Almost 200 countries have agreed to a new set of goals and targets to “halt and reverse” biodiversity loss by the end of the decade.
The landmark deal was reached after two weeks of often tense talks in Montreal at the UN biodiversity summit, known as COP15.
Observers hope that a strengthened mission, measurable targets and an “enhanced implementation mechanism” mean that the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), as it is formally known, will succeed where its predecessor – the Aichi targets, agreed at COP10 in 2010 – did not.
Occurring two years later than planned due to the global pandemic, COP15 was characterised by the city’s frigid winter temperatures and sometimes-frosty negotiations.
Tensions were high throughout the summit, with developed countries wanting to ratchet up the framework’s ambition, while developing countries sought assurance that developed countries would devote sufficient resources to allow them to do so.
The final deal, reached in the early hours of Monday 19 December, included the oft-repeated headline target of “30×30” – an ambition to conserve 30% of the world’s land and 30% of the ocean by 2030.
A second “30×30” goal also made it into the final package, with developed countries agreeing to mobilise $30bn for developing countries by 2030.
But tensions flared once again after COP15 president Huang Runqiu appeared to gavel through the deal despite objections from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, leaving observers to wonder whether the “consensus” deal could legally stand.
However, the issue was smoothed over in the closing plenary, although reservations about the final procedure will be noted in the final report of the meeting.
Alongside the new framework, the summit resulted in dozens of other “decision texts”, which lay out more technical aspects of the negotiations, including monitoring mechanisms, resource mobilisation and areas for future work.
These texts have garnered less political and media attention than the GBF itself, but contain some of the key details underlying the framework.
None of the components of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – including the GBF and the decision texts – are legally binding.
However, countries have agreed to turn promises into action through a plan to report on, review and voluntarily “ratchet up” their ambitions for tackling biodiversity loss. This is similar to the plan drawn up to implement the Paris Agreement for climate change.
In this article, Carbon Brief lays out how the negotiations in Montreal unfolded and explains all of the key outcomes from COP15.
- Background context
- Formal negotiations
- Halting and reversing biodiversity loss
- Biodiversity finance
- Harmful subsidies
- Turning pledges to action
- Indigenous rights
- Sustainable use of biodiversity
- Digital sequence information
- Pollution & pesticides
- Agricultural footprint & sustainable production
- Nature-based solutions
- Invasive species
COP15 in Montreal was the second part of a landmark UN biodiversity summit which was originally supposed to take place in Kunming, China, in 2020, but was postponed several times due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A major goal of the COP was to finalise and agree on global nature targets for 2030 and 2050. Following tense negotiations, this was achieved in the form of four “overarching global” goals and 23 specific targets in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).
The document also contains 11 lettered sections, which lay out, among other things, the motivation for the framework, overarching considerations for implementing the targets and responsibility for the framework’s implementation.
The overall aim of the global framework is to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
The first part of the conference was held in October 2021 as a hybrid event both in Kunming and online. The second part was initially supposed to be held in Kunming in April and May 2022, but it was ultimately moved to Montreal due to continuing Covid-19 restrictions – although China still held the presidency of COP15.
In between the two halves of COP15 were three meetings of the open-ended working group tasked with drafting the GBF and steering countries towards consensus on its final form.
These meetings included the final working group meeting held on 3-5 December in Montreal, immediately before the COP began. Carbon Brief reported on the progress made in the previous meetings in Geneva and Nairobi.
JUST OUT: Key outcomes for nature loss and climate change from @UNbiodiversity talks in Geneva— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) March 31, 2022
An in-depth breakdown of:
🪲What #COP15 is
🐍Key issues debated in Geneva
🦚Why talks moved at a ‘glacial pace’
🌍What happens next for reversing nature losshttps://t.co/tkXKKelYfr
The biodiversity “Conference of the Parties”, otherwise known as COP, governs the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
This is an international treaty established in 1992 along with two other multilateral agreements: the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The main objectives of the CBD are:
- The conservation of biological diversity.
- The sustainable use of its components.
- The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits of genetic resources.
In total, 196 countries, including the EU, have ratified the CBD and are, thus, parties to the COP. The US is a notable outlier as the only UN member state not to have ratified the treaty – although it still has a presence at biodiversity COPs.
Decadal goals for biodiversity were previously set at COP10 in 2010, which was held in Nagoya, Japan. At that summit, almost every country in the world agreed to 20 Aichi biodiversity targets in order to achieve a goal of “living in harmony with nature” by 2050.
In September 2020, a CBD report found that governments had collectively failed to meet even a single one of these targets.
On a national level, the report said progress was being made, but more work was needed to actually achieve the targets. Almost 100 countries incorporated biodiversity values into national accounting systems, the report said, which was one aspect of target 2 and an indication of some progress on the targets.
So negotiators in Montreal were under intense scrutiny to not only agree on a framework for 2030, but also put strong implementation measures in place to ensure the world will achieve them.
The following table gives an overview of each of the 23 final targets. The full wording of the targets can be found in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (pdf).
|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|
Halting and reversing biodiversity loss
The overarching aim of the GBF is for people “to live in harmony with nature” by 2050. To achieve this, the GBF has set out a “mission” to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. (Biodiversity is currently declining at the fastest rate observed in human history.)
Many parties and observers see this mission as the most crucial part of the agreement when it comes to achieving ambitious action for tackling biodiversity loss.
Speaking during a final press briefing held on Monday 19 December, WWF International chief Marco Lambertini compared the mission to the aspirations of the Paris Agreement. In an emotional final address, he told journalists:
“Halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 is the equivalent of [the global warming limit] 1.5C – and has the ability and power to inspire and unite the whole of society.”
“Halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 is the equivalent of 1.5C – and has the ability & power to inspire & unite the whole of society,” @WWF_DG in his final press briefing— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) December 19, 2022
He briefly gets emotional, saying he can look his granddaughter in eyes knowing this is in text pic.twitter.com/b5JfcG8NQW
Ahead of COP15, Carbon Brief published analysis laying out which countries were for and against setting a mission of halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030, among other issues.
Heading into the negotiations, a group including the UK, the EU, Canada, New Zealand, Nepal, Zambia, Australia, Norway and Switzerland had signalled that including the mission to halt and reverse biodiversity loss in the GBF was a high priority for them.
In contrast, countries including Bolivia, Argentina, South Africa and Uganda had signalled that they opposed the inclusion of such a mission in the GBF.
During the first week of the conference on 8 December, a group of 46 countries (including the 27 member states of the EU) issued a statement confirming their commitment to the mission to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
🥇46 countries from all regions outlined in plenary their baseline for ambition for the Global Biodiversity Framework, including halt & reverse nature loss by 2030, 30×30, resource mobilisation and indigenous peoples’ rights – see here: https://t.co/fhrtBJoPlg— Bernadette Fischler Hooper (@baernadette) December 8, 2022
Countries offering their support for the mission on this date included Colombia, Costa Rica, Gabon, Japan, Malawi, Mexico, Monaco, Nigeria, Palau, South Korea and Vanuatu.
On the morning of Sunday 18 December, the COP15 presidency released a draft version of the GBF. This text contained the mission to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 – a major victory for those hoping for an ambitious outcome from the GBF.
🚨CO15 presidency draft of Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity framework released🚨🪲— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) December 18, 2022
Here’s how the 2030 mission currently looks. No mention of “nature positive”. More soon…https://t.co/qa0C0dxGPQ pic.twitter.com/QjRgyN4j2q
The final version of the GBF repeats the mission laid out in the COP15 presidency draft.
Though the inclusion of the mission to halt and reverse biodiversity loss in the GBF is viewed as a major win for ambition, it is important to note that it would be largely meaningless if not supported by quantitative and measurable conservation targets, experts told Carbon Brief.
“The mission is strong. It’s just whether the targets sitting underneath that add up to a level of ambition that actually allows us to deliver that mission.”
Without strong goals and targets, the mission risks being “pretty wrapping paper around a disappointing package”, added one close observer speaking to Carbon Brief.
One target key to achieving the mission is target 3, which aims to protect 30% of the Earth’s land and seas by 2030. This target – which emerged as the headline issue among politicians, activists and the media – is discussed in much more detail below. (See: 30×30.)
Some of the other targets key to achieving the mission that received much less public attention include target 1, which aims to ensure that all land and ocean areas are under “spatial planning” to bring the loss of biodiverse areas to “close to zero” by 2030.
Having all areas under spatial planning was a key aim for some countries looking for an ambitious outcome, including the UK, Carbon Brief understands. However, observers have raised concerns about the vagueness of the phrase “close to zero” included in the final text.
Another target key to achieving the mission is target 2, which aims to ensure that at least 30% of land and sea areas are under restoration by 2030.
The 30% figure was chosen over a less ambitious 20%, to the delight of some parties and observers. Tony Juniper, chair of the UK government advisory body Natural England, told a huddle of journalists on 19 December:
“This is very significant. There are literally billions of hectares of land across the world that have been degraded by past activities, including agriculture. If we can get that land back into a better state, this will be one of the principal ways we can take pressure off natural ecosystems.”
However, some observers raised concerns that the target to restore 30% of land and sea does not contain an explicit baseline, which may make measuring progress difficult.
Another target key for biodiversity is target 4, which aims to halt the “human-induced extinction of known threatened species” by 2030, among other outcomes for wildlife.
The inclusion of a 2030 target for halting species extinctions was a relatively late addition to target 4. It was added in between the release of the COP15 presidency text on the morning of Sunday 19 December and the production of the final agreement in the early hours of Monday morning.
Carbon Brief understands this happened after certain parties raised the alarm about the lack of reference to species extinctions in the COP15 presidency text.
Some parties originally wanted specific numerical targets and dates for species extinctions included in Goal A of the GBF, which specifically addresses conservation. However, the COP15 presidency text did not include such figures.
Goal A – key one for conservation— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) December 18, 2022
🪲No numerical target for restoring ecosystems, as some parties pushing ambition wanted
🪲No mention of halting human-induced extinctions by 2030, as UK wanted
🪲No numerical target for boosting wild populations
🪲No target for genetic diversity pic.twitter.com/F02SXKjmKq
Other targets key to achieving the mission include those that directly address the drivers of biodiversity loss, such as pollution, harmful subsidies and agriculture. All of these issues are discussed in more detail below.
In addition to halting and reversing biodiversity loss, some parties had also hoped that the mission would also make reference to achieving a “nature-positive world” by 2030. (“Nature positive” means a state where biodiversity increases year-on-year, rather than declining.)
Outside of the negotiating halls, some NGOs, scientists and businesses took up the term “nature positive” as a rallying cry for achieving success from COP15. During the summit’s first week, representatives of WWF and other NGOs held a protest inside COP15, chanting: “What do we want? Nature positive. When do we want it? 2030.”
Protest at #COP15 calling for a “nature positive” world by 2030— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) December 7, 2022
This means halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030, a proposal backed by UK, EU, Canada, New Zealand, Nepal, Zambia, Australia, Norway & Switzerland
(According to our tracker: https://t.co/MYHDo63ejZ) pic.twitter.com/ceEE5fNynO
Some had even suggested that “nature positive” could become the “net-zero” of the biodiversity world.
However, in the end, no reference to the phrase was included in the mission. A close observer of COP15 told Carbon Brief that they had “hoped to see it, but could live without it”.
One target that grabbed the attention of politicians, media, activists – and even celebrities – at COP15 was the pledge to protect 30% of the world’s land and seas for nature by 2030.
