the GEF, a sub-financing mechanism or a trust fund dedicated for biodiversity finance. And a third would be to go beyond the GEF and create an entirely new, standalone financing mechanism. That agreement on this question has been left at such a late stage in the negotiations shows that divisions remain on this crucial issue. After the failure of Aichi, many developing countries are unwilling to accept a GBF without strong resource mobilization commitments, as they feel the targets cannot be met without substantial financial assistance. The biodiversity financing gap is $700billion US dollars - meaning any mobilization of finances will need to embrace a blended model of public and private finance.
After two tumultuous weeks of negotiations the Chinese Presidency has presented a new draft text in the morning of 18 December. This proposed draft is an attempt to get a deal over the line after disagreement filled negotiations led to no consensus between member states on a “clean” GBF text. The new draft text has some strengths, but many weaknesses.
The inclusion of language to “halt and reverse biodiversity loss” is a step forward but there is major concern on elements relating to species protection in the framework. Presently, there are no measurable goals or targets in the framework that require Parties to make progress on halting and recovering species populations or reducing extinction risk by 2030, only 2050 - making the ambition on species weaker than the Aichi target to halt species extinctions. What is needed is a measurable 2030 outcome on reduction in extinction risk to track progress towards halting and reversing biodiversity loss. Clear outcomes are needed for 2030, not just for 2050. Without 2030 milestones, action would be kicked down the road to 2050, which means it would be delayed by 28 years.
The language of mandatory disclosures for businesses didn’t make it into the clean proposed draft Plans to establish a fund for biodiversity have been included to be housed under the GEF. The establishment of a financing architecture would be a positive step. However, the removal of mandatory targets for businesses weakens the global framework’s prospects for effective implementation, alongside the removal of the target of making businesses halve their negative impacts.
As the proverbial saying goes, it’s not over until it's over. In the final hours of the conference, delegates will be working through their differences to agree on the final text. There is a real danger of a weak outcome. Effective implementation needs an ambitious global framework. Delegates in Montreal have a unique opportunity to set the world on track for delivering the change that is needed for the vision of living in harmony with Nature.
Idil Boran is professor of applied environmental governance and faculty fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research at York University, in Toronto, Canada. At York University. Professor Boran serves as Associate Director of CIFAL York, a leadership training centre affiliated with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). She also holds an external affiliation as a non-resident associate researcher with the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS). Professor Boran’s research focuses on global environmental multilateralism and the mobilization of cities, businesses, and civil society organizations for action in the nexus of climate, biodiversity, and health. With 10 years of experience at the UN Climate Change meetings as an observer, she has attended COP27 Sharm El Sheikh as York University’s Head of Delegation and is attending COP15 as the lead correspondent from York University for Global Policy.
Bethan Laughlin - Senior Policy Specialist, The Zoological Society of London - ZSL. Within ZSL, Bethan Laughlin leads work on domestic and international conservation, biodiversity and climate policy. Her work is focused on the guidance, development, and implementation of science-backed policy solutions for conservation, biodiversity, and the climate crisis in the work of protecting, restoring, and renewing nature and biodiversity. Across her work she works closely with experts from across ZSL in the development and communication of policy advice and recommendations for both domestic, international and United Nations level policy.
Photo by Charles Parker