Last December in Montreal, almost 200 nations came together to agree to the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), setting a vision of a world living in harmony with nature by 2050 and with 23 targets set to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
While politicians and government officials worked diligently to agree on the final wording of the text, the rest of the conference was alive with events, discussions, and debates. It may have been quiet compared to COP27 a few weeks earlier, but with more than 10,000 delegates in attendance, it truly was a global conversation on how we must come together to protect nature and, in turn, protect our way of life for generations to come.
This was the first time businesses attended the biodiversity COP in significant numbers. It was really inspiring to see so many businesses engaged, recognizing the vital role the private sector needs to play in restoring nature. Alongside businesses there was significant engagement from conservation NGOs, youth leaders, and local Indigenous groups. A global, yet local issue like biodiversity loss needs this diverse range of stakeholders to address it adequately and fairly. Discussions were rich, and the final language in the targets reflects the importance of all stakeholders in how to go about meeting the overall vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050.
One thing that stood out was the visibility and ambition coming from financial institutions. Many examples of private finance and blended models of funding were presented in side-events throughout the weeks – demonstrating that shifting financial flows towards nature positive outcomes (or greening finance as it is being called) is already happening and can be scaled up with the right governance and frameworks behind it. The reflection of this in the GBF has been a key achievement of the COP and will help to mobilize more investment from this sector – providing a necessary means of implementing the overall goals.
Understanding the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework
Of course, the biggest takeaway from the conference, despite a plethora of secondary announcements made, was the Framework itself. It provides a gameplan for what has to happen next, and what governments must now translate into concrete actions.
The goals and targets clearly lay out the work ahead, who needs to be involved, what needs to change, and the types of actions that are necessary.
There were quantitative targets set on the reversal of harmful subsidies for nature (Target 18) and on the additional finance needed to support transitional change and deliver the goals (Target 19). There were two 30x30 targets, one in relation to degraded ecosystems (Target 2) and the other on effective conservation and management of ecosystems, of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services. Across all targets was a strong emphasis on inclusion and a rights-based approach.
The targets themselves are broken down into three categories:
- Reducing threats to biodiversity (Targets 1-8)
- Meeting people’s needs through sustainable use and benefit-sharing (Targets 9-13)
- Tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming (Targets 14-23)
These targets will now be translated into country-level plans for biodiversity in the form of strategies, policies, and legislation. Because of this, the specific impacts of each target or the GBF as a whole is not yet clear and the implications for businesses will take a while to fully emerge. Nevertheless, the overarching path is clear, with larger areas protected for nature, greater requirements of restoration, a shift in finance and subsidies towards nature positive activities and increased scrutiny on the impacts businesses have on nature.
A Target for Businesses
For the first time, a target specifically for businesses was set. Target 15 refers to the need to assess and disclose their risks, impacts, and dependencies on nature across the value chain. Although this is not a legal requirement right now, the anticipation at COP15 of the launch of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) framework was substantial. It is likely that several nations will mandate nature-related reporting, most likely using the TNFD, in the coming years – just as it has been seen with the Task Force On Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). TNFD is currently co-funded by the UK Government and at COP15 Germany committed an additional €29 million of support for its implementation.
There are plenty of commitments already being put into place. President Biden committed to protecting 30% of the land and sea of the USA and the European Union have developed Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directing (CSRD) that will require disclosure similar to the TFND.
The final three targets of the document push the need for all parties to be considered, and involved, in the work we set out to do to protect and restore biodiversity. Target 21 focuses on the need for knowledge sharing to expand beyond political boundaries, while the final two focus on the need for diversity, equity and inclusion in the actions taken. All three targets stress how working more inclusively can create the best solutions possible for people, and the planet. In fact, it is now clear that if we are not able to halt the loss and restore nature, we will not be able to meet the social goals within the Sustainable Development Goals and if we do not meet our social goals, we will not be able to restore nature.
For companies like WSP, who work with clients to implement environmental protection strategies and nature-based solutions for biodiversity, actions will focus on the needs outlined in Target 14 (integrating biodiversity into planning and development processes and environmental assessments) and Target 15 (ensuring “that large and transnational companies and financial institutions regularly monitor, assess, and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity […] and promote sustainable consumption patterns.”)
To date, we’ve worked alongside government, local communities, Indigenous and corporate stakeholders to understand how to protect and restore biodiversity on their lands, and continued work with all three stakeholders, learning and appreciating their own methodologies and approaches, will be instrumental in our ability to comply with the Framework’s targets and goals.
Ultimately, the success of the GBF will be judged on how we meet the 23 targets to 2030. We have a lot of work to do to meet the demands of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. It is only seven years until 2030 and there is much to achieve. Even small steps will count for something. For example, the UK Business & Biodiversity Forum’s Nature Positive Pledge is an opportunity for businesses to commit to becoming nature positive but taking a stepwise approach to understanding their nature footprint and taking action to contribute to the GBF goals. But by working together, with all partners and stakeholders, we can take significant strides to protect our natural ecosystems and the lifestyle in the countries we live in.
Click here to learn more about how WSP can help you meet your biodiversity targets
Jenny Merriman, Technical Director, Earth & Environment at WSP UK
Jenny is a Chartered Environmentalist and specialist in biodiversity, natural capital and ecosystem services. Jenny leads WSP UK’s natural capital and biodiversity service offer, supporting clients to embed natural capital values into planning and decision making in order to reduce business risks and create new opportunities from nature-based solutions. She is WSP’s representative on the Forum for the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosure (TNFD) and is on the steering committee of the British Standard for Natural Capital Accounting for Organisations.
Patrick Lafrance, National Vice-president – Ecology and Environmental impact assessment, Canada
Patrick Lafrance is a biologist, specialized in aquatic environments with more than 22 years in environmental consulting. He supports the implementation of WSP’s strategy in Earth & Environment across Canada and internationally. Patrick works with clients who are seeking solutions and strategies to develop sustainable projects that create a positive impact on the environment.
Tom Butterworth, Head of Ecology for WSP UK
Tom has over 24 years’ experience working for wildlife. With extensive experience in natural capital and biodiversity assessments, Tom supports public and private sector organisations in meeting their objectives and targets for development, together with their objectives for natural capital and nature. Tom has led practical management of protected sites, developed local, regional, and national biodiversity strategies and policies and led programs of research.