Science shows that protecting more of Earth’s land and seas will be key to tackling both climate change and biodiversity loss. When left intact, ecosystems provide a haven for wildlife and help to soak up and store CO2 released by humans.
Target 3 of the GBF – commonly referred to as “30×30” – has even been likened to the 1.5C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement in articles and speeches stressing its importance. (Others prefer to describe the GBF’s mission to halt and reverse biodiversity loss as the 1.5C equivalent. See above for more on the mission.)
The call for a 30×30 target to be included in the GBF was officially launched at the One Planet Summit in Paris in January 2021. At this time, a group of 50 nations calling itself the “High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People” – led by Costa Rica and France – pledged commitment to the target and urged other countries to sign up.
(It came after the UK in 2020 set up a separate initiative to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, known as the Global Ocean Alliance (GOA). The UK was also the ocean co-chair of the High Ambition Coalition.)
By the time that UN biodiversity intersessional talks were held in Geneva in March 2022, 91 countries had backed the 30×30 pledge.
And, by early December, just ahead of COP15, 114 countries had publicly backed the target. (There are 196 countries, including the EU, that are party to the CBD.)
Despite the high level of public support of the 30×30 target, there were behind-the-scenes fears throughout COP15 that it might not survive into the final agreement.
The numerical element of the target – the 30% figure – was not addressed at all in negotiating rooms before ministers arrived near the end of the summit on 16 December.
30×30 update: Still no discussion of the “30%” figure in negotiating rooms.@LinLi_WWF_Int says this may not come until the last day of COP, something she describes as “risky”— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) December 17, 2022
One “celebration” is that brackets have now been lifted on respecting the rights of Indigenous people pic.twitter.com/pCgjqVTwcq
Upon their arrival on 16 December, ministers from 12 countries that are part of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People held a press conference, where they reconfirmed their commitment to 30×30 and urged other countries to join them.
We just saw ministers from 12 countries issue a call for all to back the 30×30 target at #COP15— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) December 16, 2022
They announced that they now have the support of 116 countries… But that’s still around 80 countries that don’t publicly support the flagship pledge with very little time to go pic.twitter.com/wd3pd0ZyrM
Addressing the press conference, Canada’s environment minister Steven Guilbeault said:
“We’re calling on all countries to unite around the 30×30 target. 30×30 and halting and reversing [biodiversity loss] is our 1.5C.”
Later on in the briefing, Costa Rican environment minister Franz Tattenbach Capra announced that the coalition had created a new internal target to ensure that developing countries would receive the resources and technical assistance needed to help them achieve the 30×30 target.
On the morning of Sunday 18 December, the COP15 presidency released a first draft of the GBF, which contained the crucial 30% figure.
Parties and observers widely celebrated this. However, some raised concerns that the wording of the COP15 presidency text left ambiguity over whether countries would be required to protect both 30% of land and 30% of waters.
End game in Montreal, but plans too weak, including 30% target, which now not 30% protected on land & 30% on sea but 30% overall. Also species content too weak on extinction & abundance. Calls for ambition on finance must be matched by stronger ambition for Nature recovery #COP15 pic.twitter.com/mO2gWOR9B1— Tony Juniper (@TonyJuniper) December 18, 2022
This wording was tweaked for the final version of the GBF, which calls on countries to ensure that “at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, and of coastal and marine areas” are conserved by 2030.
As well as a fierce political campaign to get 30×30 into the GBF, there was also fierce debate on how the target should be implemented and worded.
One of the biggest concerns was how the target should ensure the knowledge and rights of Indigenous people are respected and protected.
Lands under the stewardship of Indigenous people currently contain 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity. In the past, conservation efforts have forced Indigenous peoples from their lands, with measurably bad outcomes for biodiversity.
The final version of target 3 “recognise[s] and respect[s] the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities, including over their traditional territories”. This inclusion was cautiously celebrated by Indigenous people and NGOs. (See: Indigenous rights.)
Another bone of contention was what kinds of areas should be earmarked for protection.
On both a global and national level, biodiversity tends to be concentrated within certain areas. This means that protecting the same amount of land will not necessarily produce the same outcomes for biodiversity from one region to the next. One observer explained to Carbon Brief:
“When it comes to preventing species extinctions, you will do a lot more by protecting a small area of the Brazilian Pantanal – which is home to highly unique and localised species – than a small bit of Russian tundra, where animals roam further [and thus require adequate sources of food and shelter over a much larger area in order to survive].”
The final agreement promises to focus on “areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services” – something considered a positive by conservationists.
There are, however, elements of target 3 that some observers are not pleased with.
The COP15 presidency draft saw an introduction of the term “sustainable use” to the target, promoting fears that this could be used as a loophole to allow for further development in protected areas. This reference is repeated in the final agreement.
The big one, 30×30…— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) December 18, 2022
🌴30% figure in
🌴rights of Indigenous people respected
🌴mention of “sustainable use”, which some worry could be a loophole for more development in protected areas. How do you define what kind of activities are sustainable? beyond those by Indigenous people pic.twitter.com/9yBV80dxCv
In addition, some environmental groups think the 30% figure does not go far enough.
Some environmental groups think that countries should have aimed for the top-range figure of 50%.
“30% to me really does feel like the 2C and 50% is the 1.5C,” he told journalists.
The 30×30 target is even more complicated when the role of the ocean is considered.
Only about 40% of the Earth’s ocean surface lies within national jurisdictions, where parties to the CBD can enact policies to preserve biodiversity. On the high seas – and on the seafloor – stakeholders will have to agree to different sets of rules and targets to address biodiversity loss.
Negotiations for a treaty to govern the use of biodiversity on the high seas – known as Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdictions, or BBNJ – have been ongoing since 2018. They are scheduled to continue at the UN in early 2023.
Additionally, the International Seabed Authority sets regulations for the exploitation of the seafloor outside national borders.
Several observers and delegates told Carbon Brief that the interplay between these different authorities would be key to ensuring the success of any ocean-related conservation targets in the framework.Whilst on the ground keeping an eye on negotiations at COP15, Carbon Brief journalists asked 10 people – including activists, delegates and stakeholders – what needed to happen to make the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework a success. Video by Joe Goodman for Carbon Brief.
Finance and resource “mobilisation” were, predictably, the running undercurrent and, ultimately, clincher of the COP15 biodiversity talks.
However, even with the GBF agreed, finance for nature protection and restoration remains a source of bitterness for many biodiverse developing countries.
As the GBF was gavelled through, the Chinese presidency seemingly failed to consider objections by the DRC, which demanded the establishment of a separate Global Biodiversity Fund, as well as wanting developed countries to increase their financial contribution towards halting biodiversity loss to $100bn a year.
DRC says it is unable to support the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework, disappointed with the state of the finance target, wants new fund to be operationalised by the end of COP15, says developed countries should be responsible for financing implementation. #COP15— Aruna Chandrasekhar (@aruna_sekhar) December 19, 2022
As it stands, the GBF hopes to mobilise “at least $200bn per year” by 2030 from “all sources” – domestic, international, public and private.
Of this, developed countries – along with others that “voluntarily assume” their obligations – are expected to “substantially and progressively increase” their international finance flows for nature “to at least $20bn per year by 2025, and to at least $30bn per year by 2030”.
These financial “flows” from developed countries and others would be focused on supporting least developed countries, small island developing states and economies in transition to achieve their national biodiversity plans. However, the wider $200bn would also include private finance, philanthropic funds and other sources.
With the biodiversity finance gap estimated at roughly $700bn per year for conservation over the decade, countries have been deeply divided on how to get to that figure. Target 19 on finance (above) remained the most-bracketed target at the start of negotiations in Montreal and progress was minimal late into week two.
Specific figures on how much funding countries would stump up to implement the GBF were always contentious. As were the questions of who would contribute what and whether the total target would include the repurposing of harmful subsidies, philanthropic handouts or “innovative” elements, such as taxes on retail or controversial biodiversity offsets.
During the fourth meeting of the open-ended working group in Nairobi in June, Brazil put forward a proposal for a new “Global Biodiversity Fund” to be established by next year, with a call for the fund to be operational by 2025.
This fund would be distinct from climate funding and development aid, with a demand that mirrors a climate finance target that rich countries have so far failed to deliver on: $100bn a year, but for biodiversity.
Support for a separate fund had been drawing support from a range of countries, from early supporters South Africa to a 22-country strong bloc of like-minded developing countries. The call gained further traction at COP15.
At COP15 in Montreal, the EU strongly opposed the establishment of any such fund, while also repeatedly clarifying that official development assistance would comprise only a minor fraction of finance available for biodiversity and that developed countries would also have to invest more in nature conservation.
🇪🇺 this morning: “Let’s address the 🐘 in the room. This call from developing countries for more finance, yes, it is legitimate. We are the biggest donor, will continue to be a reliable donor. ODA is important but it will never do the trick, not enough for what we as a 🌍 face.”— Aruna Chandrasekhar (@aruna_sekhar) December 12, 2022
French president Emmanuel Macron had apparently written to EU chief Ursula don der Leyen that the creation of a new Global Biodiversity Fund was a “red line”.
In climate negotiations, the responsibility for mitigating and addressing damages rests upon all countries, but not equally, due to differences in historical contributions to the problem and capabilities to address it. A greater emphasis is placed on big emitters in developed countries to make bigger, faster cuts.
This is enshrined in a principle known as common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR), which also points to the role of rich countries to provide finance to poorer countries to support their low-carbon transition and efforts to adapt.
While the world’s biodiversity is concentrated in the global south, developing countries will largely be responsible for implementing the GBF towards conserving biodiversity on their territories. These countries will also be responsible for monitoring, reviewing and reporting on biodiversity efforts – all of which have significant financial implications.
While the UN Convention on Biological Diversity does not explicitly spell out the words “common but differentiated responsibility”, the sentiment is reflected in Articles 20 and 21 of the Convention, experts and parties point out, and enshrined in the Rio Convention.
Efforts to include the term “CBDR” in the new framework, however, were bitterly contested, with Norway, hosts Canada, the UK, EU, Switzerland, Japan questioning its place in the CBD and wanting the principle confined to climate talks.
Finance + equity deadlock at #COP15.— Aruna Chandrasekhar (@aruna_sekhar) December 16, 2022
What better time for host 🇨🇦 + 🇳🇴🇨🇭🇪🇺🇬🇧 🇦🇺🇯🇵🇳🇿to reject references to CBDR (common but differentiated responsibility) in the CBD and in the new Global Biodiversity Framework. Want it to be confined to climate talks only. #COP15 pic.twitter.com/Gw5VTSGDFx
Another significant demand from developing countries was to increase access to funds from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – a multilateral environmental fund set up by nations at the Rio Earth summit in 1992 – to low-income biodiverse countries and to ensure that these funds were adequate, predictable and reliable, as well as fast-tracked.
At 4am on 14 December, developing country representatives walked out of negotiations on resource mobilisation, saying that “at some point we were not allowed to negotiate on numerical values”, Bloomberg reported.
In a statement issued the next morning by a group of countries, including the African Group, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay and the Philippines, they argued:
“When COP15 agrees on an ambitious GBF, we will bear a higher burden than others in implementing it. We agree that the implementation of the GBF will require additional funds from all sources. At the same time, the resources mobilised from the private sector cannot be conflated with the legal obligations contained in Articles 20 and 21 of the CBD.”
On 15 December, the Chinese COP presidency appointed two co-facilitators to conduct ministerial consultations for each of the three thorniest topics. Rwanda’s Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya and Germany’s Jochen Flasbarth were tasked with resolving the roadblock on finance.
