On Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 October, the European Business & Biodiversity Summit was held in Milan. The purpose of the summit was to take stock of the COP16 on biodiversity to be held next year, at a location to be determined after Turkey withdrew its candidature. The aim of the summit in Milan was to understand how prepared the private sector is for the targets dictated by the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), the global biodiversity agreement adopted last year in Montreal during COP 15, which we reported on here.
More specifically, the focus of discussion in Milan was on Target 15 of the GBF, which governs the role and responsibilities of the private sector and companies in the context of the Agreement.
Many topics were discussed during the meeting, including the fundamental importance of the interconnection between climate change and biodiversity, the so-called climate change and biodiversity nexus. Climate change is one of the main causes of biodiversity loss and, as Elizabeth Mrema mentioned at COP27, everything is connected and solving the climate crisis will also have a positive impact on biodiversity conservation. Moreover, nature is crucial in the fight against climate change, for example, because it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it in plants or algae, and without it, we will not be able to keep global temperatures below the critical 1.5°C threshold. As we reported here, at COP27 in Egypt there was a biodiversity day at a UN climate conference, and again this year at COP28 in Dubai there will be a thematic day dedicated to nature and biodiversity.
The need for metrics and standards to measure impacts on nature was another topic addressed during the Summit. Much has been done in recent years to develop universal metrics to measure companies’ impacts on biodiversity, but a global consensus on these metrics has yet to be found and companies are only at the beginning of their reporting journey. Another important issue is to have common terminologies. For example, there is a lot of talk lately about ‘nature positive’ – in fact, many Summit sessions had the term in the title – but there is a lack of a shared definition of what exactly is meant by the term. Without shared metrics and common terminologies, it will be difficult to raise the ambition to protect the biodiversity of the private sector.
The topic of finance and the importance of private investment in nature protection activities was addressed. Several organisations from the financial sector emphasised how protecting nature helps companies reduce financial and non-nature-related risks and how companies need to transform their business models to contribute more to biodiversity conservation and restoration.
Obstacles to accelerating private action to protect nature were discussed. These included the lack of appropriate expertise and training within companies and the difficulty of making top management understand the economic advantage of incorporating biodiversity conservation and restoration into corporate strategies.
It was also mentioned that a multi-disciplinary approach that takes into account not only climate and nature-based science, but also the humanities is fundamental to addressing the global challenges of combating climate change and those posed by the conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems.
Finally, it was pointed out that there is not enough talk about human rights and just transition in relation to biodiversity protection goals (this is also true in relation to climate change ed.). One of the speakers stated that we cannot focus only on numerical targets such as keeping global temperatures below 1.5°C or conserving 30% of land and sea areas by 2030, without also setting nature-related human rights targets, and that the challenges of nature, climate change and rights cannot be overcome if the different topics continue to be dealt with separately.
Article by Margherita Barbieri, Italian Climate Network Volunteer