Late Sunday night, around 4 a.m. Montreal time, the Kunming-Montreal Agreement, or Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) for this decade, was adopted at COP15.
COP15 President Huang Runqiu moved to adopt the agreement during the closing plenary along with a package of decisions relating to: a monitoring framework; planning, monitoring and review mechanisms; capacity building and technical cooperation initiatives; resource mobilisation; and digital sequencing information (DSI) of genetic resources.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the African country which is home to one of the largest tropical forest areas in the world, stated it was deeply disappointed with the Kunming-Montreal Accord because it did not include necessary and adequate means for ensuring implementation. It especially did not provide adequate financial resources from rich countries for supporting implementation in developing countries (USD 100 billion per year was requested). The DRC therefore stated that it did not support adopting the agreement and called the financing in target 19 and the 30×30 objective ‘failures’.
In any case, the COP15 President Huang Runqiu, ignored the DRC’s declaration and adopted the Kunming-Montreal Agreement and the other package of decisions. In response, several African countries criticised the actions of the Chinese Presidency in adopting the Agreement. Cameroon called the Presidency’s action as forced. Uganda raised a point of order asking how a decision could be declared adopted when the parties had raised objections, given that the Rules of Procedure state that decisions are to be made by consensus. They also asked the Presidency to clarify whether its action was in line with the Rules of Procedure or if it was ‘fraudulent’. Part of the plenary responded to Uganda’s intervention with applause.
A legal advisor intervened at that point, stating that the adoption was in line with procedures and noted that there had been a comment from the DRC, but that it was not a formal objection. Namibia then spoke in support of the DRC stating that colonial injustice is at the root of all the problems confronted in the negotiations and in general involving humanity, nature and biodiversity. They stated that, they had suffered systemic trauma that has destroyed the link between humanity and nature. They went on to state that the global economic and financial architecture emerging from colonialism, resource extraction and plantations was part of the entire narrative involving developed versus developing countries. This has for many years marred the outcome of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) negotiations. They also noted the need for much more all-encompassing and holistic solutions than what was included in the Kunming-Montreal Agreement. Furthermore, they noted that the COP15 Agreement is not the final step or enough for living in harmony with nature by 2050. Our relationship with nature is currently an unhealthy one and there will still be much work to be done even after adopting Agreement, the delegate concluded.
This was the setting in which the Kunming-Montreal Agreement was adopted. It aimed to be an Agreement that sought to reduce disaccord between countries and create compromises. In the end, however, it reduced levels of ambition regarding some issues. These were the key points resolved upon:
Reference is made to science and in particular to the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) reports. These document in writing that biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide at an unprecedented historical rate which is tens to hundreds of times greater than the average rate over the last 10 million years. As a result, around 1 million species are threatened with extinction, many of them within a few decades.
As in the climate COPs, financing was the key issue in this negotiation (as addressed here). The financial gap of USD 700 billion per year for biodiversity protection is mentioned. Target 19 envisages progressively increasing the level of financial resources to support implementation. This is to be done by mobilising at least USD 200 billion per year by 2030. As at COP27, at COP15 developing countries requested support from rich countries through such financing. The Agreement provides for an increase in total international financial resources related to biodiversity from developed countries in favour of the least developed countries. This is to total USD 20 billion per year by 2025 and USD 30 billion per year by 2030. This reflects a compromise and a lower amount than that requested by the least developed countries (USD 100 billion per year). Moreover, these are not additional funds, but an mount included within the overall USD 200 billion per year. We note that the issue of financing is a particularly sensitive one. This is because the lack of adequate financial funds was or Aichi targets.
Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBF Fund)
The reference to setting up a Global Biodiversity Fund by 2023, present in the previous draft, was removed from the Agreement. The Fund had been proposed by Brazil together with the Group of African Countries and the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) group, as we explained above.
