Draft new biodiversity treaty backs nature-based climate mitigation

The forthcoming UN biodiversity pact could aim to remove at least 10 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year by 2030, alongside slashing pesticide consumption and eliminating discharges of plastic waste, according to a first draft.

The secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which released the text yesterday following two years’ work, says that its 21 targets and ten key ‘milestones’ would put the world on course to ‘living in harmony with nature’ by 2050. The treaty is set to be finalised by the 196 parties to the convention during talks in the Chinese city of Kunming this October, preceded by online discussions and refinement by expert groups this summer.

Achieving the draft’s climate objective, through reforestation and other ecosystem-based approaches, would be equivalent to mitigation 24 times greater than the UK’s estimated greenhouse gas emissions last year, or around a fifth of global emissions. It would therefore tie in closely with the agenda for the COP26 talks in Glasgow, to be held in November.

One of the draft’s headline goals is aiming to conserve at least 30% of land and sea by 2030, “through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas”. The aim would set in stone the growing ’30 by 30’ movement to protect biodiversity through enhanced conservation efforts, endorsed by the G7 last month.

The Campaign for Nature, which has pressured for the 30 by 30 target, has described it as an “ambitious but achievable goal”.

Its director Brian O’Donnell said: “The first draft of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is a welcome step to confront the crisis facing nature. We are encouraged to see the commitment to protect at least 30 percent of the world's lands and oceans. Safeguarding habitat is the most important action that global and local leaders can take to halt nature's decline. The draft makes important progress in recognizing the central role indigenous peoples and local communities must play in conservation decision-making and management. Now it’s time for wealthy nations to commit the additional funding necessary to meet the targets laid out in this framework.”

But WWF was left underwhelmed, noting that none of the global biodiversity goals set in 2010 were met at all. “We can’t risk another lost decade for nature. Science has never been clearer: action on nature is not just essential to reducing our vulnerability to future pandemics, it is critical to tackling the climate crisis and securing an equitable and prosperous future for all,” said WWF International director general Marco Lambertini.

“We need the text to include a clear and measurable global goal for nature, similar to the one we have for climate. This is crucial to define adequate science-based targets and allow governments, businesses, investors and consumers to all contribute toward a shared goal. Eighty-nine world leaders have, to date, endorsed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature committing to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. Yet the ambition and urgency contained in the draft agreement are significantly below what is necessary to secure a nature-positive world this decade. With human activities continuing to drive irreversible biodiversity loss, pushing species to extinction and ecosystems toward collapse, we urge leaders to step up and deliver on their commitments, instructing their negotiators to secure a transformational outcome,” he added.

The draft agreement includes a commitment to dramatically increase investment in nature, including from international climate finance. The draft says that all forms of finance to developing countries should reach at least $200bn per year within the decade. In what is clearly another response to the Dasgupta review of the economics of biodiversity, it adds that the value of biodiversity should be fully integrated into policy making, regulation, planning, accounting and assessment of environmental impacts “at all levels of government and across all sectors of the economy, ensuring that all activities and financial flows are aligned with biodiversity values”.

  • Further targets for 2030 include:
  • “Moving towards the full sustainability of extraction and production practices, sourcing and supply chains”.
  • Eliminating the discharge of plastic waste.
  • “Redirect, repurpose, reform or eliminate” at least $500bn per year of subsidies considered to be harmful to biodiversity.  
  • Reducing pollution from all sources to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity and human health, including halving the loss of nutrients to the environment.
  • Reducing pesticide consumption by at least two thirds.
  • Ensuring that at least 20% of degraded freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems are under restoration.
  • All climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts should avoid negative impacts on biodiversity.
  • Halving the rate of introduction and establishment of alien species.
  • “All businesses [should] assess and report on their dependencies and impacts on biodiversity and progressively reduce their negative impacts and biodiversity-related risks.”

Key milestones for 2050 include net gain in the “area, connectivity and integrity of natural systems” of at least 5% and halting or reversing the increasing rate of extinction.

“Urgent policy action globally, regionally and nationally is required to transform economic, social and financial models so that the trends that have exacerbated biodiversity loss will stabilize by 2030 and allow for the recovery of natural ecosystems in the following 20 years, with net improvements by 2050,” said CBD executive secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema.

“The framework aims to galvanize this urgent and transformative action by governments and all of society, including indigenous peoples and local communities, civil society, youth and businesses and financial institutions. It will be implemented primarily through national-level activities, supported by subnational, regional and global-level actions. This is a global, outcome-oriented framework for the Convention’s 196 Parties to develop national and regional goals and targets, to update national strategies and action plans as needed, and to facilitate regular monitoring and review of progress at the global level,” she added.

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