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Process and ambition failures lead to shameful lack of progress for nature at UN talks

Giraffes roam Kenya's Pardamat Conservation Area.
Giraffes roam Kenya’s Pardamat Conservation Area, just northeast of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. © Roshni Lodhia

For the past week, negotiators from 195 states plus the EU met in Nairobi, Kenya to agree on text for a Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) – a 10-year make-or-break roadmap designed to halt and reverse the loss of nature – which is supposed to be adopted later this year in Canada at the UN Biodiversity talks (CBD COP15).

This ad-hoc emergency meeting was scheduled after the previous rounds of talks in March 2022 failed to reach consensus on a host of key areas. Negotiators failed to progress the text which was mired in late night bureaucratic discussions. 

Commenting on the negotiations, Director of Biodiversity Policy and Infrastructure for TNC, Linda Krueger, said:

“Global interest from the UN Secretary General, Ministers, and Heads of State is needed in the run up to December, to secure anything like what is needed to slow the extinction and nature loss crisis. Despite scheduling this emergency meeting to address key sticking points within the draft Global Biodiversity Framework language, and also agreeing to a date and host country for the final round of negotiations, we are appalled by the lack of progress this week. We need to raise this on the political agenda. The negotiations have lacked fire and momentum.

“This process is intended to drive a global, UN-wide roadmap for humanity’s relationship with nature. Currently, this a failure at all levels. We need to move out of inertia and raise ambition to ensure that in November and December, we see a two-step increase in bold action for the planet and for posterity – first on climate in Egypt, then on nature in Montreal to deliver the decade of ambition to stick to temperature limits of 1.5 degrees, and to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. 

“While we appreciate the long hours and hard work of delegates, we cannot sleepwalk into the largest extinction crisis seen in centuries; one we cannot easily reverse without bold and significant system change. We will continue to pressure global leaders to drive and adopt ambitious goals for nature later this year at the CBD COP15.

“The UN Ocean meeting is about to begin in Lisbon, Portugal, another opportunity to turn the tide on our irresponsible treatment of the planet. Governments have signed up to the Leaders’ Pledge, committed in both the G7 and G20, to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and often talk a big game on nature. Let’s not forget that words only count when they stop trees being cut down, soils depleted, ensure that people and their rights are respected, and we can guarantee clean air, water, land, species and ocean conservation. We’ve been kicking the biodiversity ball for too long and this process is going off the rails. Urgent course correction is needed, and it’s needed before the final meeting in Montreal in December. Nature deserves more than this.”

Summary of key issues 

30x30 (the global protection target)

30X30 was negotiated until the early hours of Sunday morning, but little progress was made. The text remains in brackets. There has been no discussion of the 30% target figure itself. It’s been mired in discussions around context and principles, many of which are extraneous to the core purpose of the target and are covered elsewhere in the draft. IPLC language throughout the text so far, looks secure on free, prior and informed consent. 

While there is largely consensus around the direction of this target (Target 3), of significant concern is the potential removal of inland waters from the text of Target 3. A 30X30 target that focuses on land and sea areas neglects the evidence that freshwater biodiversity is the most threatened and least protected on the planet and lacks the ambition necessary to end biodiversity loss

Nature Positive Mission

“Nature Positive” and the mission to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 is currently in the text with various options and for the most part, strongly supported. TNC believes that nothing less than this level of ambition is required to clearly signal direction of travel for the entire framework.

Finance

On the crux issue of finance, there are only the beginning of discussions on harmful subsidy redirection and ways to mobilize domestic resources and private sector resources. Donor countries are looking at doubling foreign aid for biodiversity to $20 billion per annum, a far cry from the ask for $100 billion from Brazil, alongside the creation of a dedicated global fund for biodiversity. Discussions have been slow and need political momentum to be resolved. 

Transforming Economic Sectors (Target 14) + Business and Financial Institutions (Target 15)

Reasonable progress was made on the mainstreaming targets 14 and 15, although all language is still bracketed. Target 14 focuses on the importance of integrating biodiversity into policies and regulations at all levels of the government. Delegates agreed on the importance of mainstreaming biodiversity in all sectors and the importance of having tools like environmental impact and strategical assessments to do so.

However, more work needs to be done to call out those economic and productive sectors that are the main drivers of biodiversity loss, such as agriculture and Infrastructure. Putting measures in place to transform the agriculture and food system will perhaps be the most important element in achieving the goals of this framework. 

NBS (Nature Based Solutions)

The discussion has advanced slowly on including language on solutions based on nature that can contribute to addressing biodiversity loss and ensuring people benefit from nature. 

Extra soundbites:

“A global commitment to protecting and durably financing 30% of our planet’s nature by 2030 is a vital milestone in our fight against the biodiversity and climate crises. Nations such as Gabon, Colombia, Kenya, and Mongolia are showing us the path to achieving this ambitious target, and we can – and must – follow their lead,” Jeff Parrish, TNC Global Managing Director for Protect Oceans, Lands and Water.

“On Target 15, text on the table contains the possibility of a true transformation of the global financial sector. If all of the elements fall into place, the CBD could be recommending that countries' financial regulators require companies to assess and disclose their impacts on nature and then take actions to reduce negative impacts and increase positive impacts. This would potentially be the most significant development from the CBD process to shift the global economy to be nature-positive,” Andrew Deutz, TNC Director of Global Policy, Institutions and Conservation Finance.

“We are delighted that Canada will host this critical meeting while China is Chair. Collaboration between these two countries will be critical to build the political momentum to land an ambitious and accountable Global Biodiversity Framework,” Shaughn McArthur, Associate Director Government Relations, Nature United, Canada

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.