‘Flawed but a turning point for humanity’: Green groups react to COP15’s global biodiversity agreement

Nations have agreed on a landmark ‘Paris-style’ deal to protect and restore nature across the globe at COP15 in Montreal and while green groups have welcomed the potentially transformative impacts the new agreement could have, many still feel that crucial details around finance and conservation are missing.

‘Flawed but a turning point for humanity’: Green groups react to COP15’s global biodiversity agreement

Pictured: Montreal, where the summit is taking place

Following an intense final session of negotiations, COP15’s president, Huang Runqiu, announced at 3:30 am in Montreal on Monday morning (19 December) that nations had formally adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

The framework aims to “progressively close” a $700bn annual biodiversity finance game and features 23 action-oriented targets to be delivered by 2030.

The headline goal of ensuring that at least 30% of degraded terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine ecosystems are under effective restoration by 2030 remains in the draft, alongside a goal to “eliminate, phase out or reform incentives, including subsidies harmful for biodiversity” by 2025 and “progressively reducing” these subsidies by at least $500bn by 2030. In previous iterations of the framework the latter goal included an emphasis on agriculture and fisheries, but this has been removed in the latest draft.

Read edie’s full round-up of the framework here.

While many exhausted delegates in Montreal welcomed the landmark agreement, some nations expressed disappointment over the rushed approach to validating the texts and how key details around finance had been excluded. As the early green group reaction comes in, it seems many experts within the climate and nature space echo these sentiments. Here, edie rounds up the key reactions of the green economy.

CISL’s chief executive Clare Shine

“Despite its flaws, COP15 is a turning point for humanity to forge a new relationship with nature. The fact we have managed to secure the ambition to halt and reverse biodiversity loss is testament to the clarity with which all nations understand the unprecedented challenge facing the planet. We believe this cornerstone agreement can and must herald a new era of collaborative leadership and action to restore the health, quality and abundance of nature globally while placing indigenous peoples and local communities at the heart of this transformation.

“Key to the significance of COP15 has been the presence of progressive businesses and financial institutions, signalling the vital relationship between a thriving natural environment and our ability to maintain stable global and national economies. Much of what businesses have called for at Montreal was ahead of the political curve, urging governments and multilateral organisations to adopt bolder targets to drive the policies needed to accelerate and incentivise business action. However, for every gain made at COP15 there is a gap to fill. We still need a measurable bar for nature that is at least as ambitious as our targets for climate change. The real work to secure planetary health and human security is only beginning.”

CISL’s director of policy Eliot Whittington

“By establishing an ambitious, new global approach to protecting and restoring biodiversity, governments have sent a strong signal to business and financial institutions that the way the economy works will need to shift. Global governments have clearly established specific, numerical targets to restore degraded land and habitat and similarly to expand protected areas, to cut environmentally harmful subsidies and to expand resources available for protecting biodiversity. In each case the key will be in the implementation – governments need to buckle down and set out exactly how they will deliver these targets.

“One of the most important measures for businesses and financial institutions will be target 15, which sets out clear requirements for business transparency and risk management when it comes to nature-related impacts and risks. Done well, this can and should prompt a new mandatory disclosure framework for larger businesses, delivered with an efficient and effective global approach – something the business community has supported vigorously at COP15. However, with complex language in the text and with the United States not even at the table, we risk a lack of a global level playing field if countries take different approaches, which could slow or even undermine action.”

ShareAction’s head of biodiversity Katie Leach

“World leaders have today taken an important step towards saving nature by adopting the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. However, vague wording and non-specific targets in parts of the agreement could undermine the urgent action that’s needed to protect threatened wildlife and ecosystems. The success of this framework will come down to implementation and how the goals and targets are interpreted at a national level.

“Target 15 for all large and transnational businesses and financial institutions to assess and disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity has huge potential to drive action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss – governments should make it mandatory and call for implementation in line with the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD).

“It was encouraging to see the appetite from the global investment community at COP15 to play their part in protecting our natural world. Now, we need to see them come together to work out how they can use this Framework as a foundation to drive up more ambitious standards.”

WWF-UK chief executive Tanya Steele

“While there is promise in the ambition, including the mission to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, clear financial targets and plans to protect more of our land and seas with a broad 30 x 30 target, the warning light for nature remains flashing bright red.  Only by addressing the root cause of biodiversity loss, not just diagnosing the symptoms will we stand a genuine chance of halting and reversing nature loss by 2030, and all updated text must do better than the current offering.

“We’re hugely disappointed with the lukewarm attempt to address the global footprint of production and consumption – which we know, as one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss, needs to be halved by 2030. Vague, unambitious language on halting species extinctions at some point before 2050, instead of 2030 is also unacceptable. Critically, we also need a robust target to define and protect 30% of land and sea. We are in an escalating nature crisis, and our ambition has to reflect the urgency needed for the natural world, and for the future of all who dwell here.

