For years, scientists have warned that the earth may be stepping into a mass extinction of plants and animals – caused entirely by human actions. Deforestation, the use of fossil fuels and overfishing, among other things, contribute to the devastating decline of biodiversity, and a solution to reverse some of the damage that’s already been done has to be found as a matter of urgency.
In a bid to do exactly that, representatives of 196 countries met in Montreal, Canada, in December 2022 at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15).
“Nature and biodiversity [are] dying the death of a billion cuts. And humanity is paying the price for betraying its closest friend. In the words of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “we are committing suicide by proxy”. This Conference of the Parties must secure the future of our planetary life support system,” said Inger Andersen, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Environment Programme Executive Director.
Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental And Scientific Affairs Monica Medina went on to comment: “More than one million species are at risk of extinction, many within decades, and more than ever before. This drop in biodiversity endangers all life on our planet, including our own.”
After two weeks of often tense talks, a landmark deal was reached when the almost 200 countries agreed to a new set of goals and targets to “halt and reverse” biodiversity loss by the end of the decade.
The previous framework, the 2010 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, was deemed a failure as none of its targets were met. Many experts contributed to the framework’s failure due to its vague language, and the fact it did not hold countries to specific action.
So should we hold out much hope for the new framework’s success?
“Our past failures have not been lost; we did learn from them, and we have taken these learnings into account for the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework,” says Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary, UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
According to her, the post-2020 framework addresses the urgent need for transformative changes in an open, transparent, inclusive and science-based way. “It includes ambitious but realistic targets and will feature open and robust reporting and a review mechanism to address previous deficiencies in reporting and review, such as with the Aichi targets,” she notes.
What kind of strategic vision and roadmap does the framework provide for the protection, restoration and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems?
The post-2020 framework is for productive sectors, governments, civil society, businesses, banks, farmers, teachers, students, consumers, producers – as well as me and you.
The new ‘Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework’ (GBF) includes four goals and 23 targets for achievement by 2030. One of the main goals is to “ensure and enable that by 2030 at least 30 percent of terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are effectively conserved and managed,” while recognising “indigenous and traditional territories", where applicable.
Currently, 17 percent and ten percent of the world's terrestrial and marine areas respectively are under protection.
And what does implementing the post-2020 global biodiversity framework mean for governments, and can corporations take part in its implementation?
One of the framework’s targets is to “require large and transnational companies and financial institutions to monitor, assess, and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity through their operations, supply and value chains and portfolios.”
Mrema notes that businesses including corporations and financial institutions will be an integral part of the implementation of the framework. Some current targets for their contribution include mainstreaming to align government policies and strategies with the vision of the framework, as well as resource mobilisation to increase financial flows and the amounts of investment dedicated to generating a positive impact on biodiversity.
“The post-2020 framework takes an ‘all hands-on-deck approach: whole-of-society, whole-of-government; a true framework for all. This means it is for productive sectors, governments, civil society, businesses, banks, farmers, teachers, students, consumers, producers – as well as me and you. With that being said, we have a lot of work to do to get there,” Mrema concludes.