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21 December 2022 16:45

Cropped 21 December 2022: COP15 special edition

Multiple Authors

NatureCropped 21 December 2022: COP15 special edition

Welcome to Carbon Brief’s Cropped. 
We handpick and explain the most important stories at the intersection of climate, land, food and nature over the past fortnight.

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Carbon Brief has just published its 17,000-word summary of the negotiations at COP15 in Montreal and the key outcomes, including the passage of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). Below, we summarise the highlights of our reporting from closely following the summit over the past two weeks.

You can also follow how the conference unfolded with the rest of Carbon Brief’s COP15 coverage: an interactive table of who wants what, listing key country and negotiating group positions on the major issues; an interactive table tracking progress on the framework; and a video of various interviews conducted in Montreal where a variety of stakeholders were asked what “success” looks like.

Key developments

Framework for success

DEAL DONE: On 19 December, China’s environment minister and COP15 president Huang Runqiu gavelled through a deal agreeing the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), a set of goals and targets to end biodiversity loss. The agreement was passed under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which has 196 parties – every country except for the US and Holy See.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: The overarching aim of the GBF is for people “to live in harmony with nature” by 2050. To achieve this, it set out a “mission” to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. Many viewed this as the most crucial part of the agreement in order to achieve ambitious action for tackling biodiversity loss. It was one of the most prominently discussed issues at COP15 alongside one headline target – the pledge to protect 30% of the world’s land and seas for nature by 2030. Target 3 of the GBF – commonly referred to as “30×30” – has been likened to the 1.5C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement. There were behind-the-scenes fears throughout COP15 that the ambition of the target might not survive into the final agreement, but these were not realised. The final wording of Target 3 calls on countries to ensure that “at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, and of coastal and marine areas” are conserved by 2030.

TEETH IN THE DEAL: The measures to ensure that the pledges within the GBF are actually put into action were an incredibly important component of the COP15 outcome, experts told Carbon Brief – particularly as the agreed texts are not legally binding. A lack of implementation was widely cited as one of the major factors behind the failure of the last set of global biodiversity rules, the Aichi targets. Implementation details for the final framework are in section J of the GBF and a separate document on planning, monitoring, reporting and review mechanisms. There are many steps involved and negotiations around these texts were long and complex. 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.

THE RIGHT(S) APPROACH: At COP15 in Montreal, representatives of Indigenous communities, youth and the women’s caucus all called for a “meaningful integration of human rights” in the GBF, as these groups are all essential for biodiversity conservation. Indigenous peoples’ rights to their territories and equity were some of the rights advocated by observers and human-rights groups. In the new framework, various targets achieved the inclusion of human rights, such as target 21, on participation of Indigenous peoples, women and youth in decision making on biodiversity, and target 22 on gender equality. In target 3, on the protection of “30% of terrestrial, inland water and coastal and marine areas” by 2030, the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity welcomed the inclusion of “Indigenous and traditional territories” as well as the recognition of their rights. At COP15, the Working Group of Human Rights and Biodiversity highlighted the need for a monitoring framework to ensure human rights during implementation.

Financial flows

MOBILISING MONEY: Finance and resource mobilisation were the running undercurrent of the COP15 talks and the last issue raised before the gavel was (controversially and swiftly) dropped. The GBF hopes to mobilise “at least $200bn per year” by 2030 from “all sources” – domestic, international, public and private. Of this, developed countries and others 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” would be focused on supporting least-developed countries, small island developing states and economies in transition to achieve their national biodiversity plans. The GBF also requested that the Global Environment Facility – the world’s main biodiversity fund – set up a “Special Trust Fund” in 2023 and until 2030 to support the framework. Not everyone was satisfied with the final outcome for finance, with the Democratic Republic of Congo registering its disapproval in the official report of the meeting. Finance will likely continue to be a thorny issue around biodiversity for COPs to come. 

SUBSIDISING DESTRUCTION: Governments around the world spend at least $1.8tn annually on subsidies that exacerbate biodiversity loss and climate change, an analysis found earlier this year. The discussion around the reduction, redirection and elimination of these subsidies was a key point for many at COP15. The GBF target related to harmful subsidies was mostly welcomed by stakeholders because it included a clear financial-reduction target and the continued aim to “eliminate” these incentives. Target 18 sets out the aim to identify – by 2025 – and then “eliminate, phase out or reform incentives, including subsidies” that are harmful for biodiversity. However, it should be noted that no specific subsidies are mentioned, after references to subsidies for agriculture and fisheries were cut from the final text. Importantly, subsidies should also be reduced by at least $500bn each year by 2030, “starting with the most harmful incentives”. 

Agricultural issues

HIGHLY HAZARDOUS: Pollution was another closely-watched target given its implications for food security, its links with climate mitigation and fertiliser use and the 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 target 7, but, in the end, language around “risk” dominated, replacing quantitative reductions in the use of pesticide and highly-hazardous chemicals. Also removed was a call to phase-out highly hazardous synthetic pesticides by 2030. The target 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. 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.

FOOD FOOTPRINT: Almost 830 million people around the world suffer from hunger and 2.3 billion (nearly 30% of global population) from malnutrition, according to a report (pdf) from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). However, food systems account for 80% of deforestation and 29% of greenhouse gas emissions. The GBF addressed agricultural issues in a series of targets: target 7 seeks to reduce “the overall risks from pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals by at least half” by 2030, target 15 will “encourage” companies to monitor and report their “impacts on biodiversity” and target 16 aims to promote “sustainable consumption choices” through policies, education and information. Target 16 also sets a goal of “halving global food waste” and “reduc[ing] the global footprint of consumption” by 2030. But, to succeed, the GBF needs “an active engagement of all stakeholders across food and agriculture sectors”, said FAO deputy director general Maria Helena Semedo, at an event held at COP15. 

NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS: The controversial concept of nature-based solutions (NBS) made its way into the Kunming-Montreal framework. Target 8 related to minimising the impact of climate change on biodiversity and increasing its resilience through a number of measures – including through “nature-based solution and/or ecosystem-based approaches”. The inclusion of both of these terms is important – some delegates and NGOs prefer the use of “ecosystem approaches”, as that has a set definition under the CBD, while “nature-based solutions” does not. The term NBS, favoured by many others and used in other UN conventions, also featured in target 11 in the final GBF. (For more on nature-based solutions, see Carbon Brief’s explainer from last year.)

Extra reading

Cropped is researched and written by Dr Giuliana Viglione, Aruna Chandrasekhar, Daisy Dunne, Orla Dwyer and Yanine Quiroz. Josh Gabbatiss also contributed to this issue. Please send tips and feedback to [email protected]

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