Amid a stalemate on resource mobilisation, parties tabled a “middle ground” suggestion: to set up a biodiversity trust fund housed under and administered by the GEF, where funding exclusively for biodiversity would be parked until a new fund was set up before COP16.
Campaign group Avaaz, too, put forward a proposal to bridge divides around finance.
In contact groups and plenaries, observers reported that these middle-ground options were rejected by African countries, India and Indonesia, among others, who all reaffirmed their wish to see a new fund, and not the hybrid model that had been proposed.
On 16 December, a group of 13 countries and the EU issued a joint-donor statement to outline their commitment to “leveraging international public finance to mobilise private resources to implement an ambitious GBF”.
Canada announced that it would provide “a new contribution of C$350m (£211.8m) to support developing countries to advance conservation efforts”, while the EU said it has pledged €7bn (£6.12bn)for biodiversity over 2021-27, “in particular for the most vulnerable countries”. Germany committed to increasing its international biodiversity funding to €1.5bn (£1.3bn) by 2025, as part of its climate budget.
Separately, the Bezos Earth Fund pledged $110m (£90m) in grants towards “restoration in Africa and the US and [to] advance science, monitoring and governance globally”.
Going into the final days of COP15, countries were still divided on the issue of finance – not made easier by the positions of developed countries on equity and common but differentiated responsibility.
Finally, at 2:30am on 19 December, the COP presidency published a final resource mobilisation strategy document, which requests the GEF to establish a “Special Trust Fund” – called the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBF Fund) – “in 2023, and until 2030” to support the framework.
This fund would have its own “equitable governing body” dedicated to achieving the goals of the GBF and must be prepared to receive “financing from all sources”, including official development assistance.
📢@UNBiodiversity #COP15 requested @theGEF to establish the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund as soon as possible, to complement existing support and scale up financing to ensure the timely implementation of the #post2020 global biodiversity framework.— Global Environment Facility (GEF) (@theGEF) December 19, 2022
➡️ https://t.co/vh0ovXbIce pic.twitter.com/YqbQJ4Ej47
The decision to bring in all sources to the biodiversity finance pool has not sat well with some observers, either. According to a statement of a group of organisations under the umbrella of the CBD Alliance:
“Developed countries owe an ecological debt to the rest of the world and must provide the necessary finance to developing countries in line with their legal obligations under the CBD. We firmly reject the notion of ‘all sources of finance’ as we cannot end up in a situation where 30% of the planet is being protected through financial resources earned through destroying 70% of the planet.”
The language around harmful subsidies in the final Kunming-Montreal GBF text was watched closely by many observers during COP15.
Overall, stakeholders were pleased with the final outcome of target 18, which addressed incentives that have a negative impact on biodiversity – such as subsidies for agriculture, fisheries and fossil fuels.
The final text aimed to identify – by 2025 – and then “eliminate, phase out or reform incentives, including subsidies” that are harmful for biodiversity.
It added that this should be done in a way which is “fair, effective and equitable”.
Crucially, these incentives should also be “substantially and progressively” reduced by at least $500bn each year by 2030, “starting with the most harmful incentives”.
Positive incentives “for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity” should be increased, the final text said.
The financial aspect of this target was of particular importance to many. Analysis published in February this year found that governments around the world spend at least $1.8tn each year on subsidies that exacerbate biodiversity loss and climate change. This figure is equivalent to 2% of global GDP.
The general idea is to reroute these harmful incentives towards more positive actions for biodiversity.
Ladislav Miko, the special biodiversity envoy from the Czech Republic, and who represented the European Commission, said in a 12 December EU press briefing:
“We’re not speaking about getting subsidies away, we are speaking about repurposing them in a way that they will be not harmful, but supporting biodiversity.”
“There’s an opportunity to redirect a lot of harmful subsidies to restoration where you can create jobs at the same time instead of creating jobs through unhelpful activities.”
“It seems to be this drive to allocate subsidies to create jobs and maintain economies in a way that isn’t sustainable…Instead of building roads, let’s give people jobs being out in the fields restoring different ecosystems.”
She told Carbon Brief that “weaker language” around subsidy reform should be focused instead on “really strong language around removing subsidies and recreating a stronger policy and subsidy framework”.
The world spends over $1.8T /year on subsidies that destroy biodiversity— Lauren Baker (@laurenObaker) December 15, 2022
🌱Redesign agri/food policy, legislation, regulation global to local
🌱Eliminate harmful polluting subsidies
🌱Support IPLC + farmers as stewards of land + biodiversity
Agroecological food systems #COP15
However, it was not all smooth sailing to reach the eventual outcome for target 18.
On 13 November, the possibility of getting strong wording was called into question after many countries came out against the elimination of harmful subsidies – an aim that had already been agreed in the Aichi targets.
Some interesting discussion tactics were deployed when Mexican negotiators promised a bottle of tequila for every bracket removed from the text on the harmful subsidies target.
Target 18 in an earlier GBF draft included, in brackets, a mention of harmful “fisheries and agricultural subsidies”. But this explicit call-out did not make it into the final text.
This earlier draft also included a bracketed mention that incentives should be redirected and repurposed towards nature-positive activities and “prioritising the stewardship of Indigenous peoples and local communities”. This also did not make it out of the brackets into the final GBF.
Following these developments, Florian Titze, adviser on international biodiversity policy at WWF Germany, said, as of 14 December, there were fears the level of ambition contained in target 18 would be similar to or worse than the Aichi targets agreed 12 years ago.
But, ultimately, the inclusion of a clear financial target and the continued aim to “eliminate” subsidies was enough to keep most parties satisfied.
Turning pledges to action
One major issue for the GBF is how the goals and targets contained within the agreed text can be turned into rapid action by countries.
🦷How can we make sure the global biodiversity framework has teeth?🦷— Daisy Dunne (@daisydunnesci) December 15, 2022
After the failure of the last set of nature targets, many feel it is key that nations are held accountable for enacting the promises they (might!) make in Montreal
Section J of GBF deals with this issue
Details for how the agreement should be implemented – the so-called “teeth” of the deal – are contained within section J of the GBF itself and a separate document called “mechanisms for planning, monitoring, reporting and review”. (It is worth noting that the GBF and its underlying documents are not legally binding.)
Carbon Brief understands that negotiations for these texts were long and complex, often running into the early hours of the morning throughout both weeks of the summit.
The agreed plan for how the GBF should be implemented by countries follows three key steps – sometimes referred to as “present, review, ratchet” by NGOs.
It is worth noting that much of this plan appears to mirror the implementation schedule of the Paris Agreement, which requires countries to submit national climate plans, specifies dates for “global stocktakes” to take place and asks nations to “ratchet” up their ambition following reviews.
Section J of the GBF specifies that countries should produce national biodiversity action plans that are “in alignment” with the GBF and its goals and targets. The underlying document adds that this should be done “by COP16”, the next biodiversity summit, which will take place in Turkey in 2024.
Parties should then submit national reports containing agreed headline indicators in 2026 and 2029, according to the underlying document. (Carbon Brief understands that the very idea that countries should start using standardised indicators under the CBD is a big step forward.)
At COP16 and “subsequent COPs”, a global analysis of national biodiversity action plans should be conducted to assess progress towards achieving the GBF, the document adds.
A “global review” should then be held – an element that observers believe could be key for implementation, the GBF says. The underlying document says this global review should take place at COP17 and COP19.
After global reviews, there will be “voluntary peer reviews”, according to the GBF, after which countries “may take the outcome of the global reviews into account in future revisions and implementation of their” national biodiversity action plans. (This is the “ratchet” element of the implementation plan.)
Clement Metivier, a senior policy adviser at WWF, said that the plans for implementation overall represent a big step forward from the Aichi targets, but that the final step – the ratchet mechanism – is weaker than desired. He told Carbon Brief:
“We welcome the improved reporting and monitoring as well as the newly introduced global review of progress. It’s great to see a type of ‘ratcheting’ step included that allows countries to improve actions and efforts if implementation is not on track. But tragically, it’s only voluntary.”
When challenged on the voluntary element of the ratchet mechanism, a negotiator who worked closely on the topic claimed that the wording couldn’t have been any “legally tighter” than what was agreed. They insisted that the “dream outcome” had been achieved. (The Paris Agreement also does not contain a clear instruction when it comes to “ratcheting” ambition.)
Metivier added that civil society groups will continue to hold countries to account to ensure they up their national biodiversity action plans when necessary:
“We also need to ensure that governments respect the deadlines for submitting stronger national plans aligned with the goals and targets of the GBF and for communicating national reports that will be assessed during the global review of progress. There cannot be any delay – implementation must start today.”
According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), “at least a quarter of the global land area is traditionally owned, managed, used or occupied by Indigenous peoples”.
In a 2019 landmark scientific report, the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES estimated that, of that area, almost 70% can be classified as “protected” areas or “areas with very low human intervention”.
Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) depend on nature for “subsistence, livelihoods and health”, but their lands are facing pressure from extractivism, energy and transport projects, added the document.
Right now at the March for Biodiversity and Human Rights, as part of the #COP15 in Montreal, Indigenous peoples call to respect their rights, traditions and lands, because they conserve 80% of world’s biodiversity.— Yanine Quiroz (@YanineQuiroz) December 10, 2022
They want Canadian mining companies out of the Amazonas. 🧵 pic.twitter.com/QOmUxB5LyN
COP15 was an opportunity for Indigenous leaders to push for recognition of their rights as stewards of biodiversity, before the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework was adopted on 19 December.
Indigenous groups take part in the CBD process through the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB), an international organisation that lifts the voice and petitions of 100 IPLC delegates from seven regions, including Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Ramiro Batzin, co-chair of the IIFB, told Carbon Brief:
“We sustainably use natural resources, we co-exist with Mother Nature, we take from Mother Nature, in a balanced way – our food, medicines, everything that allows our Indigenous peoples to survive. Thus, we demand the recognition and respect of Indigenous territories and traditional knowledge, as well as the free, prior and informed consent.”
In the new biodiversity framework, direct mentions to Indigenous rights appear in section C, which contains overall considerations for the framework, as well as a range of targets.
Indigenous rights were incorporated into targets on “spatial planning (target 1), area-based conservation (target 3), customary sustainable use (target 5 and 9), traditional knowledge (goals C, targets 13 and 20) [and] participation and respect for the rights of IPLCs to lands, territories and resources (target 22)”, according to IIFB.
Target 3 looks to “ensure and enable” the conservation of “30% of terrestrial, inland water and of coastal and marine areas” by 2030. At COP15, it was one of the most-discussed targets, but Indigenous groups warned of its potential impacts on IPLC rights and displacement.
However, pressure from IPLCs resulted in the recognition of “Indigenous and traditional territories”, and respect of “the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities over their traditional territories”.
In targets 5 and 9, regarding customary sustainable use, IPLCs had expressed concern over the possible prohibition of wildlife use considered illegal, as much of their “customary use is considered that way”, said Viviana Figueroa, another representative of the IIFB.
Indigenous peoples had also worried about target 19, which covers direct access to biodiversity finance, since IPLCs have historically only received around 1% of these funds.
These outcomes were generally well-received by the IIFB, which issued a statement after the COP presidency released its GBF draft, highlighting the “strong language on respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities” in goal C and targets 1, 3, 5, 9, 13, 20 and 22. IIFB “urged parties to accept the text and not to reopen it for further negotiation”.