However, a Resource Mobilisation Decision was included. This means a Special Trust Fund is to be established to support the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework or Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBF Fund). The Global Environmental Fund (GEF) is to establish this by 2023 and keep it active through 2030. The aim is to secure new and additional international funding for biodiversity commensurate with the ambitions set out in the COP15 Agreement.
Reform of multilateral banks
As at COP27, the Agreement calls for transforming the global financial architecture and reforming multilateral development banks and international financial institutions. The aim is to make them fit to support implementing the Kunming-Montreal Agreement.
THE 30×30 OBJECTIVE
A target of conserving 30% of terrestrial and marine areas by 2030 is included in the Final Agreement. The 30×30 target envisages doubling the conservation of terrestrial areas under the Aichi Targets (17%) and tripling the conservation of marine areas (10%). Many claim that 30×30 objective will become a guiding target for biodiversity, the equivalent of the 1.5 C° goal in the Paris Agreement.
The Third World Network, an advocacy organisation dealing with developing country issues and North-South affairs, however, warned that halting ecological collapse will take more than expanding protected areas. It will require a much stronger focus on addressing the root causes of biodiversity loss, such as overconsumption.
After pressure from several NGOs, respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities was included in the final text of the Kunming-Montreal Agreement. Survival International and Amnesty International had expressed concerns about human rights violations linked to expanding Protected Areas, which is a cornerstone of the dominant, Western, conservation models. The 30×30 goal was inspired by Edward O Wilson’s theory of the need to In fact, many argue that not 30%, but 50% of land and sea areas should be protected by 2030.
SUBSIDIES GIVEN TO ACTIVITIES HARMFUL TO BIODIVERSITY
Another central theme was reforming subsidies that promote activities which pollute or damage biodiversity. The agreement notes identifying by 2025 and eliminating or reforming by 2030 subsidies harmful to nature. This may involve USD 500 billion per year by 2030. References to specific industries, such as agriculture and fisheries, has been removed and references to fossil fuels or other sectors highly damaging to biodiversity, such as mining, have also not been included. The good news is that agreement on the USD 500 billion per year was reached. However, by noting 2030 as the endpoint, there is no call for it to be operational immediately. Furthermore, we need to recall that the goal of eliminating all subsidies harmful to biodiversity was already included in the Aichi targets for 2020, but did not happen.
THE PRIVATE SECTOR
The demand to make it mandatory for the private sector to report on its environmental impacts was removed from the text. In the final agreement, companies and financial institutions are only ‘encouraged’ to do so. In particular, they are encouraged to:
- monitor, assess and transparently disclose risks, dependencies and their impacts on biodiversity throughout the value chain;
- provide information needed by consumers to promote sustainable consumption patterns;
- report back on how access and benefit-sharing regulations and measures are followed;
- promote sustainable production models. However the reference to circular production models was removed.
Furthermore, the reference to respecting human rights and taking legal responsibility for infringements, including through sanctions and compensation for damages, was also removed.
There is a call for ensuring that least 30% of degraded land and marine areas are restored by 2030 in order to improve biodiversity and ecosystem functions. However, the reference to any numerical target was removed (the initial draft noted the goal of 1 billion hectares).
PESTICIDES AND PLASTIC AND NON-PLASTIC POLLUTION
Target 8 mentions reducing the risks from pesticides by 50%, although the first draft noted a target of ‘two-thirds’ . The aims are to specifically
- reduce the risks and negative impact of pollution from all sources to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity by 2030
- to reduce the excess nutrients lost to the environment by at least half; and
- to reduce the overall risk from pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals by at least half.
There is also mention of preventing, reducing and working to eliminate’ plastic pollution, but no reference is made to the legally binding international treaty on plastic waste currently under negotiation.
The Agreement calls for halting human-induced extinction of known threatened species and reducing the extinction rate and risk of extinction of all species by ten-fold by 2050. The EU stated that one billion species are at risk of extinction and that this issue needed to be better addressed. This means having targets to halt human-induced extinctions of all threatened species by 2030 and reducing extinction risks by 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2050.
