COP15 – The Paris Moment for Biodiversity?
The world has changed a lot over the past 50 years. We have experienced technological and medical advances, but also a significant deterioration in the natural world. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates that global wildlife populations have
dropped by 69% since the 1970s1, with the decline projected to worsen if we continue with business-as-usual scenarios. Urgent action is needed if we are to prevent further ecological loss.
This month, governments and world leaders will meet in Montréal, Canada for the ‘Biodiversity COP’, COP15. The Summit’s aim is to create a new Global Biodiversity Framework with clear targets and actions out to 2030, setting humanity on course to achieve
the ultimate 2050 vision of “living in harmony with nature”. The Framework would replace the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, a 10-year plan set in 2010 with 20 goals for protecting and conserving natural systems. As it stands, none of the Aichi targets
have been fully achieved, and for some, the situation has worsened. This was the second consecutive decade that governments have failed to meet targets.
What do we expect to see from COP15?
The top priority for COP15 is for nations to agree and finalise the new Global Biodiversity Framework. Though harkened as the ‘Paris moment for nature’ the complexity of the subject means we’re unlikely to see an overarching target akin to the seminal
climate goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C. Indeed, the current draft Framework includes over 20 targets ranging from proposals to reduce pesticide use, address invasive species, target pollution, maintain conservation areas and increase financing
Ideally, we will see ambitious yet achievable biodiversity targets put in place, alongside a clear pathway for governments, corporations and local communities to follow to achieve these targets. The targets must directly address the five key drivers of
nature loss: changing use of sea and land; over-exploitation of environmental resources; climate change; pollution; and invasive species. Crucially, world leaders must begin to include plans for how the necessary finance to enhance and restore biodiversity
will be secured. Current estimates suggest around $700bn will be needed to implement the draft targets2, so we expect debate to focus on how much developed countries can and will support low-and middle-income countries. COP15 should also
provide a platform for indigenous peoples and local communities to participate in decision-making processes, in recognition of their rights to land and the important role they play in the protection of global biodiversity.
For businesses, target 15 of the draft Framework is hugely significant. If agreed, it will require companies to assess their impacts and dependencies on nature and aim for a reduction in negative outcomes. Whilst no doubt a positive development, the question
remains whether companies are prepared for this step.
What have we seen from our engagements so far?
EdenTree ran its first dedicated biodiversity engagement back in 2020. At the time we found that very few companies had a biodiversity policy in place and only a handful considered the topic to be a material risk to the business. Fast forward to 2022,
and biodiversity has clearly risen up the corporate agenda. There is greater acknowledgment of the link between biodiversity and long-term business success, and biodiversity management plans are beginning to emerge. However, even despite this progress,
some gaps still remain.
One of the most commonly cited challenges is the lack of biodiversity metrics. Whilst climate risk translates quite easily into the amount of GHG emitted, quantifying the impacts a company has on nature is much harder, particularly when companies look
past their direct operations and try to assess the impact of an often vast and complicated supply chain. Organisations such as the CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project), Taskforce on Nature Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) and the Science Based
Targets for Nature (SBTN) are working to bridge this gap, but the guidance remains nascent. Many companies also quote the lack of government incentives (such as grants for regenerative agriculture) as an additional barrier to implementing nature positive
policies. In our view, the ‘leaders’ of the corporate sector are those who are pressing ahead despite the challenges, choosing to take small steps instead of using the immense complexity of the issue as an excuse for inaction. But even they cannot
solve the nature crisis alone.
We remain hopeful that COP15 will provide the pivotal moment that biodiversity so urgently requires, acting as the spark to shift attention and generate real-world outcomes on an issue that has gone overlooked for too long.
- First draft of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework (cbd.int)