Avaaz, an environmental and human-rights organisation, welcomed “strong references to the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities across the goals and targets, and other sections”, as well as the “inclusion of the principle of ‘free, prior and informed consent’ and their explicit mention of their full and effective participation in decision-making”.
Figueroa offered a more critical perspective to Carbon Brief.
“How will parties make sure these targets will be achieved?”, she asked. She added that the monitoring mechanism will ask them to assess the implementation of goals and targets at national and international level and IPLCs will be looking at this process.
At the COP15 closing plenary, in parallel to the adoption of the GBF, parties approved an agreement to “reevaluate and expand the role of IPLCs and traditional knowledge in the CBD process”, CBD head of communications David Ainsworth told reporters at a press briefing on 19 December.
Sustainable use of biodiversity
The “sustainable use of biodiversity” cuts across many sections of the new framework, with the phrase appearing 15 places in the text.
In section C, which lays out considerations for how the framework should be implemented, the text acknowledges Indigenous peoples and local communities as “custodians of biodiversity” and partners, not just in conservation, but in the “sustainable use” of biodiversity.
That section also recognises the 1986 UN Declaration on the Right to Development and says that the framework “enables responsible and sustainable socioeconomic development that, at the same time, contributes to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity”.
Section D of the framework, meanwhile, outlines the GBF’s relationship with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and notes the need for “recognising the important linkages between biological and cultural diversity”.
The sustainable, fair and equitable use of genetic resources is also clearly outlined in goal C of the framework.
Language around sustainable use is reflected in several different targets, but is especially pertinent in target 5 and target 9 around the use, harvesting and management of wild species.
Both targets recognise and encourage respect and protection for customary sustainable use by Indigenous peoples and local communities, who are often criminalised for traditional practices such as hunting.
Previous versions of target 5 and 9 included references to “sustainable trophy hunting” or “sustainable conservation hunting”, but these were dropped in the final draft text put forth by the COP15 president.
Target 9 encourages customary sustainable use as a source of social, economic and environmental benefits.
In July this year, IPBES released its assessment report on the sustainable use of wild species, after four years of work by more than 85 leading experts and 200 contributors. The report found that more than 10,000 wild species are harvested for food and that one-in-five people across the world rely on wild species for food and their livelihoods.
“One-in-five people rely on wild plants, algae and fungi for their food and income; 2.4 billion rely on fuel wood for cooking and about 90% of the 120 million people working in capture fisheries are supported by small-scale fishing. But the regular use of wild species is extremely important not only in the global south. From the fish that we eat, to medicines, cosmetics, decoration and recreation, wild species’ use is much more prevalent than most people realise.”
While conservation organisations opposed references to sustainable use in target 3 on conservation and 30×30, text surrounding the issue remained in the final wording. The framework as adopted recognises that “sustainable use…is fully consistent with conservation outcomes” and calls for “respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, including over their traditional territories”.
On 19 December, Indigenous groups had congratulated the COP for recognising customary sustainable use and urged parties not to re-open the text.
On sustainable management of wild species, both South Africa and the EU noted the IPBES assessment on the topic. Reference to the assessment made it into the final decision text on sustainable wildlife management, which also called for continued collaboration with IPBES and other relevant treaties and bodies.
Target 10 on ensuring that agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry are managed sustainably is another significant target for sustainable use, and spells out specific “biodiversity-friendly practices”, such as sustainable intensification and agroecology.
The discussions on the COP15 decision on the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity were, however, much more loaded, with parties divided on sustainable use in areas beyond national jurisdiction, the use of the term “precautionary principle” and nature-based solutions.
Countries were also divided on explicit references to an upcoming treaty under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) governing Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ). Turkey, who is not a party to the UNCLOS, and China opposed referencing the treaty, while Colombia supported doing so.
References to the upcoming treaty, as well as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s role in sustainable use were eventually included in the decision.
Digital sequence information
Debates around genetic resources and digital sequence information (DSI) were among the most fraught at previous working group meetings and were expected to be a key determining factor for achieving a deal in Montreal.
Countries in the global south are host to most of the world’s biodiversity and, therefore, also its genetic diversity. Who has access to this genetic information, how that information is used, who benefits from its use and how these benefits are shared equitably are questions that concern developing countries, Indigenous communities, researchers, academia and industry.
The subject of fair and equitable benefit-sharing from genetic resources and the traditional knowledge surrounding it is already the subject of the Nagoya Protocol, a 2014 agreement that is one of the supplements to the CBD.
Digital sequence information, or DSI, is a term that refers to data derived from or linked to genetic resources. What happens to that data – such as its publication in public or private databases – affects the communities or countries from which the genetic material is originally sourced, who may not benefit from this data being made available.
For instance, genetic sequence data drawn from a plant endemic to an Indigenous territory could potentially be published in an open-access journal, then used to create a patented drug without needing the actual plant itself – or to compensate or credit the country or community.
While this might arguably serve the purpose of open science, public health or climate-resilient agriculture, it could short-change countries, conservation and people, experts say. The issue is even more salient in cases where the same drugs, vaccines or seeds that produce profits for multinational industries do not reach the regions from which they are derived.
DSI was the subject of intense negotiations at COP15, but it is also an important concept in other international legally binding instruments. Thus, the negotiations in Montreal could have ripple effects on other treaties and frameworks, such as the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework and the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction negotiations, which is a component of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Civil society was largely kept out of the main DSI negotiations.
On 17 December, facilitators appointed by the COP15 presidency to resolve tensions on DSI “surprised” parties with a proposal for the fund, admitting that “not all parties will like it”, but that an agreement is “within the realm of the possible”, Earth Negotiations Bulletin reported.
Incidentally, one of the co-facilitators to resolve the DSI impasse was Chile’s environment minister (and former IPCC climate scientist) Maisa Rojas, one of ministers tasked with driving consensus on the loss-and-damage fund at COP27.
In a historic decision at COP15, countries agreed to develop a multilateral DSI benefit-sharing mechanism, including a global fund, in the coming years.
But there is a lot that is still to be worked out in future COPs, including who governs the fund, who contributes to it, the “triggering points” for when benefits are shared and how monetary and non-monetary benefits will be distributed.
Other issues for COP16 relate to how the benefit-sharing mechanisms affect countries with national legislations regarding DSI (such as Brazil), how the rights and interests of Indigenous communities will be protected and the roles that academia and industry play in the use of DSI.
Experts also compared the new DSI fund to the loss-and-damage fund agreed at COP27 – with one expert telling Carbon Brief that “the devil still lies in the details”. The expert warned that the private sector could evade real benefit-sharing by being asked only to make voluntary contributions to the fund, rather than being required to do so.
African countries – including Namibia and the DRC, who had rallied for such a mechanism to be established at COP15 – hailed the COP decision on DSI.
Target 13 and goal C in the framework are also related to the sharing of benefits from DSI.
These components were welcomed by other developing nations, but observers said that countries were split on the issue of DSI and “did not speak in the same voice”, unlike at loss-and-damage negotiations at COP27.
However, academia and industry – sometimes considered unlikely allies – did show some unity on DSI. Researcher Nithin Ramakrishnan, who followed DSI negotiations for Third World Network, told Carbon Brief:
“[I]t was disheartening to see that researchers calling for open access to data did not take into account that the research outputs they make are protected using intellectual property rights and monopolised by few industries who buy out their outputs. It’s not surprising that certain scientists who receive financial assistance from developed countries echoed industry views.”
Meanwhile, Japan, South Korea and Switzerland were opposed to finding solutions to DSI in the GBF and argued that digital sequencing did not even fall within scope of the CBD. Additionally, the US, as well as representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, were opposed to having any access and benefit-sharing system apply to pathogens and pathogen data.
Pollution & pesticides
Pollution – which is housed under target 7 of the GBF – was another closely-watched target, given its wide-ranging implications for food security, links with climate mitigation and fertiliser use, and ongoing, parallel discussions towards a developing plastics treaty.
Parties each had their own wishlist for the kinds of biodiversity-impacting pollutants that should be included under this target. For instance, the EU pushed for the inclusion of sound and light pollution, Ethiopia wanted electronic waste covered and Gabon wanted to see heavy metals and mercury included.
Meanwhile, Argentina, Brazil and Chile wanted no references to pesticides at all in the GBF text. And China, India, Turkey, New Zealand and Uruguay did not want to see specific numbers attached to how much countries should cut back on pesticide use by 2030.
🇮🇳: “Essential support to vulnerable sections cannot be called subsidies and targeted for elimination. A numerical target for pesticide reduction is unnecessary. If climate is profoundly linked to biodiversity, then equity and CBDR-RC must equally apply to biodiversity.”— Aruna Chandrasekhar (@aruna_sekhar) December 16, 2022
Eventually, target 7 emerged in the GBF, significantly changed from its previous iterations:
In the final text, language around “risk” dominates, replacing quantitative reductions in the use of pesticide and highly-hazardous chemicals. Also removed is a call to phase-out highly hazardous synthetic pesticides by 2030.
The target now envisions reducing “overall risk” from these pollutants by “at least half”, instead of reducing pesticide use per hectare by two-thirds, as proposed in nearly every other draft of the text. This could also be through “integrated pest management”, an approach that has limited success.
2 am in Montreal at #COP15 and final text of the global biodiversity targets came to light. Positive changes- adding coastal and marine areas to #30×30 target, adding ‘based on science’ to integrated pest management, adding quantitative element to spices protection. pic.twitter.com/0VQIucAz8J— Agata Szafraniuk (@AgataSzafraniuk) December 19, 2022
Campaigners that Carbon Brief spoke to were unhappy with the language around risk instead of quantity, as it “opened the door to non-implementation” and cut countries slack around reducing the actual use of pesticides.
At a previous round of talks in Nairobi, however, experts had urged countries to adopt language around pesticide risk, given that some extremely hazardous pesticides are harmful even in tiny quantities. These experts also said that language around risk would work better with “national contexts”.
In a special workshop convened earlier this year in Bonn to decide how progress under the framework would be tracked, experts and technical bodies tried to determine what indicators they would use to measure risk: from the pesticide health risk index to total applied toxicity.
But, in the new monitoring framework for the GBF, there is no agreed methodology yet for the indicator on pesticide risk. Going forward, a technical group will have to work with countries to guide the development of this indicator.
Target 7 keeps language around “food security and livelihoods”, a relief for countries grappling with a global food crisis and with significant populations of vulnerable farmers.
However, references to specific subsidies for agriculture and fisheries subsidies were removed in Target 18 (see: Harmful subsidies), which could include subsidies for polluting agricultural inputs.
Interesting to see the evolution of the Global Biodiversity Framework’s Target 18 on subsidies, and when specific references to agriculture and fishing were removed (countries like 🇮🇳🇯🇵 were keen). #COP15— Aruna Chandrasekhar (@aruna_sekhar) December 21, 2022
1. 5/12 draft
2. 14/12 non-paper
3. 17/12 non-paper
4. Final target pic.twitter.com/qf8zDMsPy2
In addition, bracketed references to emissions and deposits were removed, while sound, light and mercury pollution – the last of which is a by-product of coal-based power – have been cut.
Plastics campaigners may celebrate the inclusion of “working towards eliminating plastics pollution” in target 7, although alternatives suggested in earlier drafts were much stronger and referred to “eliminating the discharge of plastic [and electronic] waste”.
Once again, this element has no measurable target.
