This December, the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) is being held in Montreal, Canada. Originally scheduled to take place in October 2020 in Kunming, China, COP15 was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. China remains the summit president, but the conference has moved to Montreal due to China’s Zero COVID policy. The event is highly anticipated due to the long delay and because participants will be negotiating an updated post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.
What is the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework?
Human actions threaten more species now than ever before, with one million species facing extinction and 75% of land surface has been significantly altered by human actions. The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework aims to transform humanity’s relationship with biodiversity and reverse this trend, allowing society to live in harmony with nature by 2050. Its success, would mean that “biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.”
The Framework includes 21 action-oriented targets to reach by 2030 to facilitate the completion of 10 milestones in 2030 and four broad goals in 2050. The desired outcome of COP15 is that the Global Biodiversity Framework will be ratified by the 192 country-representatives in attendance and for governments to transpose the Framework into national commitments and report on the status of the Convention. If ratified, this new Global Biodiversity Framework would replace the Aichi Targets that 196 member countries adopted in 2010 to conserve and protect biodiversity. None of the Aichi Targets were achieved in fully by 2020 and only six were partially achieved. Since then, there has been significant movement and demand to conserve and restore nature. If the targets of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework are achieved, there is potential to radically change the trajectory of nature and biodiversity loss.
What nature provides
Nature, which captures all life on Earth and includes biodiversity, plays a critical role for human survival and quality of life. Nature sustains air quality, clean water, soil for agriculture, regulates the climate, provides pollination and pest control as well as energy and medicines, reduces the impact of natural hazards, and contributes to the wellbeing and livelihoods of people. Nature is a crucial tool in the fight against climate change, with marine and terrestrial ecosystems serving as carbon sinks for anthropogenic emissions (responsible for sequestering 5.6 gross gigatons of carbon each year).
Nature is also core to individual and community identities and integral to diverse cultural heritage. Despite humans' social and economic reliance on nature, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found that nature and its vital contributions to people are deteriorating worldwide.
Why should businesses care about nature?
Businesses are hugely dependent on nature. Over 50% of global GDP relies on nature and its services. Nature and nature loss both generate both risks and opportunities for businesses. As drivers of nature loss such as climate change, pollution, and habitat degradation become more persistent, greater biodiversity loss and species decline occur. The interruption or loss of ecosystem services that provide for human wellbeing and quality of life can pose major risks to businesses, impacting a company’s operations and wider value chains. For instance, nature provides natural buffers against extreme weather events, and a loss in nature or ecosystem damage can break down these natural buffers. In another example, an estimated $577 billion worth of crops are at risk annually from the loss of pollinators, threatening the availability of cocoa, coffee, and soy. Finally, extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall can lead to flooding, damaging company infrastructure, disrupting supply chains, and impacting employees and customers.
From a climate transition perspective, the importance of nature is becoming increasingly prominent as impacts of climate change worsen and societies experience the effects of ecosystem collapse and shifts. Rapid ecosystem changes are likely to limit nature’s ability to sequester carbon, further exacerbating the impacts of climate change. Many governments have taken note, and increasingly stringent regulations emerging around the world will require businesses to understand and assess their impacts on nature and biodiversity. Investors are also starting to incorporate nature risks into their assessment of companies, and ESG rating and ranking agencies incorporating impacts on biodiversity and nature strategies into disclosure metrics. And businesses’ destructive impacts on nature loss can cause reputational damage as well.
Nature also provides vast private sector opportunities. The Future of Nature and Business Report published by the World Economic Forum found that nature-related solutions could generate over $10 trillion in business opportunities annually, creating approximately 395 million jobs by 2030. Nature is key to reaching net zero emissions – nature-based solutions including conservation and restoration initiatives can be highly effective in building business resilience and allowing companies to adapt to climatic shifts that may impact their ability to operate. Furthermore, nature provides opportunities for the development of new products and services, such as new technologies or databases to further scientific research.
The private sector and COP15
COP15 participation will provide business with opportunities to shape the nature agenda and help create a more resilient and sustainable future. The draft Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework expected to be adopted will highlight actions recommended by governments, businesses, and communities through the output of various targets. This will inform future regulations, influence company valuation, and provide guidance for companies on how to inform their nature strategy.
Target 15 is directly related to the TNFD, a disclosure framework designed to guide organizations’ reporting on nature-related risks. This target requires all businesses, all sizes, public and private, to assess and report on dependencies and impacts on biodiversity, from local to global, and progressively reduce negative impacts, by at least half, increasing positive impacts, moving towards the full sustainability of extraction and production practices, sourcing and supply chains, and use and disposal. Businesses have emphasized their support for Target 15 and the Framework at large with over 330 businesses and finance institutions signing on to the Business for Nature Make It Mandatory Campaign urging world leaders to adopt Target 15.
Regulation, investor interest, and disclosure frameworks like the TNFD are helping move nature and biodiversity into core business planning and strategy, and COP15 will be a further catalyst to this. Building on deep experience supporting the nature-related needs of clients worldwide, ERM will analyze and apply outcomes from the conference, collaborating with clients and partner organizations. These focused efforts will support the ambition of the post-2020 Global Framework and evolve