Postponed more than two years due to the global pandemic, the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) will finally take place 7th – 19th December in Montreal, Canada. Building on the preservation and restoration of biodiversity discussions that took place during the IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2021, civil and institutional stakeholders and biodiversity specialists are hoping this next Conference of the Parties will make concrete decisions to protect our ecosystems for the long-term.
After a disappointing COP27, can we be optimistic about the COP15?
COP27, dedicated to climate action, ended a few weeks ago in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt. Despite a full programme on environmental issues, this important meeting aimed at limiting global temperature rise failed to raise the ambition in terms of reducing emissions.
COP27 dedicated only a single day of work to biodiversity, which unsurprisingly failed to deliver any progress on integrating biodiversity challenges into the fight against climate change. Although the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) does not have an explicit mandate on these issues, the relationship between biodiversity loss and climate change is undeniable. Unfortunately, we do not yet have a global, structured mandate for nature conservation.
This year, registration for COP15 has never been higher, demonstrating a growing interest in the subject. However, similar to COP27, COP15 is also likely to be disappointing. There are many issues to defend, a lack of a common vision of priorities and indicators of success, and different levels of maturity depending on the country. All these challenges are likely to hamper the success of this conference.
The expected creation of an international framework for biodiversity preservation
One highly anticipated deliverable for this COP is the establishment of a global framework for biodiversity. This framework should provide a clear roadmap with 22 targets by 2030 to halt biodiversity loss while agreeing on an action plan to “live in harmony with nature” by 2050.
Based on the 2019 IPBES report, this ’10-year post-2020 biodiversity framework’ or Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) should contain ambitious targets on all five pressures:
- Changes in land and sea use
- Direct exploitation of natural resources
- Climate change
- Invasive alien species
This ambitious global framework would allow the definition of international rules aligned with other existing nature-related frameworks that are in the process of becoming mandatory, such as the European taxonomy, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) or the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD).
This roadmap needs to go beyond national delegations and involve indigenous peoples and local communities, the private sector, NGOs, donors, trade unions, etc. In defining the collective ambition, it must also be translated into individual actions by each of the stakeholders in a position to act, which is the only guarantee of transformational, high-impact changes.
When will biodiversity impact reporting for corporates become mandatory?
In 2022, EcoAct joined the #MakeItMandatory movement to ask governments for mandatory biodiversity impact reporting for all companies, which would be a real step forward in favour of ecosystem protection.
However, it must consider the challenges posed by both the lack of a reference measurement unit to assess the state of biodiversity in a given area, and the profusion of methodologies for measuring the impact on biodiversity. The wide range of scientific research underway on biodiversity, coupled with the multitude of existing and constantly evolving methodologies (complex, multi-dimensional methodologies with specific application frameworks: product, sites, units of economic activity, etc.), do not allow for the adoption of indicators that can be agreed upon and be used at the global level as reference standards.
Even if reporting on biodiversity is not currently mandatory, it will undoubtedly become so in the near future. Some reporting frameworks already include biodiversity issues, such as CDP, which has added 8 mandatory questions to its climate change questionnaire for 2023 reporting.
At EcoAct, our teams use various indicators, especially the MSA per km² (Mean Species Abundance), one of the most popular measures that considers the evolution of species in a given area. Our teams are also at the forefront of developing new methodologies to help companies understand their impact. Today, we use the Global Biodiversity Score (GBS), Globio, ENCORE or IBAT among the many existing methodologies.
What else is expected from COP15?
Before reaching an agreement on a global framework, many issues will have to be addressed. Depending on the progress made, the repercussions for private and public actors must be anticipated and integrated into their global strategies.
Protected areas will be a central point of discussion. Currently, about a hundred states are promoting a target of 30% protected areas and other conservation measures in their marine and terrestrial territories by 2030. Target 3 of the post-2020 global framework should reflect this requirement. In France, a national strategy for protected areas was adopted in January 2021 based on two pillars: the protection of 30% of its marine and terrestrial territories, and a 10% target for strong protection in certain areas.
To accelerate ecosystem restoration and preservation, the development of projects associated with Nature-based Solutions (NBS) is key. Beyond the protection of our natural capital, there are strong associated co-benefits for all living beings. Ecosystems in good functional condition are rich breeding grounds for biodiversity and play a central role in carbon sequestration. Whether in urban or natural environments, nature-based solutions are an integral part of biodiversity protection and restoration strategies.
At the crossroads of climate, carbon, and biodiversity strategies, NBS have undeniable social co-benefits by involving local communities and indigenous peoples in project governance. We therefore expect discussions at COP15 about how to take these populations into account, and how to maximise positive impact.
Regarding financing issues, a dedicated day will be held on 14th December. It is premature to expect an agreement on specific figures during this COP15. However, many countries would like to see the establishment of a specific fund for biodiversity.
Our EcoAct North American team based in Montreal will be in attendance and will provide insights from the discussions at the end of the event.