Is the Global Biodiversity Framework enough?
Discussing the outcomes of COP15 and the next steps
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The Biodiversity Crisis
It is 2023 and we are in the midst of the 6th mass extinction. Unlike the five extinction events before, this one is primarily caused by human activity and the unsustainable use of land, water, and energy. According to the latest Living Planet Report, published in 2022, there has been an average 69% decline in monitored global wildlife populations between 1970 and 2018.
Due to the interlinked nature of the climate and biodiversity crises, rising temperatures are already causing mass mortality events, causing entire species to go extinct. Climate change is expected to replace land use change as the main driver for biodiversity loss if the 1.5-degree target will not be met, underlining the urgency of bold action on both crises.
The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity that was held in December 2022 was a crucial moment for 196 countries to come to an ambitious agreement that would put us on the path to come to “peace with nature“. With the stakes as high as they are today and none of the Aichi targets of 2010 being met, the hopes for a complementary goal to net zero by 2050 – net-positive biodiversity by 2030 – were high, together with the delivery of strong targets to set us on the path to a safe future for humanity.
What is the Convention on Biological Diversity?
In 1992, a historic international legal instrument (known as a treaty) for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and equitable sharing of genetic resources was agreed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Today, 196 countries have ratified the treaty, known as the Convention of Biological Diversity (that’s nearly every country on the planet!).
The Parties of the CBD, meet regularly every two years to set commitments and global targets. In 2010, the countries united to set the twenty Aichi Biodiversity Targets (under the CBD Strategy Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020) in order to make radical changes to protect and prevent irreversible biodiversity loss across the world. A decade later, on the expiration date, disappointingly, in a UN report, it was found that not a single one of the targets had been met.
With biodiversity declining rapidly over the last decade, an agreement and agenda for 2030 and 2050 was urgent. Two years delayed (December 2022), the members of the CBD met for COP15 which was held in Montreal, Canada with the goal to finalise and agree to targets for protecting and enhancing nature for 2030 and 2050.
Global Biodiversity Framework
The conference concluded with an international agreement that set new goals and targets, recognised as the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework (GBF). The GBF includes four overarching goals and 23 targets to achieve by 2030.
|1||Effective management of land- and sea-use change, loss of highly important biodiverse areas close to zero by 2030|
|2||Effective restoration of 30% of degraded ecosystems by 2030|
|3||Effective conservation and management of 30% of land and 30% of oceans by 2030|
|4||Halt human-induced extinctions and maintain and restore genetic diversity|
|5||Sustainable use, harvesting and trade of wild species|
|6||Mitigate or eliminate the impacts of invasive alien species, reduce the rates of establishment of invasive species by 50% by 2030|
|7||Reduce pollution risks and impacts from all sources by 2030, reduce the overall risk from pesticides by half|
|8||Minimise the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on biodiversity|
|9||Ensure sustainable use and management of wild species, while protecting customary use by Indigenous peoples|
|10||Sustainable management of areas under agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry|
|11||Restore and enhance ecosystem function through nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches|
|12||Increase the area and quality of urban green and blue spaces|
|13||Fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources|
|14||Integration of biodiversity into policies and development across all sectors|
|15||Enable businesses to monitor, assess and disclose their impacts on biodiversity|
|16||Encourage sustainable consumption, including by reducing food waste by half by 2030|
|17||Strengthen capacity for biosafety measures and ensure benefits-sharing from biotechnology|
|18||Phase out or reform harmful subsidies in a just way, reducing them by $500bn by 2030|
|19||Substantially increase financial resources, mobilise $200bn per year by 2030 from all sources, including $30bn from developed to developing countries|
|20||Strengthen capacity-building and technology transfer|
|21||Integrated and participatory management, including the use of traditional knowledge|
|22||Equitable representation and participation of Indigenous peoples and local communities|
|23||Ensure gender equality in the implementation of the framework|
30 by 30
One of the targets that had been on the agenda far in advance is target 3. Pushed for by the High Ambition coalition (an intergovernmental group of more than 100 countries), the target calls for 30% of the earth’s land and sea to be effectively conserved and managed by 2030. This should be achieved through the establishment of protected areas (PAs) and other area-based conservation measures (OECMs).
On a European level, the most important categories of PAs are the Natura 2000 network established through the Birds and Habitats Directives, the Emerald network and UNESCO Biosphere reserves. Target 3 acts as the replacement of Aichi target 11, which aimed for the protection of at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas. While that target was not met on a global level, it was partially successful in numbers, the number of terrestrial PAs increasing from 10% to 15% and from 3% to around 7% in marine areas, as reported in the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5.