OVERCONSUMPTION ANDGLOBAL FOOTPRINTS
The target to reduce the consumption and production footprints by 50% by 2030 was dropped. The final text talks about reducing the ecological and consumption footprint “in an equitable manner” without mentioning a numerical target. It also notes reducing over-consumption and waste generation and halving food waste. The target noted is quite vague and there was no measurable or clear numerical ones set for properly addressing the ecological footprint issue.
In addition, the reference to sustainable diets was removed. We again note that Canada was not in favour of reducing meat consumption.
We’ve noted that natural means could contribute to emissions mitigation to the extent of eliminating the equivalent of 10 Gt (gigatons) of CO2 per year by 2030. The reference to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR), which we discussed above, was also not included. Nature-based solutions are mentioned, but the EU had complained about the lack of reference to the related UNEA resolution 5/5. The latter was instead included in the final COP27 decision.
The Agreement requires that all areas be subject to participatory and integrated spatial planning that takes biodiversity into account. The aim is to reduce loss in areas of high biodiversity importance to ‘near to zero’ by 2030 while respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
The aim is to eliminate, minimise, reduce and/or mitigate the impacts of invasive alien species on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The objective is to also reduce introduction or establishment rates for other known or potential invasive alien species by at least 50% by 2030.
Respecting the rights and leadership of indigenous peoples is a matter of justice. It is also the only way to ensure the successful implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Agreement. The Agreement thus recognises the important role and contribution of indigenous peoples and local communities as custodians of biodiversity. It does this by affirming the importance of respecting their rights, traditional knowledge, and values. It also recognises that Indigenous peoples must be effectively included in decision-making processes on biodiversity. Indigenous peoples are mentioned in 7 of the 23 targets in the Agreement. However, there is no mention of the fact that they represent approximately 5% of the population yet safeguard 80% of global biodiversity.
DIGITAL SEQUENCING INFORMATION (DSI)
The DSI issue addresses the exploitation of natural wealth and genetic diversity in less industrialised countries by private multinational companies and developed countries. The DSI decision in the Agreement provides for establishing a multilateral mechanism for benefit sharing which arises out of DSI information on genetic resources. It also includes a fund for receiving and disbursing generated revenues. This function may be undertaken by the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBF Fund) and not by any ad hoc one.
THE ONE HEALTH APPROACH
The Agreement recognises the interconnections between biodiversity and health. It also notes the importance of considering the one health approach in implementing the Agreement. This includes safeguarding the health of people, animals, plants and ecosystems and recognising the need for equitable access to tools and technologies. These include medicines, vaccines and other biodiversity-related health products. It also involves highlighting the urgency of reducing pressure on biodiversity and decreasing environmental degradation in order to reduce health risks.
To conclude, one of the crucial points of the Global Agreement is that of having a robust planning, monitoring and review system. In fact, one of the main reasons the Aichi targets were not met was precisely the lack of such a system. During the negotiations, the following issues were thus discussed:
- providing flexibility in implementation for the developing country Parties according to their national circumstances;
- updating the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) by COP16 (2024) in light of the new global agreement negotiated in Montreal;
- developing national reports using the main reporting tool on progress towards NBSAPs which are due in 2025 and 2029;
- undertaking global analysis of collective ambitions by COP16 and COP18 and global stocktaking by COP17 and COP19;
- encouraging non-state actors to cooperate and complement the efforts undertaken by the parties in their NBSAPs.
In general, all time targets were removed from the final agreement. More information can be found in the detailed content on the relevant decisions.
The Kunming-Montreal Agreement is only a starting point. Its objectives must now be translated into concrete actions at national level. We cannot wait any longer. Time is up. We must protect and regenerate biodiversity now because without nature we have nothing. Otherwise, we put our very survival on the planet at risk.
Article by Margherita Barbieri, Climate and Advocacy volunteer
Cover image source: EEAS European Union https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/historic-outcome-cop15-chance-keep-our-planet-livable-generations-come_en