A COP decision around the sustainable use of marine and coastal diversity “welcomed” the new plastics treaty, which surfaced in a decision on 13 December, and “urged” parties to develop a strong binding treaty on plastics.
Meanwhile, a COP15 decision on a plan of action for biodiversity and agriculture contains three references to agroecological practices as beneficial for preserving soil biodiversity, while citing the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm and Minamata Mercury Conventions on pollutants. Among other global actions, it call on countries to:
“Promote good agricultural practices, including integrated pest management in order to prevent and address possible negative impacts of fertilisers and pesticides on soil biodiversity, based on risk-assessment approaches and scientific evidence.”
Agricultural footprint & sustainable production
COP15 also focused on the need to assure world food security, while transitioning towards more sustainable food systems.
Food security remains a crucial challenge in a world with 828 million people suffering from hunger and 2.3 billion people – almost 30% of global population – with some grade of malnutrition, according to a 2022 report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
By contrast, food waste accounts for 17% of global food production, with 11% of food waste coming from households, 5% from food service and 2% from retail, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) pointed out in a 2021 report.
Current food systems – a term which encompasses activities related to food production, transport, processing and consumption – are major drivers of biodiversity loss, land degradation and climate change.
A study from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in 2022 revealed that food systems account for 80% of deforestation and 29% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Food systems are also thought to drive about 70% of terrestrial biodiversity loss and 50% of marine biodiversity loss, according to the 2020 WWF Living Planet report (pdf).
Food-systems footprint has been embedded in international talks since the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – specifically the goal 12 on production and consumption – and the Aichi targets, where it was covered by target 4.
Speaking at the COP15 food day, FAO deputy director general Maria Helena Semedo emphasised how food systems rely on biodiversity:
“We depend on biodiversity for diverse food and products, as well as for water, for healthy ecosystems, for stable and productive soils to grow crops, as pollinators and the myriad of other species perform essential services.”
She also stressed that the GBF needs “an active engagement of all stakeholders across the food and agriculture sectors”.
At COP15, environment ministers from around the world took the opportunity to showcase policies and actions their governments were implementing to enhance sustainability in food production and consumption.
For example, at an event during “food day”, Natasha Kim from the Canadian agriculture department explained how, in 2019, Canada launched its first food policy that promoted consultations with farmers and other actors to reach a sustainable agriculture strategy.
Observers, such as WWF director-general Marco Lambertini, focused on the importance of going beyond conservation and restoration of nature to transitioning into a more sustainable consumption and production to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
In the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), the role of business in the production footprint appears in target 15, which seeks to “encourage and enable” businesses and large transnational companies to “regularly monitor, assess, and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity”. It urges business to “provide information needed to consumers to promote sustainable consumption patterns”.
But some observers were not fully satisfied with the final text on businesses. Campaign group Avaaz noted, in a message to journalists, “with great concern” that the final text weakened the requirement for mandatory monitoring, assessment and disclosure of business impacts on biodiversity.
Moreover, an earlier GBF draft had included a call to “foster a circular economy” in target 15, but in the final version was eliminated. (“Circular economies” aim to reduce waste by incorporating it into production processes, thus decreasing the consumption of natural resources.)
For Doreen Robinson, UNEP head of biodiversity and land, including language around circularity and value chains was essential because of the urgency to reduce 1.3bn tonnes of food waste every year. Food waste is “not feeding anybody, so getting the action plans at the country level is really important”, she said during “food day”.
The footprint of consumption is addressed by the GBF in target 16. The EU and Argentina had asked for more time to review it and state their positions. However, language specifically focused on diets – included in earlier drafts of the GBF – was dropped from the final version.
This target seeks to ensure “people are encouraged and enabled to make sustainable consumption choices including by establishing supportive policy, legislative or regulatory frameworks, improving education and access to relevant and accurate information”.
This target also called for halving global food waste by 2030, as well as reducing the global footprint of production and “substantially reducing waste generation”.
The controversial concept of nature-based solutions (NBS) was a dividing issue for many at COP15, but the term eventually made its way into the Kunming-Montreal framework.
NBS was featured in brackets eight times in the draft GBF agreed at the final meeting of the open-ended working group during 3-5 December. The term was reduced to two mentions in the final text, once each under targets 8 and 11.
Several countries, such as Bolivia, were against any inclusion of the term. Bernadette Fischler Hooper, head of international advocacy at WWF UK, said there is possibly too much heat put on NBS. She told Carbon Brief:
“There is an over-criticism of nature-based solutions – which is maybe not that justified – that it leads to the commodification of nature and to greenwashing. That doesn’t change if you add ecosystem-based approaches.”
“While they play a critical role to restore, maintain and enhance ecosystems, functions and services, that alone will not suffice. Just doing nature-based solutions will not be enough – it really needs, in addition, regulations, incentives and policies and [ways] to address the drivers of biodiversity loss.”
In a press briefing on 7 December, Souparna Lahiri, climate campaigner and adviser at the Global Forest Coalition, said the term should not be included in the final framework, adding that actions that fall under NBS are “false solutions”. He said:
“We know ecosystems approaches. We know of the principles by which the ecosystems approach are defined within the CBD.…These false solutions [NBS] are creating barriers to move forward with real solutions towards both addressing the climate-change crisis and the biodiversity-loss crisis.”
A letter sent by members of the Third World Network in the days before the high-level segment of COP15 called on ministers to not include NBS in the final text and focus instead on “ecosystem-based approaches”.
Including nature-based solutions, the letter said, would be “tantamount to signing a blank cheque” as the term has no set definition under the CBD.
There is a definition for NBS under other UN bodies, such as the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA).
Earlier this year, UNEA defined nature-based solutions as actions that “protect, conserve, restore, sustainably use and manage” ecosystems, effectively address social, economic and environmental challenges and also provide human wellbeing, ecosystem services and biodiversity benefits.
The CBD’s definition for an “ecosystem approach” is a “strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way”.
Ebony Holland, nature and climate policy lead at the International Institute for Environment and Development, said there was concern that including NBS in the text could “erode” the work put in to establish a CBD definition for ecosystem approach. Holland told Carbon Brief:
“We often get tied up in fixations around certain terms where, in actual fact, what we’re all talking about is using the power of nature, using the power of cultural knowledge, traditional knowledge to solve issues like loss of nature, climate change.”
In the final GBF, target 8 outlined an aim to minimise the impact of climate change and ocean acidification on biodiversity and increase its resilience through actions including “nature-based solution and/or ecosystem-based approaches”, while minimising negative and fostering positive impacts of climate change on biodiversity.
Target 11 focused on restoring, maintaining and enhancing nature’s contribution to people, such as regulation of air, water and climate, and protection from natural hazards and disasters through NBS and ecosystem-based approaches, “for the benefit of all people and nature”.
(For more on nature-based solutions, see Carbon Brief’s explainer from last year.)
Scarcely mentioned in the GBF itself, the ocean was, nonetheless, an important feature of the negotiations in Montreal.
Explicit mentions of the ocean, seas and coastal and marine areas can be found in several of the final framework’s targets, including target 2 on ecosystem restoration, target 3 on ecosystem protection and target 8 on climate change.
References to ocean acidification in the climate change target had been in brackets throughout the negotiations, but, ultimately, made it into the final text.
no numerical figure but importantly, “ocean acidification” remained in the target — had previously been in brackets. OA was mentioned in the Aichi targets so good to see that there was no regression on that https://t.co/EeyUxm8q5x— Giuliana A. Viglione, PhD (@GAViglione) December 19, 2022
Furthermore, the dearth of direct mentions in the text did not mean that marine issues were not present in the GBF, said Pepe Clarke, the global oceans practice leader at WWF International. He told Carbon Brief:
“Oceans are present in a cross-cutting way across the global biodiversity framework. So most, if not all, of the targets have relevance to our oceans and coastal ecosystems.”
Target 10 of the final framework also contains ocean-centric references, calling on countries to “ensure that areas under agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry are managed sustainably, in particular through the sustainable use of biodiversity, including through a substantial increase of the application of biodiversity friendly practices”.
But, elsewhere in the framework, fishery-focused text was dropped along the way.
Target 18, on harmful subsidies, had initially identified fisheries as one of the sectors with the “most harmful subsidies” that should be targeted for the most urgent action. However, the sector-specific language did not make it into the final text. (See: Harmful subsidies.)
In addition, target 14, which calls for biodiversity to be integrated into policies and planning, had originally contained bracketed text on the environmental impacts of several specific sectors, including fisheries, aquaculture and deep-sea mining. This text was also dropped from the final framework.
Two sets of negotiations in Montreal focused on some of the more technical aspects of marine biodiversity: the identification of ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs) and the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity. Both of these were discussed by working group two at the meeting.
The working group defined 17 new EBSAs in and around the north-east Atlantic Ocean, including areas around Iceland, the UK, Denmark and the Azores. The designation of EBSAs “is a scientific and geographic exercise of description of those places”, Clarke told Carbon Brief. He added:
“It doesn’t directly deliver protection for those sites, but it’s actually a very important foundation for national governments and, in due course, intergovernmental processes to identify places that are particularly in need of protection or active management.”
The decision on EBSAs also “decides” to extend the mandate of its advisory group and “encourages” further collaboration between the CBD and several other relevant international governance mechanisms, as well as regional groups.
The text on marine and coastal biodiversity calls on international and regional bodies to “support the implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework with respect to marine and coastal biodiversity”. It also calls for “collaboration and cooperation” between the CBD and other organisations in conserving marine biodiversity.
The EBSA decision text from COP15 “encourages” parties to take the outcomes of the EBSA process into account during deliberations on the high seas treaty and “invites” parties to take them into account during discussions under the International Seabed Authority.
And the marine and coastal biodiversity text “encourages” parties to ensure that the impacts on the marine environment and biodiversity are sufficiently researched and the risks understood” before seabed mining activities are commenced.
Clarke said that the language around deep-sea mining was “encouraging”.
Biodiversity is critical for human health, as it provides food, air, water and medicine, supports mental and physical health and reduces the impact of natural hazards. Some of these components of health were addressed within the GBF, but several others were not, resulting in a mixed bag for observers.
Health is considered in section A of the GBF, which establishes that “biodiversity is fundamental to human well-being and a healthy planet”.
It also appears in section C of the GBF, which covers the considerations for the implementation of the framework.
Section C also specifies that the framework should be implemented taking into account the One Health approach, which aims to “balance and optimise the health of people, animals, plants and ecosystems”. The GBF also recognises the need for “equitable access to tools and technologies, including medicines” in the same section.
The One Health approach is led by a “quadripartite” of international programmes: the World Health Organization; UN Food and Agriculture Organization; UN Environment Programme; and World Organization for Animal Health.
@UNBiodiversity #COP15 fireside chat on One Health 🔥⚕️🍃 needs:— Emily Cowan (@EmilyCCowan) December 12, 2022
1️⃣ Evidence in science to ensure cautious and NOT emotive policy
2️⃣ Incentives to collaborate across sectors (financial, performance, etc.)
3️⃣ Recognizing cultural shifts & using common definitions for solutions
Ayisha Siddiqa, a Pakistani youth activist and co-founder of Fossil Free University and Polluters Out, gave a speech at a COP15 press briefing to stress the link between biodiversity and health, plus the importance of human rights in considering the two.
Between June and August 2022, Pakistan suffered one of the most severe floods in its history, affecting more than 33 million people and causing 1,400 deaths. An attribution study later found that the extreme rainfall in Pakistan was “likely increased” by climate change.
