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Insight 06.01.2023

COP 15: Historic agreement beats expectations, but implementation is key

COP 15: Historic agreement beats expectations, but implementation is key

The long-awaited second part of COP 15 (the UN conference on biological diversity) has concluded, with some substantial commitments, but no real fanfare.


Indeed, this summit has had less press coverage than COP 27 (the climate change equivalent), no world leaders in attendance and relatively muted participation from the corporate world.

It is relatively uncontroversial to say we are facing a twin planetary emergency, with climate change and biodiversity loss inextricably linked. However, the attention paid to the biodiversity crisis seems significantly lower than to greenhouse gas emissions. Maybe it’s because biodiversity loss is more complex to measure and more heterogeneous? Perhaps the services nature provides are still taken for granted, so for many it’s difficult to judge the real-world impact beyond species loss?

It is this backdrop that makes the outcomes of COP 15 all the more impressive. The biggest win is the ’30 by 30’ target in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

“The Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) beat expectations simply by being agreed, and by committing to conserve 30% of the world’s land and oceans by 2030 it sets a direction of travel toward the economic transformation required to achieve such harmony – a transformation from an extractive economic model to a circular, regenerative future.”

Grant Rudgley, Nature-related Finance Lead at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

The other clear shift from the draft agreement to the final framework is a stronger emphasis on the rights and territories of indigenous peoples. This is woven into almost every aspect of the GBF, with the message that indigenous peoples have been the best stewards of land and their approach should be followed if we expect conservation success.

Of course, the financing of these goals was a topic of major debate and there was some meaningful success in this area, with agreements both on the reduction of harmful subsidies and the increase in funding from the governments and private sector of high-income countries amounting to around USD 30 bn per year to be directed to developing nations.

Colin Porteous is CIO of Peace Parks Foundation, an NGO which manages and restores over 10 million hectares of trans-frontier conservation area in Sub-Saharan Africa (and also a member of the UBP Biodiversity Committee) and he was particularly pleased to see some success around these financing targets.

“Target 18’s reduction of harmful incentives by USD 500 bn annually (plus the related scaling up of positive incentives), and Target 19’s increase of new financial resources to implement national biodiversity strategies by USD 200 bn per year means that the world can expect massive investment in the conservation of our shared natural resources.

With 25 years of conservation experience in Africa, working hand in hand with governments, communities and landscape stakeholders, Peace Parks Foundation understands the challenges the world will face to turn the COP15 targets into outcomes.

Peace Parks Foundation has the goal of Conservation at Scale, and the Global Biodiversity Framework sets a clear path. We look forward to strengthening existing relationships and forging new ones to play our part in restoring the integrity, connectivity and resilience of ecosystems.”

Of most significance for the finance community and corporate world is Target 15 on mandatory corporate disclosure on risks, impacts and dependencies on nature. This is particularly relevant to the UBP Impact team as a signatory to Business For Nature’s ‘make it mandatory’ campaign. Although there was some dilution to the wording, it was agreed that all large businesses and financial institutions must assess and disclose these impacts and risks. Importantly, supply chains were explicitly stated and this is very supportive for the work of the TNFD (Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures) in 2023. 

“Target 15, in particular, could be a powerful lever for transformation by making visible to business and finance communities nature-related risks, dependencies and impacts along supply chains. This will help make decisions and investments in favour of nature the obvious choice, driving home the coming reality: that only those with access to the resilience, resources and other benefits nature provides can thrive.”

Grant Rudgley, Nature-related Finance Lead at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Despite some meaningful achievements, the final agreement was far from perfect. It lacks quantitative targets and it is not legally binding. Nation states also have a weak track-record when it comes to targets on nature, with near total failure of the Aichi targets (the predecessor the GBF). The difference this time, if we allow ourselves some optimism, is that the corporate world and public sector are beginning to realise the contribution nature makes to GDP. They are beginning to see that we cannot achieve our climate goals without solving the biodiversity crisis. Perhaps most importantly, 2022 has seen unprecedented weather and geopolitical challenges, affecting water, food and fuel security. The restoration of nature plays a critical role in the resilience of communities and long-term stability of governments, and this framework is a practical roadmap for achieving that. Mike Maunder, Executive Director of Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) and member of the UBP Biodiversity Committee, is clear about the opportunity of the Global Biodiversity Framework and the urgency in its implementation:

“The GBF is no novelty number serving the needs of a green lobby; rather, it represents our best chance to secure a viable future for society and business. The challenges to business and finance are clear – this is not about a new set of costs to be grudgingly accepted but rather about securing business continuity in a dangerously unstable world. By rebuilding nature through the mobilisation of public and private capital we can protect and restore vital landscapes (including farming systems), secure supply chains, ensure food and water security, and reduce our increasing vulnerability to the developing threats of climate collapse and civil unrest. Whilst many of the tools for this new future exist, or are being developed, we cannot be complacent; time is short.”


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Victoria Leggett
Head of Impact investing
View her Linkedin profile

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