Five Facts to Know: The Upcoming Biodiversity COP15

The loss of biodiversity is a major market failure since the use of ecosystem services is not priced to reflect its high costs. To reverse nature loss, which could have dramatic consequences on global food safety, the climate and livelihoods, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) is promoting the development of a Global Biodiversity Framework. Negotiations on the ambition of this framework — which would lead to risks and opportunities for businesses — will be negotiated in Montreal, Canada from December 7-19, 2022 during the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP15). Here are five facts to know about the upcoming biodiversity COP15:

1. Economies rely on ecosystems…

  • According to the UN more than half of global GDP relies on biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.
  • Healthy ecosystems, freshwater, lands and soils are the foundation of sustainable food systems and global food safety and security.
  • Nature's products support such diverse industries as agriculture, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, pulp and paper, horticulture, construction and waste treatment.
  • Business models that would contribute to the strengthening of nature systems may generate hundreds of millions of new jobs.

2. ... with no price tag attached

  • A report by Partha Dasgupta (Cambridge University) highlighted that the true value of nature was not priced in the goods and services that depend upon it and that this market failure had led to underinvestment in nature services.
  • SwissRe estimates the value of biodiversity at US$33 billion per year.

3. Biodiversity risks = economic risks

  • The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a scientific advisory body to the UN, presented evidence that “biodiversity is deteriorating at rates unprecedented in human history.” The dominant drivers of this deterioration include changes in land and sea use, over-exploitation of organisms, climate change and invasive alien species.
  • More than 70% of the land on the planet has been transformed, more than 60% of oceans have been impacted and more than 80% of wetlands have been lost.
  • Already one million of an estimated 8 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction.
  • The loss of biodiversity threatens our food supplies, opportunities for recreation and tourism, and sources of wood, medicines and energy. It also interferes with essential ecological functions including the stabilization of climate.
  • According to the UN, a collapse in ecosystem services could result in a $2.3 trillion decline in global GDP by 2030.
  • The Network for Greening the Financial System estimated that nature-related risks could have macro-economic consequences. It therefore recommended that central banks take into account biodiversity risks in their scenarios.

4. Convention on Biological Diversity

  • Signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) is one of the three Rio Conventions, alongside the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The UNCBD “recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and microorganisms and their ecosystems — it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live.”
  • The UNCBD is also the custodian of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefits Sharing.
  • COP15, Part 2 meets in Montreal, Canada from December 7-19, 2022. Part 1 was held virtually out of Kunming, China October 11-15, 2021.

5. The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

  • The fifth meeting of the Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (December 3-5, 2022) will present its recommendations to COP15 with the aim of operationalizing the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), the key outcome to be pursued at COP15.
  • Recommendations for the GBF build upon lessons learned from the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which focused on addressing the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and reducing the direct pressures on biodiversity and promoting its sustainable use. The Aichi Targets, however, were never met.
  • The Post-2020 GBF will cover the period between 2022 and 2030. Its mission is to:
    • Halt and reverse biodiversity loss to achieve a nature positive world by 2030
    • Put biodiversity on a path to recovery.
  • The first draft, submitted to parties in July 2021, foresees the updating of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans. It outlines ambitious goals and target actions such as:
    • Halting and reversing the extinction rate
    • Safeguarding genetic diversity
    • Closing the financing gap estimated at $700 billion per year by 2030
    • Ensuring that at least 20% of degraded freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems are under restoration
    • Ensuring that 30% of land and sea areas globally are conserved
    • Reducing pollution from all sources, including by reducing nutrients lost to the environment by at least half and pesticides by at least two-thirds, and eliminating the discharge of plastic waste
    • Minimizing the impact of climate change on biodiversity
    • Requesting businesses to assess and report on their dependencies and impacts on biodiversity, progressively reducing negative impacts by half, and thereby reducing biodiversity-related risks to businesses
    • Eliminating harmful incentives by at least $500 billion per year
  • The document tabled in front of the Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework still contains a vast amount of bracketed text and options, making agreement an uncertain prospect.

Implications for Business

Businesses should monitor the following:

  • Increased pressure for the valuation of “services provided by nature” to be integrated into operational and investment decisions.
  • Possible provisions to report on the use of nature and negative impacts thereof, particularly likely to affect financial services.
  • Direct impact on the agrifood sector since contemporary food systems are considered the main drivers of biodiversity loss; also monitor rules on use of pesticides and discharge of plastic waste.
  • The development of standards for measuring businesses’ biodiversity footprint.