- Published on December 5, 2022
Partner at EY | Climate Change and Sustainability Services
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The upcoming Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montreal is expected to be the ‘Paris Agreement’ moment for biodiversity. This gathering of 196 global leaders is an opportunity to envision a shared future where biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored, and widely used, whilst also maintaining the ecosystem services that are critical to sustaining a healthy planet that delivers benefits for all people.
This is not the first time that countries have tried to set targets on nature and biodiversity. A decade ago, global leaders met at the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10) to create a ten-year plan to safeguard ecosystems, species and genetic diversity 2020. As part of the plan, countries agreed to 20 targets, known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, but none of those targets were met.
We know that clear and ambitious targets are important to set the tone and urgency for action on nature, and that accountability and transparency are critical to deliver results. We also know that targets and action won’t be achievable without strong governance and global coordination to signal the importance of the issue and to create an enabling environment to drive progress across the broader economy. A significant part of this will need to be supported by governments and investors shifting capital towards nature, without forgetting the need for a coordinated and integrated approach to stakeholder engagement to ensure that the response to the challenge is an equitable one.
When the representatives for all parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity meet on December 7, these important agenda items must be agreed upon to ensure the success of COP15 and progress towards the targets to ultimately deliver nature-positive outcomes.
Agreeing on targets is not the point
The Aichi Biodiversity Targets and strategic plan are currently being updated into what is known as the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which are expected to be adopted and ratified by attending countries at the upcoming COP15 meeting.
The GBF lays out long-term goals for 2050 as well as 21 action targets to assess progress in 2030. The goals and targets are designed to tackle the five drivers of biodiversity loss, which include agriculture and food systems, climate change, invasive species, pollution, and unsustainable production and consumption. These include targets to conserve 30% of land and sea areas by 2030 and to increase financial flows to nature-related efforts by at least US$200 billion per year.
On the Australian front, the government recently made commitments to protect Australia’s biodiversity. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has signed the Leaders Pledge for Nature, which commits Australia to reversing biodiversity loss by 2030. Federal Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, will be attending COP15, signalling the importance of the conference to the Australian Government. The government also recently committed to protect 30% of Australia’s land and waters by 2030 in line with the United Nations 30x30 target.
However, simply agreeing upon and ratifying targets and milestones won’t be enough to drive the change needed. We need to see action.
The GBF’s updated Theory of Change sets out responsibility and transparency as key aspects of its mission, and outlines expectations on the setting and reporting of national targets, and the evaluation of actions against targets. The GBF has also published a monitoring framework, which provides a guideline for countries to monitor progress against headline indicators which are supported by complementary indicators to allow for more detailed analysis of progress.
Strong mechanisms for monitoring and reporting, supported by transparency and accountability, can help drive real progress and outcomes. With the GBF, there is a stronger global aspiration to not repeat the failures of investment, resources, knowledge and accountability of the Aichi targets.
Governments need to create a strong enabling environment
Governments must develop a strong enabling environment to facilitate the transition to a nature-positive economy. One way this can be achieved is by embedding nature and biodiversity holistically into decision-making across all levels of government. This will be critical to set the tone for large organisations and communities to build in nature-based solutions as the world transitions to a nature-positive economy.
The upcoming and widely anticipated release of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) framework will be critical to ensure that the material impacts and dependencies of organisations on nature are covered and disclosed appropriately.
Australia has committed to 30x30 and signed the Leaders Pledge for Nature, but funding and policy for nature are still under development. The 2021 Samuel Report into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 highlighted the need to reform Australia’s key environmental policy. A roadmap that outlines Australia’s approach to nature and biodiversity conservation would provide greater support and clarity to Australian businesses on how they can contribute to achieving global targets, as well as provide the necessary funding required to transition to a more nature-positive economy.
There is a growing recognition of the ‘twin crises’ of climate change and biodiversity. Biodiversity has an important role to play in limiting climate change, with nature providing a natural carbon sink to absorb greenhouse gas emissions, and the impacts of climate change exacerbating nature loss. Australia is precariously placed, with the country having one of the highest extinction rates of animal and plant species globally whilst also having land-based ecosystems with the capacity to absorb 150 million tonnes of CO2 annually. Thus, it is critical for a target on nature-based action on climate change to be embedded into both the GBF as well as Australia’s national targets.
Nature should be integrated into financial decision-making
The most critical potential action to come out of COP15 will be for companies and countries to integrate nature and biodiversity into financial decision-making and to align financial flows with the GBF. This will underpin all activity and progress towards the targets set.
The integration of nature into financial decision-making will ensure that the full costs and benefits of an investment are taken into consideration and appropriately valued. By accurately accounting for nature, the hope is that this will minimise the destruction of precious nature-based assets by reducing deforestation, the conversion of natural habitats, and the unregulated exploitation of resources.
Australia is currently in the process of developing its own sustainable finance taxonomy, which will outline credible sustainable economic opportunities and be instrumental in shifting capital flows to investments that support the achievement of Australia’s climate, environmental and social objectives.
There needs to be a whole-of-society approach
Addressing the challenges of nature and biodiversity loss will require a coordinated and integrated approach to stakeholder engagement to ensure an equitable response. The climate change and biodiversity crises disproportionately impact the global South, which face extreme weather events, health impacts, displacement, and food and water security.
There are many industries and broader economic actors, including the finance industry, planning, infrastructure, tourism, health and various sector bodies such as forestry, agriculture, and mining who should all be consulted in this process. However, it is equally crucial that local groups and rights holders are consulted as well and that their views are captured in an open, inclusive, and transparent environment.
As Australia builds on these goals, we must focus on reducing the negative impacts whilst increasing the positive impacts to maximise the environmental gains. We must also build in stronger acknowledgement of and engagement with First Nations people across all targets, and commit the funds required to protect and recover threatened native species.
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author, not Ernst & Young. This article provides general information, does not constitute advice and should not be relied on as such. Professional advice should be sought prior to any action being taken in reliance on any of the information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.Report this
Partner at EY | Climate Change and Sustainability Services
Published • 3d
I am so excited to be heading off to Montreal this weekend to attend the Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), that is now underway. You may be hearing that this will be the ‘Paris Agreement’ moment for biodiversity… and I REALLY hope that is right… that said, bringing together 196 global leaders to envision a shared future where biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored, and widely used, whilst also maintaining the ecosystem services that are critical to sustaining a healthy planet that delivers benefits for all people is no small undertaking. I have shared some thoughts on key aspects, challenges, hopes (and dreams) for COP15 in this article, including: 1. Agreeing on targets is not the point 2. Governments need to create a strong enabling environment 3. Nature should be integrated into financial decision-making 4. There needs to be a whole-of-society approach Really keen to hear from others on their thoughts, and please let me know if you will also be in Montreal – it would be great to connect! So keen to join my esteemed colleagues, including Steve Varley
and others as part of the EY