“We know it won’t be easy to restore our natural world, but if we are to leave future generations with a viable planet and the economic and food security it needs to prosper, we have to see stronger ambition, clearer commitment and a package that does more than paper thin promises and clever words.”

Finance for Biodiversity Foundation’s co-founder Anita de Horde

“It is a surprisingly good, compromised text. It looks like a deal is made on the alignment of private and public financial flows with the goals and the targets of the Global Biodiversity Framework, and that private finance is included as one of the solutions to fund the finance gap on nature. And there is text on 30% protecting or conserving land and oceans by the end of 2030, this could be potentially the 1,5C for biodiversity. Overall, we are positive and relieved that after years of negotiations there is finally an ambitious agreement on nature”.

Rainforest Foundation Norway’s Anders Haug Larsen

“The recent political will that we are seeing from rainforest countries to protect rainforests are creating hope and momentum. It is the duty of the international community to support their efforts, for the good of global biodiversity. We need to see a significant rise in funding and extended political backing.”

Indigenous organisation ANAPAC in DRC’s executive director Joseph Itongwa

“To achieve the goals in the agreement, we must have legal recognition of territories conserved by Indigenous and local communities. Because these areas have for a long time contained a high level of biodiversity and been managed in an effective and sustainable way.”

Campaign for Nature director Brian O’Donnell

“In 2019, scientists sounded the alarm that biodiversity is declining at rates unprecedented in human history and urged global leaders to boldly act. After working through years of a global pandemic and economic and social upheaval, today in Montreal the international community has come together for a landmark global biodiversity agreement that provides some hope that the crisis facing nature is starting to get the attention it deserves.

“The Kunming-Montreal agreement also has the potential to usher in a new paradigm for conservation, one in which Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ rights are upheld and where they are recognized for the leadership they have provided.  We are eager to work with Indigenous Peoples and local communities to center the achievement of this target around their efforts.

“As the world now turns to implement this target, we must remember that achieving 30×30 is more than just reaching a number. Through this global target, the world has committed to increase conservation in the right places and in the right ways. Now the important work begins to ensure that at least 30% of the ocean and at least 30% of the land is effectively conserved, that the most important areas for biodiversity are prioritized, and that the systems of conserved areas are well connected and representative of the world’s diverse ecosystems. We must hold governments to account to fulfill their commitments to increase funding and reform harmful subsidies.

“To fully achieve the ambition of this target, it will take everyone – from governments to civil society to Indigenous Peoples and local communities to scientists.  Together we can ensure that all of the key qualitative aspects of this target are met and the intended conservation outcomes are secured.”

Greenpeace UK’s executive director Will McCallum

“Governments like the UK who fought hard for stronger language within the 30×30 target must channel any frustration with the outcome into leading by example. But with the UK Government failing to protect nature at home, how did it expect to achieve global environmental leadership? Last week the government brought forward incredibly weak Environment Act targets and it continues to allow our most vulnerable marine ecosystems to be plundered by destructive fishing.

“We need to see properly protected ocean sanctuaries, and large swathes of land managed for nature, to show the world that restoring biodiversity unlocks jobs in rural and remote areas, keeps our food system resilient and makes sure we are all more able to withstand the impacts that climate change is already having.”

WWF-UK’s executive director of science and conservation Mike Barrett

“The global ambition agreed at COP15 to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 is vital if we are to bring our planet back from the brink. The tripling of international finance for developing countries, conservation targets to halt species extinction, and the rights of indigenous peoples being placed front and centre are crucial cornerstones of the deal.

“But the science is clear. We cannot save nature without tackling the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss, and on that front Montreal has left the job half done, with a vague and unambitious target to reduce our global consumption footprint. Loopholes in the implementation mechanisms will also mean that nations won’t be properly held to account if their progress is not on track.

“We can only bring our world back to life if nations step up the urgency on ambition and delivery, otherwise the Montreal deal will just be words on paper. The UK Government must now lead the way at home and abroad with actions that deliver on its promises and make the ambition of COP15 a reality.”

Aldersgate Group’s executive director Nick Molho

“The agreement today on the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework represents a great step forward in galvanising international action on protecting and restoring biodiversity. In particular, it is welcome to see agreement on protecting 30 per cent of land and sea by 2030, halving food waste, as well as the commitment of $200bn a year in domestic and international biodiversity-related funding from both public and private sources.

“In terms of next steps, countries must now embed these commitments in domestic policy and unlock the role of the private sector. This should include setting a clear policy and regulatory framework, and working with the business community to drive investment in nature, which will be critical to provide clarity for businesses and create a level playing field. The UK has taken a welcome step in this regard by publishing legally binding long-term targets on nature restoration, albeit some of these will require strengthening over time. As a next step, the UK Government must publish an ambitious environmental improvement plan which contains tangible policies to drive public and private investment over the next five years in biodiversity and nature restoration as well as greater resource efficiency.”

More to follow…

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie