Bending the curve on biodiversity loss

By Elf

Dr Joanna Smallwood, solicitor at University of Sussex, who attended COP 15, says that adoption of a new global biodiversity framework must not be the final step.

On 19th December 2022, the United Nations (UN) Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) agreed a landmark agreement to halt and reverse biodiversity loss: the Kunming to Montreal Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) with four goals and 23 new global targets for biodiversity. Whilst this is a positive step forward, the adoption of the Post-2020 GBF alone is not enough to achieve the radical transformations needed to avert the biodiversity crisis and more must be done during implementation to bend the curve on biodiversity loss.

It is welcome to see the adoption of targets which go beyond purely conservation measures and seek to influence indirect drivers: target 15 aims to reduce the impact of businesses and financial institutions on biodiversity, target 16 promotes responsible consumption patterns. Targets 22 and 23 recognise the important role of women. ‘Considerations for implementation’ include recognition of intergenerational equity, the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, and different value systems (including Rights of Mother Earth and Rights of Nature) although these could have been better incorporated by recognising these as rights within key targets and as principles of implementation. Whilst financial pledges have been made for a nature fund ($30 billion per year) these pledges are not legally binding, nor are the new targets themselves and a key limitation is the weak implementation mechanism which is not transparent on individual country progress (see SSRP Policy Brief 9).

All is not lost, there is still time (just) to change the trajectory and bend the curve on biodiversity loss. This will involve countries taking concrete actions, and to facilitate whole of government and society approaches. The development of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans will be key to agree ambitious and SMART national targets towards global goals, to create synergies with other multilateral agreements, to use global and national indicators to measure progress, and incorporate business and non-state actors in this process. Lastly, it is essential that strong systems of reporting, review and feedback from national to local levels of governance are developed. This of course requires political will and we can all play a part in demanding this as a priority for our governments and industry to address through voting, lobbying, persuasion and social learning, and making quick steps towards living in harmony with Nature.