However, concerns regarding the actual quality of the PAs were high, as many lack connectivity, don’t always safeguard the most important areas for biodiversity and are not equitably and effectively managed. The quantity vs. quality debate is continuing now with the 30 x 30 target, demanding the GBF to emphasise the quality of PAs and OECMs to accompany the 30% target.
In connection to target 22, which calls for equitable representation and participation of indigenous peoples and communities (IPLCs), there is serious concern about the 30 by 30 target on indigenous rights, as it fails to recognise indigenous rights as a separate category of PAs. In a joint statement, a group of major human rights organisations such as Amnesty International claimed that the target “will devastate the lives of Indigenous Peoples and will be hugely destructive for the livelihoods of other subsistence land-users, while diverting attention away from the real drivers of biodiversity and climate collapse”.
This so-called “fortress conservation” describes conservation initiatives that focus on nature in the very narrow sense and don’t take traditional territories and livelihoods of IPLCs into account, not acknowledging traditional knowledge. Studies have found that areas managed by indigenous communities contribute equally as much to global biodiversity conservation as state-governed areas and other governance types.
Increase finance for biodiversity
Target 19 of the Framework aims to mobilise at least US $200 billion per year in international biodiversity funds and raise international financial flows from developed to developing countries to at least US $20 billion per year by 2025, and to at least US $30 billion per year by 2030.
Directing funds towards developing countries is important since they are often home to the largest share of the world’s biodiversity and face significant economic challenges that can make it difficult to invest in biodiversity conservation and restoration efforts. However, according to a report from the Nature Conservancy, at least $700 billion (again, instead of US $200 billion) a year is needed to fund activities that benefit nature and resultantly, reverse global biodiversity loss by 2030. Therefore, there is a shortfall in international biodiversity funding and concerns about how the gap in biodiversity finance will be achieved.
In addition at the Conference, it was agreed that the Convention through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) will set up a Special Trust Fund (known as the GBF Fund) to act as a financial mechanism for the implementation of GBF. However, the GBF is seen as a shortfall since the Parties failed to create a dedicated international biodiversity fund separate from the existing GEF fund. The GEF is under-resourced and also addresses other global issues such as climate change (it funds UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement). Moreover, there are issues accessing the GEF funds and bias of funding towards countries that have the capacity to submit proposals.
Reduce environmentally damaging subsidies
Target 18 of the Framework aims to phase out or reform harmful subsidies for biodiversity and reduce them by at least USD 500 billion per year by 2030. A study this year found that global governments spend at least $1.8 trillion a year (equivalent to 2% of the global GBP) on subsidies that harm the environment. Fossil fuel, agriculture and water industries receive 80% of these EHS per year. A similar target for reforming subsidies was part of the Aichi targets which wasn’t achieved. Governments failed to act on subsidies and there is concern that Target 18 of the GBF might not be reached. The loss of biodiversity from perverse subsidies undermines and works against the goals of the CBD.
There is a need to redirect a significant proportion of the subsidies to support policies that are beneficial for nature, rather than “financing our own extinction”. Redirecting and repurposing subsidies can make an important contribution to finding the US $700 billion per year in biodiversity funding needed. In the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the European Council pledged to phase out EHS and reform subsidies that have negative impacts on biodiversity. Moreover, the EU is working to reform the Common Agricultural Policy, which has historically supported intensive farming that can contribute to biodiversity loss, to promote more sustainable farming and reduce the use of pesticides and fertilisers. In addition, the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy includes measures to promote sustainable fisheries management and reduce the environmental impacts of fishing activities.
Youth NGOs and their role in nature conservation
While The Global Biodiversity Framework has increased ambitions compared to its predecessor, is without a doubt an imperfect solution. Calls for higher numbers in funding, changes in the funding structures as well as concerns about indigenous rights and the quality of Protected Areas are credible and are just examples of weak points of the GBF.
To save the trust in and credibility of the agreement, the actual implementation of the targets in the coming 2 years (until the next CBD COP) will be crucial. If done right, the agreement does have the potential to make a difference in biodiversity conservation on a global scale. However, taking into account the lack of quantifiable measures that make it possible to hold countries and governments accountable, the role of actors of the civil society and ultimately Youth is undeniable and should act as a motivation to push for the implementation of the agreement.
Prior to the Conference, the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) had expressed strong concern that judging from the draft agreement, the GBF would lead to another decade of „more of the same“, describing a lot of the proposals as „false solutions“. Following the activities of Global youth networks and NGOs such as the GYBN is the first easy step you can take to step up for global biodiversity conservation. Holding governments accountable is up to us, especially considering the fact that the agreed targets are not legally binding for the signing parties. That is why getting involved on a national level is just as important, which can easily be done by contacting the MP of the department for environment, raising questions, concerns and thoughts. Youth are raising awareness for the issues concerning nature conservation and climate change by getting involved in International Youth Boards and organisations and making sure that their voices are heard.