Siddiqa highlighted the impacts of the floods on human health in Pakistan:
“[The floods] killed a great deal of animals and destroyed biodiversity of our rivers, our soils. That produced agricultural and water-system loss, causing so many people to be disenfranchised and displaced…We saw hunger, homelessness, many premature births. All led to a healthcare crisis.”
In an interview with Carbon Brief, Siddiqa called out the responsibility of governments to ensure the safety and health of their citizens:
“That’s why we elect our governments, that is part of their mandate. When they are actively committing to the destruction of nature, whether it is in climate or biodiversity, that, in short, affects the health of people.”
Biodiversity loss and climate change also raise the risk of “spillover” of zoonotic diseases from animals to humans. At least 17% of all infectious diseases are vector-borne diseases and have led to 700,000 annual deaths, according to the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
Some drivers of emerging diseases are land-clearing and habitat fragmentation, but impacts go beyond them. Nature degradation “can exacerbate existing inequalities in access to health care or healthy diets”, highlights the report.
Target 5, which aims to “ensure” a sustainable use of wild species, includes text around and reducing “the risk of pathogen spillover”. This language had been removed in earlier drafts of the framework, but was reintroduced by the COP15 president.
However, some experts thought that the attention paid to spillover in the text came at the cost of focusing on other aspects of health.
Liz Willett, an independent health-environment expert who followed the talks in Montreal, said that the health considerations in the GBF were “narrowly focused on infectious disease”, rather than including non-communicable diseases or mental health.
Prior drafts of the GBF had included two additional targets on health that were ultimately scrapped. The first one intended to implement the One Health approach over the “risks of the emergence and transmission of zoonotic diseases”, in order to protect humans, species, and ecosystems health.
“Transdisciplinary research to foster One Health action in the post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework”— IAI (@IAI_news) December 13, 2022
@DrAnnaStewart – @IAI_news at the 5th Science-policy Forum For Biodiversity & 8th International Conference on Sustainability Science #COP15
The second target was related to enhancing the response to pandemic pathogens and zoonotic diseases, through the adoption of a specialised international instrument by the World Health Assembly before 2025.
“That’s very disappointing. For some reason, negotiators in Montreal have decided they don’t want a target on One Health, that they feel maybe it’s a bit premature, or there’s more research needed, or the conversation is too contentious, but it’s a little ironic that everyday people can’t get in this meeting without a face mask.”
Although the GBF does not have a specific target on health, experts told Carbon Brief that they are pleased with the mention of the right to a healthy planet and hope that it will encourage the implementation of the One Health approach at national level.
“It’s not great but at least we do have something,” concluded Kretsch.
Women and girls are important actors in biodiversity conservation and sustainable resource management due to their roles, knowledge about natural resources and dependence on nature for their livelihoods.
For example, a report released in late 2021 by the civil society group Women4Biodiversity found that women “make up about 47% of the global fisheries labour force and just under 50% of the global agricultural workforce”.
The report cautioned that women suffer most from the impacts of biodiversity loss and climate change, yet still face a lack of participation in decision-making on biodiversity, climate action and land administration, among other issues.
The IPBES 2019 global assessment report also noted that “land or resource tenure insecurity, as well as declines in nature, have greater impacts on women and girls” than they do on men.
That reality has prompted women and youth to call for the inclusion of equity, equality and a gender perspective in decision-making at local, national and international levels, as well as in the creation and implementation of the GBF in the coming decade.
Alejandra Duarte, a policy intern at Women4Biodiversity, explained that having a gender perspective and human rights in the GBF is important to allow the recognition and quantification of the contribution of women and Indigenous peoples, plus local communities (IPLCs), to biodiversity conservation. Further, it might help these groups address the threats they face to conserve nature, Duarte told Carbon Brief.
Equity was a priority for youth throughout the negotiations. Mirna Inés Fernández, a representative of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network, said:
“Women, youth and Indigenous peoples are the rights-holders that will implement this GBF, so it is important that countries enable access to capacity-building for them.”
Fernández added that the final text is “more focused on strengthening governments’ capacities” than on the rights of women and youth.
Target 22 in the GBF aims to “ensure gender equality in the implementation of the framework through a gender-responsive approach”. The terms “gender-responsive” and “responsiveness” had been pushed by the women’s caucus, as it is stronger language than “gender-sensitive” and might thus enable measurable policies and finance resources.
Mrinalini Rai, director of Women4Biodiversity, explained the difference at a COP15 press briefing. She said:
“‘Gender-sensitive’ is not enough. It is limited to be aware of the problem, responsiveness is what you do about it.”
Additionally, at COP15, parties adopted the Gender Plan of Action. Its purpose is to “support and promote the gender-responsive implementation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework” and its associated mechanisms. It has three expected outcomes, all with their own indicative objectives, actions, deliverables and timelines.
For example, one of its highlighted objectives is number 1.1, which lays out the increase of “women and girls’ rights to ownership and control over land and access to natural resources and to water, to support the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity” by 2024.
The Gender Plan of Action is considered a pivotal document by Amelia Arreguin, co-coordinator of the Women’s Caucus, because it is the first time an international environmental agreement recognises access to natural resources. Although the plan is not legally binding, it addresses important issues such as the protection of women defenders and gender violence in an environmental context, she told Carbon Brief.
Although it garners less notice on the global stage than other drivers of biodiversity loss, the introduction of invasive species is “probably the major cause of extinctions globally”, Dr Piero Genovesi, the chair of the invasive species specialist group at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, told Carbon Brief.
The other main drivers – habitat destruction, harvest of natural resources, climate change and pollution – are “definitely more clear to the public and decision-makers”, Genovesi added.
The need to address invasive species was covered in target 6 of the new GBF, as well as a separate decision text. The target sets a specific numerical target of reducing the rates of introduction of “known or potential” invasive species by 50% by 2030.
The inclusion of a numerical target shows an important step in building upon the corresponding Aichi target, which had set a goal that, by 2020, “invasive alien species and pathways are identified and prioritised, priority species are controlled or eradicated and measures are in place to manage pathways to prevent their introduction and establishment”.
The decision text on invasive alien species also “requests” a peer-review process to be organised by the CBD executive secretary to solicit advice on several aspects of invasive species management. These should include, the text says, cost-benefit analyses, issues arising from e-commerce, the intersection of risks with climate change and natural disasters and consequences for cultural values.
Progress on these issues is to be reported to the meeting of the subsidiary body on scientific, technical and technological advice (SBSTTA) before COP16 in 2024.
As isolated habitats, islands are particularly vulnerable to the problem of invasive species. At the summit, many island nations pushed for specific language highlighting this heightened vulnerability. The final target does give nod to this need, calling for “eradicating or controlling invasive alien species especially in priority sites, such as islands”.
The reference to priority sites was one of the key signals of ambition that experts were watching for in Montreal. Another was the need to target priority invasive species for action, Genovesi said. He told Carbon Brief:
“So let’s say that we know that there is a limited number of invasive species that are really harmful to the environment. If there is a strong commitment to really reduce or avoid the impact of these species, this will give a strong mandate to countries to regulate the species and to eradicate them whenever feasible.”
In 2023, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is set to release its assessment on invasive species, as well as strategies and practices for controlling their populations. Experts told Carbon Brief that this will be an important tool to help national governments translate the ambition in the GBF into tangible action moving forward.
Genovesi highlighted to Carbon Brief the unique opportunity in addressing invasive species risk. He said:
“Differently to other threats, invasive alien species are a problem that could be put under control with adequate resources and adequate political will. So I think this is one component of the global problem we see on biodiversity that with adequate efforts could be put under control. It could become a model also for addressing other issues.”
Around the COP
Originally scheduled for Kunming, COP15 was meant to be the first time that China had hosted a major UN environmental conference. With the last-minute move to Montreal, the relationship between the Chinese presidency and the Canadian host was closely watched throughout the summit.
Bernadette Fischler Hooper, head of international advocacy at WWF UK, told Carbon Brief that the two countries “really managed to make it work with each other” – no easy feat “in the wider context of the Sino-Canadian relationship”. That partnership was “definitely a big part of the success” in Montreal, she added.
Another observer told Carbon Brief that the presidency’s selection of Canada as one of the countries to lead a ministerial pairing showed “that there is some sort of working relationship between China and Canada, and the presidency is willing to give Canada a bigger role”.
Not all delegates had such a positive view of the Chinese presidency, however, with environment minister Huang coming under scrutiny for the way the final deal was gavelled through.
During the final plenary session, in the early hours of 19 December, a representative from the Democratic Republic of Congo remained staunchly opposed to the package, saying that issues over financing were too great for them to accept the deal.
DRC says it is unable to support the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework, disappointed with the state of the finance target, wants new fund to be operationalised by the end of COP15, says developed countries should be responsible for financing implementation. #COP15— Aruna Chandrasekhar (@aruna_sekhar) December 19, 2022
Although the presidency had said that the documents in the package – including the GBF and the underlying text on resource mobilisation and implementation, among others – would be adopted one-by-one, Huang then proposed the approval of the entire package. After a two-second pause, he brought down the gavel.
Applause broke out in the plenary room. But, shortly afterwards, countries began to express dissatisfaction and outrage about the manner of the package’s passing.
A representative from Cameroon told the hall:
“You have twisted the procedure that you yourself announced. You had announced that the documents would be individually adopted. What you did, just a minute ago, was basically a force of hand. I will be reporting this to my authorities.”
Ève Bazaiba, deputy prime minister of the DRC and the country’s environment minister, told the Guardian that her country had not accepted the deal and that there had not been an agreement. She continued:
“Maybe the president of COP15 and Canada will continue negotiations with countries before the next COP. We are open to that. I am sad to see that they didn’t respect the procedure.”
Another negotiator told the Guardian that “the Chinese presidency was really clumsy” in its handling of the events in the plenary session.
The overruling of the DRC’s objections seemed to stem from a technicality; the country said that it had “formally objected” to the framework and package, while a UN lawyer ruled that it had not.
Several things were surprising:— Oscar Soria #COP15 (@oscar_soria) December 19, 2022
– no time for Parties to read documents
– first announced going through docs 1 by 1 but then adopted all at once
– completely ignored DRC who was clear, getting out of it with a legality (DRC didn’t say “I object the adoption”)
By the time the plenary resumed on Monday, things had apparently been smoothed over between the DRC and the COP15 president, with Bazaiba tweeting a picture and video of her shaking hands with Huang and saying that he had “welcomed” the DRC’s reservations about the deal.
The DRC ultimately dropped its objections after “intense” consultations with the other major rainforest nations, Indonesia and Brazil, the Guardian reported. The concerns raised by the DRC regarding financing will be reflected in the final report on the summit.
#Cop15 president Huang Runqiu enters the plenary and shakes hands with the DRC environment minister @Evebazaiba— Patrick Greenfield (@pgreenfielduk) December 19, 2022
I think that was the moment the post-2020 was finally agreed. The plenary applauded.
Merry Christmas everyone pic.twitter.com/fubDSpTZ94
Meanwhile, the silence of the COP15 presidency stood out as an anomaly to both observers and members of the media.
Typically, the host country of a UN environment summit would hold regular press briefings to keep members of the media up to date on how negotiations were progressing. This was not the case in Montreal, with the Chinese presidency holding only sporadic briefings throughout the two weeks – drawing criticism from journalists and other observers.
In addition, the COP15 presidency office in the media room was virtually empty for the duration of the summit.
