Later this year, world leaders will gather in Kunming, China, for the fifteenth meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) to agree an ambitious Global Biodiversity Framework. This framework is expected to shape future responses to the biodiversity crisis, but what does it mean for business?
What is COP15?
At COP15, delegates from around the world will meet to discuss a biodiversity ‘new deal’, which, if successful, could become the nature equivalent of the Paris Climate Agreement. This new post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is seen as our last and best chance to turn the tide on nature loss and destruction, setting out an ambitious plan to achieve a nature-positive world by 2030. By 2050, the deal aims to achieve the Convention on Biological Diversity’s vision for living in harmony with nature.
The COP15 summit and the agreed deal will see contributions from national governments, NGOs and business, making it a powerful tool in addressing the global biodiversity crisis.
Why is the Global Biodiversity Framework so significant?
In 2019, the United Nations Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published its Global Assessment Report on the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services around the world. The report found that currently, one million species face extinction in the coming decades and that around 75% of terrestrial land area has been significantly altered. Human activity has and will continue to have a dramatic impact on the health of our natural ecosystems, degrading the services they provide that are vital to sustaining life on Earth.
In 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) set out its aims for achieving a reversal of nature losses by 2030 and achieving ‘harmony with nature’ by 2050. By 2020, the targets set to achieve these goals had not been met, so the new post-2020 framework, under discussion at COP15, aims to set national governments on track to nature positivity by 2050.
“The greatest risk facing business today is inaction.” Dr Rossa Donovan, Technical Director, Nature Positive
In many ways, the failure to meet the 2010 UN CBD targets is indicative of a vital conversation that has been low on the agenda. Now, with COP15 on the horizon, the Global Biodiversity Framework agreement provides the much-needed recognition of a critical challenge. As Dr Rich Young, Director of Conservation Knowledge at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, explained in our recent webinar, “the transformation that’s needed to save our planet needs nature positive business”. For Rich, there are five key steps for achieving a nature positive future and business plays an intrinsic part:
- investing in protecting the world’s key biodiversity areas
- scaling up funding and mechanisms for nature recovery
- stopping the financing of environmentally damaging industries
- incentivising the development of sustainable food production systems
- placing nature positive approaches at the heart of business strategy.
Why is the voice of business so vital?
As with the Paris Agreement on climate change, the role of business is seen to be hugely important in achieving an ambitious biodiversity framework agreement in Kunming. Business action gives policymakers the confidence to adopt more ambitious policies, which in turn pushes more businesses to act.
Business engagement is not only intrinsic to the success of the COP15 negotiations, as Maelle Pelisson, Advocacy Director at Business for Nature, explains, but it will also play an important role in implementation. Adopting the framework at a global level is the first step in realising the ambitions of the COP15 agreement. It will then need to be translated into national level targets, at which stage governments will develop action plans, and it is here that business engagement will be crucial. In national terms, “businesses have a key role to play to assist the government in developing this business road map so that there is clear action,” Maelle added.
“The main objective is to push for something ambitious, realistic and actionable by businesses.” Maelle Pelisson, Advocacy Director, Business for Nature
Business action will be key to achieving the goals of the Global Biodiversity Framework, but a successful framework agreement must also support and reward the positive actions taken by businesses and organisations if dynamic change is to be made.
We have seen the potential created by businesses taking a lead in the success of the Paris Climate Agreement and now the Global Biodiversity Framework offers the opportunity to take equally decisive action on biodiversity. Ultimately, the success of both requires joined-up thinking to address these intrinsically linked global challenges.
Measuring impacts for effective actions
Effectively addressing biodiversity impacts is possible only when businesses recognise biodiversity as an integral part of their strategic initiatives, such as net zero emissions targets, supply chain sustainability objectives and environmental impact assessments. Considering impacts in a more holistic frame opens the potential to create comprehensive ‘road maps’ to guide operations and responses to identified points of risk. As Amanda Williams, Head of Sustainability – Steam Specialties at Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc, explained, effective road maps must also consider how the business works with others: its suppliers, its customers and the local communities it is based in. Indirect impacts are as vital to address as direct impacts.
“Businesses should work to understand their biodiversity dependencies and impacts. They need to make commitments and embed this in their decision-making, starting with direct impacts and progressing to address indirect impacts.” Amanda Williams, Head of Sustainability – Steam Specialties, Spirax-Sarco Engineering
Recent analysis of the FTSE 100 undertaken by Nature Positive found that almost half of businesses listed on the index do not fully understand their relationship with nature. Understanding this dynamic, and establishing a baseline, is the first vital step in addressing the biodiversity crisis. From here, it then becomes possible to set informed targets that are integrated into wider business strategies.
“To be nature positive, businesses must fully understand their current biodiversity footprint, set an ambitious biodiversity target and a timeline to get there, and then commit resources to make changes and transparently report on progress.” Dr Rich Young, Director of Conservation Knowledge, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Dr Rossa Donovan, Technical Director, Nature Positive, explains that the most effective way to tackle biodiversity issues is by setting goals in line with existing frameworks. Setting science-based targets for nature (SBTN) and disclosing action using the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) framework will help businesses better understand risk and build an effective strategy.
As biodiversity reporting begins to have greater significance on the international agenda, frameworks like the TNFD, when considered alongside mandatory Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) reporting, will integrate biodiversity issues into wider environment, social and governance (ESG) strategies for businesses. Seeing biodiversity as an integral part of ESG planning, alongside carbon, finance, social and circular economy issues, will place business at the forefront of tackling the biodiversity and climate crises.
As COP15 approaches, it is clear that biodiversity action needs to cut across business strategy in order to achieve transformative change. By setting a precedent for what is possible, business will drive forward the debate and continue to push for more adventurous policies. In Kunming, rewards need to be offered for these long-term investments in actions to encourage greater take up and set in motion the much needed system and policy changes to enable effective action.
Missed our #RoutetoCOP15 webinar on the Global Biodiversity Framework? Hear from Rich, Maelle, Amanda and Rossa in the full session recording, which is available to watch here, and you can also find past webinars hosted by specialists from across the RSK group.