COP15: The Convention on Biological Diversity and why it matters for businesses

The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) aims to agree on a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework with targets for nature over the next decade. The first session took place virtually in October 2021, resulting in the Kunming Declaration, which lays down a commitment to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. The concluding session kicked off on 7 December 2022 in Montreal and has the potential to be the Paris Agreement for Nature, setting the agenda for change.

Convention on Biological Diversity

The CBD is a landmark treaty established at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. To date, 196 UN member states have ratified the convention and helped biological diversity gain recognition as a global asset1. The CBD has three key objectives: conserve biological diversity, ensure sustainable use and uphold the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits.

Every two years, member states meet to discuss progress against these objectives. At the tenth conference (COP10), the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011-2020) was developed, with the flagship Aichi targets. The Aichi targets had five core objectives supported by twenty targets to reduce biodiversity decline and address the underlying causes. Of those targets, none were fully achieved and only six were partially achieved2.

Although the world failed to meet previous targets, there are lessons to be learnt, and a foundation for the development of a new robust Paris Agreement for Nature has been set.

What does COP15 mean for businesses?

Wildlife populations have plummeted by 69% on average since 19703. Biodiversity is a fundamental component to long-term business survival. Nearly all sectors are affected by and rely upon ecosystem services for critical inputs and depend on healthy ecosystems to maintain soil and water quality. Over half of the global GDP, $44 trillion, is estimated to be threatened by nature loss.

The first draft of the post-2020 biodiversity framework includes 22 targets4. Target 15 expects all businesses and financial institutions to assess and report their dependencies and impacts on biodiversity, reduce negative impacts by at least half, and increase positive impacts5. This is to reduce risk and move towards more sustainable business models and practices.

It is anticipated that the forthcoming Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) will facilitate the implementation of this target. Like the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), there is potential for governments to make nature disclosure mandatory and there is a building case6.

The #MakeItMandatory campaign brings together more than 300 companies calling on governments to make the disclosure of nature impacts and dependencies mandatory for large businesses and financial institutions7. The motivation for this is the increasing financial risk resulting from the dependency on nature for operations, changing consumer demands and legal action from regulatory change. But beyond risk management also lies vast opportunities for businesses and the finance sector. Mandatory nature reporting has the potential to engage investors, empower consumers and, most importantly, accelerate action. Evidence has shown that disclosure generates business action and is the bedrock of environmental action.

COP15 and beyond

COP15 is a significant moment for global environmental protection and will mark the start of a decade of action. It is crucial that key decision-makers use the failures of the Aichi targets to ensure history does not repeat itself and that the new framework is inclusive of all stakeholders. If we fail to stop the decline of biodiversity, it will have severe consequences for our global systems. The challenge of halting loss can feel insurmountable, but our fate is not yet sealed.

Author: Lauren Hyatt, Consultant at Simply Sustainable.


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