Despite this, China ultimately proved an effective president, Hooper said. She told Carbon Brief:
“It was like a black box what they were doing. But whatever they did, they did it very well because the final non-paper was really balanced in a way that all countries found themselves in it…I’ve seen so many incidents where it’s not going through because countries don’t trust the process or don’t trust the presidency or don’t see themselves in the paper.”
Lacking world leaders
Notable omissions from COP15 were nearly every world leader – they were reportedly not invited to attend the summit in Montreal.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau spoke at the opening ceremony of the meeting on 6 December, where he was interrupted by Indigenous protesters, and again on 7 December, where he pledged C$800m (£483.3m) for Indigenous-led conservation projects over the next seven years.
Dalton Tagelagi, the premier of Niue, was the only head of state to attend the high-level segment of the summit. Addressing the plenary room, he told his fellow delegates:
“You might ask why I choose to attend this meeting, especially so close to Christmas and so far away from home. Let me tell you this: I am here because this is fundamentally important to me, my government and the people of my country and the Pacific region.”
The premier of Niue – the only head of government in attendance – tells the room of the urgent need to recognize the connection between climate change and biodiversity loss.— Giuliana A. Viglione, PhD (@GAViglione) December 15, 2022
“Let’s not fail to deliver because we cannot agree…Be innovative. Be bold,” he urges pic.twitter.com/W0sQAkbX4I
Xi Jinping, the president of China, addressed the high-level segment via video recording. In his speech, he highlighted the “active efforts” China has made towards ecological conservation and stressed the importance of recognising humanity’s “shared future”. He added:
“Solidarity and cooperation is the only effective way to address global challenges.”
UK prime minister Rishi Sunak also made a virtual intervention during the summit. And French president Emmanuel Macron wrote a Twitter thread appealing to countries to work towards an ambitious agreement.
But campaign group Avaaz called out Macron for attending the FIFA men’s World Cup semi-final and final in Qatar rather than the biodiversity talks. France is one of the leaders of the High-Ambition Coalition that was behind the push for 30×30 at the COP.
.@Avaaz has taken out an ad in multiple newspapers calling on Emmanuel Macron to cancel his trip to Qatar for the world cup and come to Montreal instead.— Giuliana A. Viglione, PhD (@GAViglione) December 14, 2022
Oscar Soria, campaign director, says that so-called nature leaders need to show up and prove that they’re more than talk https://t.co/7uTVtIui29 pic.twitter.com/BGUgaHwWzD
Ministers from more than 100 countries descended on Montreal for the high-level segment of the meeting, which ran from 15-17 December.
After COP15 president and Chinese environment minister Huang Runqiu opened the high-level segment, Chinese president Xi Jinping addressed the plenary hall via video address. (See: Lacking world leaders.)
Xi’s speech was followed by remarks from Csaba Kőrösi, the president of the UN General Assembly, Amina Mohammed, the deputy secretary-general of the UN, and Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s minister for environment and climate change, who was a fixture throughout the two weeks of talks.
Kőrösi told the assembled delegates that COP15 “is not a gathering to save the Earth – we are here to save ourselves”. He continued:
“With lifeless oceans, rivers, empty mountains and deserts, the Earth will still survive. But our civilization as we know it today may not.”
He made explicit calls for an end to harmful subsidies, a transformation towards a circular economy and a doubling of investments into nature-based solutions.
During her speech, Mohammed addressed the need to “end the triple planetary crisis” of biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution. She called the meeting “a historic chance to conserve and restore our natural world” and pushed for “urgent, just and green transitions” to a more nature-positive world. She also made clear the importance of resource mobilisation:
“Developed countries must support developing nations with the financial resources, technical expertise and capacity-building to ensure that the framework is implemented fairly and equitably across all our countries. This is especially important for developing countries, which are home to a great majority of the world’s biodiversity, and they are bearing a disproportionate cost for the gradual loss of this global good.”
Guilbeault, a former climate campaigner, quoted Canadian folk singer Joni Mitchell during his speech, sharing her famous lyric that the world has “paved paradise and put up a parking lot”. He offered reassurance to the gathered delegates that his country had received the message on resource mobilisation and called for this to occur under the framework of the GEF.
Canadian environment minister quotes Joni Mitchell several times (“paved paradise and put up a parking lot”, “don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”)— Giuliana A. Viglione, PhD (@GAViglione) December 15, 2022
Adds: “I want to reassure you Canada has heard you” re: resource concerns pic.twitter.com/1cPFXD8GQE
He called direct assistance “a foundational part of the equation”, but said it was also important to “unlock” other sources of funding such as philanthropic support, subsidy realignment and development banks.
Guilbeault further stated that “all of this must be done in full partnership with Indigenous peoples”.
The opening portion of the high-level segment was rounded out with speeches from Wang Xiangang, the vice-governor of Yunnan province (which was originally due to host the talks in the city of Kunming), François Legault, the premier of Quebec, and UN biodiversity chief Elizabeth Maruma Mrema.
CBD chief Elizabeth Maruma Mrema:— Giuliana A. Viglione, PhD (@GAViglione) December 15, 2022
“No question that there are innumerable differences in this room…Yet with all these differences we can still come together with a common vision and goal: an ambitious and achievable post-2020 global biodiversity framework” pic.twitter.com/SOyBoUm3iL
Following Mrema’s speech, executives and directors general from a range of intergovernmental conventions and organisations addressed the audience on a range of topics.
Representatives from the UN Environment Programme, UN Development Programme, UN-Habitat, the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the Global Environment Facility spoke on supporting the implementation of the GBF.
On the topic of cross-convention collaboration in service of the GBF, delegates heard from the executive secretaries of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Minamata Convention on Mercury, as well as the secretary-general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Rounding out the segment, leaders from the International Seabed Authority, World Organization for Animal Health and International Union for the Conservation of Nature spoke on how international organisations were mobilising in support of the GBF.
Rwanda’s environment minister, Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, used her speech to highlight the work her country is doing in service of biodiversity recovery by 2030, including expansion of national parks. She called on countries to “address unsustainable consumption” and urged them to work to end plastics pollution – which, she noted, “will result in enormous benefits for biodiversity and people”.
Egyptian environment minister Yassmin Abdelaziz Fouad referred back to the landmark loss and damage fund agreed upon at COP27, saying there should be “no less attention to achieving a fully operational fund for biodiversity” at COP15.
Representatives from the EU made calls for several specific targets in their speeches: the need to protect 30% of land and of oceans by 2030, the need to reduce the spread of invasive species by 50%, the protection of 3bn hectares of land and 3bn hectares of oceans and the need to reduce the loss of nutrients to the environment by 50%.
Several themes emerged as the high-level speeches continued. As expected, talk of finances flowed from one speech to the next.
Papua New Guinea said that the “greatest impediment” to establishing protected areas was the lack of sustained funding.
A range of “megadiverse” and developing countries stressed the need for increased resource mobilisation from developed countries. During Mexico’s speech, their minister spoke of a proposal from Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru to reform the GEF to include a biodiversity-specific trust fund to implement the GBF.
Russia also called financing, including the GEF, the key to the success of the GBF.
Argentina said there was a need to “talk about overly developed countries” and for those countries to contribute to biodiversity finance.
Other megadiverse countries reiterated their calls for a separate biodiversity fund. The Democratic Republic of the Congo said it “await[s] support” for a fund that must be “new, additional and innovative”. Brazil, the Philippines, the Republic of Congo and South Africa all echoed the calls for a new fund.
Among the other types of financial proposals, Colombia proposed “debt-for-nature” swaps – forgiveness of national debt in exchange for investment in conservation – while Brazil discussed payments for ecosystem services.
On the other hand, developed countries were more likely to stress other sources of funding during their speeches.
The EU spoke of the need for a “review” of financial flows to identify those which contribute to biodiversity loss, such as harmful subsidies. The US, Italy and Switzerland all called for mobilisation of funds “from all sources”, while Chile and France advocated for a public-private funding approach.
France also called for the contribution of multilateral development banks to biodiversity funding. Sweden highlighted the potential contributions from official development assistance, as well as private finance.
Many countries spoke of their financial pledges, although it was not always clear which of these pledges were newly made and which had been announced previously.
Among these, Germany, France and Spain all said that they would double their current funding by 2025, with Germany and France noting targets of €1.5bn (£1.3bn) per year and €1bn (£0.9bn) per year, respectively. Finland said it would increase by 25% its funding towards developing countries next year.
The UK pledged “up to” £26m to help biodiverse nations protect nature, as well as an additional £17m earmarked for small island developing states and least-developed countries through the World Bank’s Blue Economy Program.
Japan said that with its latest contributions to the GEF, it had now pledged ¥170bn (£1bn) to halt biodiversity loss over the period 2023-25. Saudi Arabia, the host of 2024’s UNCCD COP16, pointed out the $2.5bn (£2.1bn) it has invested in the Middle East Green Initiative.
Finland, Sweden and the UK were among the countries to tout the 10 Point Plan for financing biodiversity, a commitment to mobilising finances from all sources and financing nature-positive actions.
Less-wealthy countries made the point that they were also contributing to biodiversity finance already. Colombia noted that it spends $100m (£82m) of its own money on nature protection within its borders, and called for an increase in support from wealthier countries in order for it to stop relying so heavily on extractive industries, which harm biodiversity.
Several countries used the occasion to highlight their positions on the summit’s headline pledge of 30×30.
Members of the High-Ambition Coalition – such as Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Italy and Papua New Guinea – all reiterated their support for the target, with Colombia calling it the “least we can do”. South Africa – not a member of the coalition – called for an ambitious target on 30×30.
Costa Rica – co-chairs of the High-Ambition Coalition – called for the coalition to begin to shift its focus towards putting the pledge into practice, including how to support countries in implementation.
However, Indonesia vocalised their opposition to the target, saying they instead support “voluntary commitments” with flexibility for countries based on their own circumstances and capabilities.
Denmark, Peru and the United Arab Emirates – host of UNFCCC’s COP28 next year – called for the inclusion of nature-based solutions in the framework. UAE said that at COP28 they will “present a vision” for strengthening global action on nature-based solutions.
A range of countries – including Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Norway, the Philippines, the Republic of the Congo and Turkey – discussed the need for action on digital sequence information (DSI), with Norway later promising a multilateral mechanism for sharing the benefits from DSI.
The Netherlands called for integration of nature across sectors, with a particular focus on agriculture. They specifically mentioned less nitrogen loss and more climate resilience in food systems.
Meanwhile, India used the high-level segment to call out a global pesticide target as “unnecessary”, saying that instead it should be up to countries to set their own goals.
Several countries also called for inclusion and equity in the GBF process, with Chile and Colombia both specifically mentioning gender equality and Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Mexico and South Africa stating the need for respecting the rights of and centring Indigenous peoples.
Ukraine’s minister of environmental protection and natural resources, Ruslan Strilets, told the delegates of the Russian invasion and subsequent “horrors of the occupation” in an impassioned speech:
“Ukraine defends not only its people, but also humanity. Our state is a habitat of about 74,000 species of flora and fauna. By destroying our home, Russia is also destroying their home.”
Strilets noted that Ukraine is home to one-third of Europe’s biodiversity and remarked on the destruction caused by the war. “We are afraid to even imagine the scale of the tragedy,” he said, before calling for the Russian delegation’s participation in the process to be limited.
Protests both inside and outside the venue were scattered throughout the two weeks of the summit.
During the meeting’s opening ceremony on 6 December, a group of Indigenous youth interrupted Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s address.
On the following day, access to the venue was temporarily blocked by protests around the venue.
