Posted on 19 December 2023
By Guido Broekhoven, Head of Policy Research and Development at WWF International
The adoption last year of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was a historic moment, with the world committing to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2030.
But the true test of any global agreement is how it’s translated into action. In that regard, ‘time is not on our side,’ as Inger Anderson, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said after the adoption of the framework.
This statement has become even more pertinent one year later, because while we have seen some progress since last year, the overall pace and scale of action on nature is failing to match the promise of the landmark agreement and what is needed to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
So, let’s break down where there has been progress, the areas where we urgently need to see countries step up for people and nature, and the opportunities ahead to ensure the world delivers on the promise of Montreal.
Progress - but limited
We have seen some important progress in 2023, in particular at the national level.
Many countries have started to update their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), while a small number, including Japan and Luxembourg, have concluded this process and published their updates.
Stakeholders have also developed a number of guidance documents to support the implementation of components of the framework, for example on 30x30, ecological connectivity and NBSAPs and on the role of business in GBF implementation - and more are in the pipeline.
Furthermore, with NBSAP development and implementation forming the heart of the GBF, the NBSAP Forum has been revamped, with the aim to provide a one-stop-shop for knowledge products, guidance, learning and exchange on NBSAP design and implementation.
The NBSAP Accelerator Partnership is also being set up, with the aim of speeding up GBF implementation by being a neutral broker, providing better access to financial and technical support, and offering customized in-country facilitation.
The launch of the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund in August 2023, to mobilize and accelerate investment in the conservation and sustainable use of wild species and ecosystems, was an important milestone.
The fund aims to leverage finance by Multilateral Development Banks and is aiming to increase funding for actions by Indigenous Peoples and local communities aligned with the GBF.
Agreement to establish a new fund to support the biodiversity conservation efforts of developing countries was one of the key moments at the COP15 Biodiversity Conference that enabled countries to find a common way forward to secure the GBF.
However, unfortunately, the overall pace and scale of action on nature remains wildly below where it needs to be to meet the challenge ahead.
WWF has major concerns about the ambition and quality of the revised NBSAPs being drafted and new commitments on finance for biodiversity in the past twelve months remains sparse, notwithstanding important initiatives to secure long-term investment in conservation initiatives, such as Enduring Earth.
NBSAPs must address the drivers of biodiversity loss, including the agriculture and food systems and their underlying root causes such as harmful subsidies, finance and consumption.
Countries need to step up implementation of the GBF and they have major homework to complete in the months ahead.
This has become even more pressing with new research indicating that biodiversity decline is more serious than previously thought, with the number of species at risk of extinction possibly doubling to 2 million.
Keeping nature in the spotlight remains a challenge
Maintaining nature high on the political agenda was always going to be a challenge in the wake of the adoption of the GBF. And indeed, unfortunately, nature was notably absent in most of the statements by World Leaders during the UN General Assembly in September in New York.
Nevertheless, the creation by Canada of the ministerial-level Nature Champions Network is important to maintain this much needed political attention on the GBF.
The network aims to help keep up the pressure so that members can deliver updated strategies and action plans by COP16, ensure their implementation, and ultimately halt and reverse the loss of nature by 2030.
To do that, it will be useful for the network to formulate concrete suggestions to increase ambition and pace of national GBF implementation, including on targets that address the drivers of biodiversity loss.
This year, all eyes were on the COP28 climate summit.
Encouragingly, the climate talks in Dubai saw greater recognition of the need to tackle our climate and nature crises as one.
A Joint Statement on Climate, Nature and People, launched by the UAE and China, and endorsed by 18 countries, affirms that we will not be able to solve the climate crisis without addressing nature loss and land degradation too in a coherent, synergetic and holistic manner, and that stronger synergies, integration and alignment are needed in the planning and implementation of national climate, biodiversity and land restoration plans and strategies.
And the Global Stocktake outcome, a key document adopted at COP28, contains several useful elements, such as a call for an end to deforestation and forest degradation by 2030, references to nature based solutions and food systems, and ensuring social and environmental safeguards aligned to the Global Biodiversity Framework.
At the same time, this should have been the moment where countries truly brought nature into the heart of climate action, including by establishing a climate-nature work stream within the climate process, and through progress in the food negotiations.
Action to restore nature and transform food systems is vital to reduce emissions and build greater resilience to rising temperatures.
With agriculture and food systems responsible for a third of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of land based biodiversity loss, but with the potential to substantially cut emissions, sustainable agriculture forms the keystone in unlocking positive change across the food-nature-climate continuum.
In the coming months, it is vital that countries fulfill the promise of Montreal by announcing sufficiently ambitious NBSAPs and by delivering action on the ground.
In October 2023, WWF published the NBSAPs We Need - guidance for countries to develop sufficiently ambitious NBSAPs.
Updated NBSAPs need to include adequate levels of commitment on all targets, including driver-related targets. The plans need to clearly articulate how targets will be achieved, financed and monitored, and they need to be adopted through the appropriate national legal process.
Ahead of the next UN Biodiversity Conference in October 2024 (CBD COP16), we also need to see rich countries stepping up to financially support the efforts of developing countries, the home to much of our planet’s incredible biodiversity, and recognising that prioritizing funding to protect and restore biodiversity is critical to tackling the climate crisis.
We urgently need to see finance reaching the communities driving change on the ground - for every moment matters in the future of globally important ecosystems like the Amazon and the Congo rainforest, that humanity cannot afford to lose.
This is critical to encouraging all countries to announce ambitious NBSAPs ahead of COP16 and to keeping the goal of halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 in sight.
We’re not only one year into implementation, but also only ten months (!) away from the next global ‘stocktake moment’, CBD COP16, when countries will assess if their revised National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans collectively add up to the global targets of the GBF and to halting and reserving biodiversity loss by 2030.
The recent news that Colombia will host the COP16 biodiversity talks is very welcome. This provides countries with a clear deadline to submit their revised national biodiversity plans.
With that timeline in mind, there is indeed little time left and a lot to do.