Conflict Alerts # 575, 22 December 2022
In the news
On 19 December, at COP 15 hosted by Canada and chaired by China, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was adopted by 190 countries.
On 17 December, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had said: "We are finally starting to forge a peace pact with nature." Reflecting on the current state of affairs, he had remarked: “We are waging a war on nature. Ecosystems have become playthings of profit. Humanity’s war on nature is ultimately a war on ourselves.”
On 15 December, Chinese President Xi Jinping had urged the contracting parties to “turn ambitions into actions” as "humanity lives in a community with a shared future." He added: “We need to build global consensus on biodiversity protection.”
Following the GBF, Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu said: “The declaration will send a powerful signal, showing the world our determination to solve the problem of biodiversity loss, and our stronger actions on the issues discussed at this high-level meeting.” His Canadian counterpart, Steven Guilbeault said: “It is truly a moment that will mark history as Paris did for climate.”
However, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Environment Minister Ève Bazaiba protested, saying: “We didn’t accept it. We didn’t have the agreement. We will go back home. Maybe the president of COP 15 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” of an agreement by consensus.
Issues at large
First, a background on the Conference of Parties (COP 15). The COP is the governing body of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) signed in 1992 aimed at the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of resources. The COP meets once in two years to monitor the implementation of the CBD. The latest COP (COP 15) concluded with the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) which set the agenda for biodiversity post-2020. It is considered to be the most ambitious global plan ever developed for protecting biodiversity.
Second, the outcome of COP 15 in 2022. The agreement includes 23 targets aimed at addressing biodiversity loss, restoring ecosystems, and protecting indigenous rights. The targets focus on halting and reversing nature loss and putting 30 per cent of the planet and 30 per cent of degraded ecosystems under protection by 2030. Currently, only 17 per cent of land is protected. Additionally, it seeks to halve global food waste and phase out or reform subsidies that harm biodiversity by at least USD 500 billion per year. Moreover, the rights of indigenous people and local communities are to be respected while implementing the GBF.
Third, the issue of finance. The agreement also pledged to mobilise at least USD 200 billion each year from public and private sources as biodiversity-related funding. The issue of finance has remained at the core of negotiations at COP 15 like the recent COP 27 in Egypt for developing countries. At least USD 30 billion each year is expected to flow from developed to developing countries as part of the agreement.
Fourth, bridging biodiversity and climate change. The agreement is being compared with the significant Paris agreement for climate action making countries accountable for their actions towards biodiversity loss. It has intertwined climate action with nature and biodiversity protection and resulted in a coherent policy framework. Last year, the scientific body behind COP 27 and COP 15, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a joint report on the need to achieve climate and environmental targets highlighting the link between climate change and biodiversity loss.
Fifth, the opposition by the global south. Many developing countries have flagged their concerns over the funding mechanisms. Delegates from Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia walked out of the discussion complaining that they were not being heard. While the developing countries prefer establishing a new fund for biodiversity, the developed countries prefer continuing with the existing Green Environment Facility. The DRC’s objection to the current agreement stems from its reservations regarding the proposed funding mechanisms. A few countries have also opposed the 30 by 30 target fearing the potential displacement of indigenous people.
First, a significant step in pushing the biodiversity agenda to the forefront. The agreement is a remarkable step towards bringing the global biodiversity agenda to the forefront at par with climate action. Such policy frameworks can inspire countries to set ambitious targets and implement them in specific areas like biodiversity.
Second, more focus on implementation. Climate targets of countries reflect how declaring intent and ambition alone is not enough. The Global Biodiversity Framework, likewise, faces challenges in monitoring and implementation. Given that previous commitments on biodiversity have not been met, the current agreement needs to put in place appropriate monitoring mechanisms to ensure its implementation.
Third, the need for coordination between developing and developed countries. The debate over financing has been at the core of the global environmental agenda and developing and developed countries need to arrive at a workable solution to address their historical responsibilities while raising the requisite funds for the effective implementation of the GBF.