The major protest took place on Saturday 10 December in sub-zero temperatures. Once again, Indigenous youth were on the front line. A banner read, in French: “We are one with nature, protect it!” Chants and signs called for, among other things, land back (a movement to return control of lands in North America to Indigenous peoples), ending “ecocide” (the mass destruction of ecosystems) and halting the Line 5 pipeline, which carries petroleum across Canada via the US.
Much like at the UN climate summit COP27 last month in Egypt, there were fears from some observers that representatives from industries harmful to nature, such as large pharmaceutical and fossil-fuel companies, were having undue influence around the summit and on the negotiations.
A report by the NGO Friends of the Earth International accused “industry” of trying to “turn nature into a business” and placed the blame on “the welcoming attitude of the UN system [to businesses] in general, especially the CBD”.
The report added that industry representatives often appear at UN biodiversity talks under “promisingly green-sounding names” and advocate or lobby for the inclusion of terms such as “no net loss”, “net gain”, “nature positive” and “nature-based solutions”. (To note, a reference to “nature positive” was cut from the final text of the GBF, whereas the “nature-based solutions” was included.)
It comes as the Guardian reported that an employee of BP attended COP15 as a delegate for Ipieca, the global oil-and gas-industry association for environmental issues. He was part of an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) working group focused on the phrase “nature positive”.
It is worth noting that the CBD denied multiple requests to provide a full delegates list and, thus, it is not known how many industry representatives attended COP15. (In contrast, the UN does publish delegate lists for the climate COPs.)
The global reaction to the COP15 outcome and the final Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework was mixed, but mostly filled with relief that an agreement had been reached at all – something that had looked uncertain at some points during the summit.
The immediate response from some countries – particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo – was frustration and outrage with the manner in which the gavel fell.
Near the end of the plenary session to adopt the GBF which took place in the early hours of 19 December, the DRC said it was unable to support the adoption of the framework due to issues over financing. A representative from Mexico spoke in support of the presidency and the text directly after.
DRC says it is unable to support the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework, disappointed with the state of the finance target, wants new fund to be operationalised by the end of COP15, says developed countries should be responsible for financing implementation. #COP15— Aruna Chandrasekhar (@aruna_sekhar) December 19, 2022
The COP15 president and other key delegates took several minutes to discuss before returning to their seats on the plenary stage. Summit president Huang Runqiu then mentioned the statement from Mexico and the “resounding support from the floor” for the texts. He proposed to adopt the package of texts, before pausing for two seconds and dropping the gavel after seeing no objections.
Listened back to the final moments before the gavel fell again – easy to see why countries are upset— Orla Dwyer (@orladwyer_) December 19, 2022
There’s a 2 second pause between Huang proposing to adopt the package and dropping the gavel after no objections
But in the English live translation there is basically no pause pic.twitter.com/IIbGEv0GqA
The plenary erupted into applause, but a short while later a number of countries expressed outcry that the Chinese presidency had not taken into account DRC’s objection. (See: Chinese presidency.)
The DRC spoke out against the move that day, but the tensions that arose in the final moments were largely ironed out at the following plenary and the Guardian later reported that its opposition was ultimately dropped.
Prof Doreen Stabinsky, who researches global environmental politics at the College of the Atlantic in Maine, told Carbon Brief that “increasing developing country obligations without concomitant support is not equitable and it’s not just”. She added:
“The GBF puts in place significantly more obligations for countries with little direct support from developed countries as resources ‘mobilised’. I think that was at the core of DRCs rejection of the text, and indeed it was more than DRC who fought behind closed doors to alter both the text on the fund and the resource mobilisation decision during the heads of delegation negotiations.
Stabinsky added that “all the lip service to ‘ambition’ without delivering the means to that ambition in equitable and just ways is a recipe for another failed decade for the CBD”. She concluded that she was “most haunted by the final words of the Namibian delegate” who describe the violence of Belgian colonial rule in DRC and pointed to present-day resource flows, observing that “GBF doesn’t upend this relationship, it further entrenches it to ‘solve’ the problems of the global north with the ‘nature’ of the global south.”
The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity celebrated the “timely recognition” of Indigenous peoples and local community contributions, roles, rights and responsibilities to nature in the GBF. A statement from the group said:
“We have spoken and you have heard us, let us now put those words into action.”
UN secretary general António Guterres urged countries to “deliver on their commitments”, adding:
“We are finally starting to forge a peace pact with nature.”
Canadian environment minister Steven Guilbeault said that the GBF is a “major win for our planet and for all of humanity” that will chart a new course “away from the relentless destruction of habitats and species”. In a statement, he added:
“Just as Paris produced an agreement to keep global temperatures below 1.5C, in Montreal we have reached an agreement that commits to the protection of 30% of global land and water by 2030.”
We did it. The world has come together to land a historic deal to protect nature and biodiversity.— Steven Guilbeault (@s_guilbeault) December 19, 2022
The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework is a major win for our planet & all of humanity.
Soria criticised the way in which the Chinese presidency had handled the objections from the DRC in the final moments, but said the incident “shouldn’t eclipse the success” in Montreal.
However, the final GBF was a “missed opportunity to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples”, a statement from Amnesty International said.
Chris Chapman, the organisation’s adviser on Indigenous rights, said that nations “did not wholly incorporate Indigenous peoples’ demand for their lands and territories to be fully recognized as a category of conserved area”.
“The package is the peak of the years of effort to enhance conservation ambition and financial support…This is a day that the global biodiversity community should be proud of. It is also the starting point of implementation.”
Zac Goldsmith, UK international environment minister, hailed the “huge, historic moment”, adding that there is “a chance now to turn the tide on nature destruction”.
EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said that history was made at COP15 with an agreement “for nature and people all over the world”. Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president, said the world “now has a roadmap to protect and restore nature”.
Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, chief executive and chairperson of the Global Environment Facility, remarked in a statement that this agreement “creates real momentum as we push toward 2030 and the critical goals ahead of us”. He added:
“It reflects never-before-seen recognition from countries at all income levels that biodiversity loss must be stopped through high-ambition changes to our society’s relationship with nature and the way our global economy operates. It also reflects a determination from political leaders around the world to make this happen.”
A statement from ClientEarth environmental lawyer Ioannis Agapakis said the final GBF agreement was a “noteworthy moment”, but that “it is in no way the ‘Paris moment’ for nature we were promised – despite what civil society, NGOs and business have been calling for”.
Agapakis said the framework falls short in many ways and “fails to prompt the vital transformation of sectors that are driving biodiversity’s rapid decline”. He added:
“Though it’s not the most solid foundation from which to protect biodiversity, it nonetheless draws a line in the sand and a starting point from which to build on.”
The GBF and COP15 outcomes received some further attention in newspaper editorials on 20 December. A Times editorial honed in on the UK’s role at COP15, calling the deal a “rare piece of good news in gloomy times”. It added:
“Much of the COP15 language is vague, with targets ‘close to zero’ or ‘significantly’ reducing extinction risk. But there is clear recognition that habitats need protection as much as species, that the plunder of natural resources comes at a cost and that biodiversity crosses all borders and oceans. New drugs, new foods and new vaccines come from nature. It must be safeguarded.”
An Irish Times editorial called the pact a “triumph…against all odds” after the “conference had been staring the collapse of our nature support systems in the face for 10 days”.
However, it warned, “the devil will be in the delivery” of targets including 30×30, and said “prosperous countries like Ireland, with stable systems of governance, must lead by example and urgently move to enforce the environmental regulations we have so miserably flouted up to now”.
An editorial in the Trinidad Express said that, on the surface, Trinidad and Tobago “should have no problem” with the deal struck at COP15. However, it continued:
“Protection of T&T’s biodiversity has suffered from decades of delay in formulating policy and taking action. Some efforts got as far as the cabinet dead-end.”
“T&T must take serious stock of its natural assets before they become fairy tales that our children will one day hear but never actually see or experience.”
The road to COP16
Unlike the UN’s corresponding climate conferences, CBD COPs meet every other year.
COP16 will be held in the “last half” of 2024 in Turkey, while the CBD has called for countries from central and eastern Europe to submit bids to host COP17 and countries from Latin America and the Caribbean to offer up their nations as hosts for COP18.
In between now and then, the subsidiary bodies of the convention – the SBSTTA and the SBI – will continue to meet to refine the scientific and monitoring foundation upon which the framework is built. The CBD schedule for 2023 had not been released at the time of publication of this article.
Now that the new framework has been approved, parties to the convention will be expected to revise their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) – country-by-country plans for how each nation will fulfil their obligations under the convention – to align them with the targets set out in the GBF.
Work on national planning needs to get started right away, said Bernadette Fischler Hooper, WWF UK’s head of international advocacy. She told Carbon Brief:
“We also need to see implementation happening, so countries need to get down to business right away. No Christmas break for them. Immediately, we need to go into implementation, not least because we’re already two years late. This is a 10-year framework and we have eight years left to implement it.”
According to CBD information officer David Ainsworth, the ad-hoc technical group on the monitoring framework will also work on how to translate headline indicators into national-level targets.
Hooper added that it is “very possible” that the agreement will result in a movement to put national-level legislation into place towards helping countries achieve the targets and goals of the GBF, similar to the wave of national legislation passed to implement the Paris Agreement.
The NBSAP Accelerator Partnership, announced by Germany and Colombia during the high-level segment of COP15, will aim to aid countries in developing and implementing national action plans for biodiversity. The German government pledged €29m to support the launch of the accelerator programme.
Meanwhile, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) assembly will be moving forward to create a new biodiversity-specific trust fund, as outlined in the final agreement.
The pessimistic air during the Montreal meeting had previously led some people to wonder whether the CBD was serving its purpose. One observer told Carbon Brief that in the wake of COP15, the CBD would “need to think very carefully about their institutional identity”.
But Li Shuo, a policy advisor with Greenpeace East Asia, said that the agreement of the GBF was a “much-needed boost to the CBD”. He told Carbon Brief:
“The spirit of cooperation at COP15 should move countries forward in their immediate implementation of this package.”
Other key meetings on the road to COP16 can be found in the table below:
|1-2 February 2023||Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative symposium, Vancouver, Canada|
|3-9 February 2023||5th International Marine Protected Areas congress, Vancouver, Canada|
|Late February/Early March 2023||Negotiations on the treaty on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (“high seas” treaty), New York, US|
|13-15 March 2023||rd Global Soil Biodiversity Conference, Dublin, Ireland|
|8-12 May 2023||18th session of the UN Forum on Forests, New York, US|
|19-21 May 2023||G7 summit, Hiroshima, Japan|
|22-26 May 2023||2nd meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on plastics pollution, France|
|22-26 May 2023||Resumed review of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, New York, US|
|1-5 July 2023||27th session of the FAO Committee on Forestry, Rome, Italy|
|24-28 July 2023||28th session of the International Seabed Authority, Kingston, Jamaica|
|28 August-2 September 2023||10th plenary of IPBES, Bonn, Germany|
|12-25 September 2023||78th session of the UN General Assembly, New York, US|
|20-25 November 2023||10th session of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Rome, Italy|
|30 November - 12 December 2023||UNFCCC COP28, Dubai, United Arab Emirates|
|11-15 December 2023||3rd meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on plastics pollution, Nairobi, Kenya|
|TBC 2023||IPBES report on invasive alien species|
|TBC 2023/2024||CBD intersessional meetings|
|TBC 2024||COP16 of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Saudi Arabia|
|“Latter half” of 2024||CBD COP16, Turkey|