CBD COP15 – Part 1: “A renewed sense of optimism”

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Kick off with worldwide ambitious commitments at CBD COP15 Part 1

The UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) takes place in two parts: virtually from 11 to 15 October 2021 with a High-Level Segment and face-to-face in Kunming, China from 25 April to 8 May 2022, when Parties will meet to conclude negotiations and decide on a new post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

Commitments & Pledges, Transformative change, Youth.

The main objective of the Conference is to adopt the post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF). Draft One of the frameworkreleased in July 2021, builds on lessons learnt from the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets. It recognizes that urgent policy action globally, regionally, and nationally is required to transform economic, social, and financial models so the trends that have exacerbated biodiversity loss will stabilize by 2030 and allow for the recovery of natural ecosystems, with net improvements by 2050.

After extensive consultations, and with the view to provide political momentum for the preparations of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, a decision has been made to convene the meetings in two parts.

This will allow time for continued negotiations on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Part 1 happened the week of October 11th in Beijing and brought Parties to the CBD together online to build momentum for a robust and transformative post-2020 era in biodiversity policy.

A. COP15 – Part 1 Opening

The CBD COP15 first part’s opening began with the handover from the Egyptian COP14 presidency to the Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment, Huang Runqiu.

“We need to speed up transformation. It is hoped that all Parties give priority to biodiversity protection & take coordinated approaches to meet global environmental challenges.” Zheng HAN, Vice-Premier of China

Fourteen other statements from UNEP and the CBD Secretariat, GRULAC, the Central and Eastern European Region, the JUSSCANNZ group, individual Parties, and various NGOs such as ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) followed.

All these Parties and stakeholders insisted on how critical it is to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity, as well as to coordinate and cooperate to address the interlinked matters of biodiversity erosion, climate change and global health.

“Let’s make COP15 and COP26 the game changers the world desperately needs”, said António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations

The global biodiversity framework will provide the rulebook to address land & sea use change, enhance conservation & restoration, mitigate climate change, address invasive alien species & prevent exploitation.” Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity. 

The Global Youth Biodiversity Network reminded us of the necessity to act at the roots of biodiversity loss, and called for a worldwide change of all our societies and economies. They expressed the hopes and dreams of the new generations for a just, equitable and sustainable future.

“The upcoming GBF must go beyond generational silos and intergenerational equity and integrate a full and effective participation of children and youth, IPLSs and women.” Jasmijn Simons, GYBN

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability notably underlined the important role of cities and local actors for biodiversity, by fostering a global inspiration and leading a transformative change in the field. They highlighted the development of the Edinburgh Declaration, through which more than 180 local and national governments committed to act for biodiversity, by contributing to the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and by creating a worldwide network of leaders for nature conservation.

B. High-Level Segment

The CBD COP15 first part ‘s second day consisted of a Leaders’ Summit and a High-Level Segment at ministerial level.

Leaders’ Summit

During the Leaders’ Summit, world leaders from China, Russia, Egypt, Turkey, France, Costa Rica, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea and the UK among others took the floor to express their support to the COP15 negotiation process and their ambition for the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

Amongst all these statements, China proposed the concept of Ecological Civilization as a guide within the negotiations and the implementation of the future framework. Russia reminded us of the current negative impacts of human activities – notably technology and industry development – on nature and climate, and called for collaboration with all Parties to preserve our common habitat.

Costa Rica supported an ambitious and transformative framework, and highlighted the progresses of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People (HAC) that gathers over 72 countries so far in taking commitments for protecting 30% of total land and marine areas by 2030.

No country can solve this challenge on its own. I encourage all to join the HAC, but we also must push for 100% sustainable use of biodiversity” pointed Sveinung Rotevatn, Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment.

The President of Costa Rica also reminded us of the importance of Indigenous People and Local Communities in the global efforts to protect nature, as they are among the first holders and managers of natural areas. The United Kingdom also supported the ambition 30×30 from the HAC and, by reminding us of all the services provided by nature to our economies and livelihoods, called for the implementation of Nature-Based Solutions at the heart of our supply chains, at home and abroad.

During the meeting, the Global Environment Facility, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), announced their commitment to fast-track immediate financial and technical support to developing country governments to prepare for the rapid implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework once it is formally agreed in Kunming next year.

Japan committed to extend its funding and to continue providing support for National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans. The European Union noted the doubling of its external funding for biodiversity.

In an inspiring intervention Josefa Tauli an Ibaloi-Kankanaey Igorot from the Cordillera Region in the Philippines asked: “Who are you as a decision-maker? And are you who you need to be? Are you going to be a transformative leader and STOP the SAME, or keep on with business as usual?”

Finally, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres closed the deliberations by raising concerns regarding the current biosphere destruction, reminding us of the impact of nature loss on developing countries and local communities, underlined the rising and strong voice of Youth for a sustainable future for all, and called on world leaders to agree on a bold ambition for our future and the future of generations to come.

Ministerial Segment

he High-Level Segment pursued with discussions on three main topics, animated by three different panels of experts and representatives from worldwide institutions such as UN agencies, the World Bank, the GEF, the IUCN, and the IWC. They also discussed the need for additional support towards developing countries, and the financial mechanisms to effectively implement the framework.

“We should make no mistake, this COP is historic. We can no longer rely on biodiversity to operate like clockwork. The SDGs depend on biodiversity and on natural capital.”, said Inger Andersen, UNEP

Then, the Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Ms. Anne Larigauderie recalled some conclusions of the last IPBES global assessments and underlined the need for transformative change, by putting biodiversity at every center of human activity in all sectors.

The High-Level Segment pursued with discussions on three main topics, animated by three different panelists of experts and representatives from worldwide institutions such as UN agencies, the World Bank, the GEF, the IUCN, and the IWC:

  • What ecological civilization means for food, health, jobs, trade, and education?
  • Aligning finance and building capacity to achieve ecological civilization.
  • Promoting synergistic action for biodiversity, climate, land, and oceans.

Finally, the COP15 president handed the floor to GYBN, who called once again for urgent and transformative action, in all communities, everywhere, for the current and the coming generations.

The ministerial discussions then began on two parallel roundtable discussions. The first one, addressing the question of “Putting Biodiversity on a Path to Recovery”, saw many ministers support the 30×30 target of the HAC, and individual Parties gave inspiring examples of how their own national action plans contribute to the preservation of biodiversity as well as other environmental agendas.

The second roundtable, on the topic of “Closing the Financing Gap and Ensuring Means of Implementation”, addressed the mobilization of resources for the implementation of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Ministers discussed the value of ecosystem services and the potential accountability of natural capital in national and international financial systems.

The scale of the deficit of financing in terms of biodiversity requires urgent action both at national and international levels.” Barbara Pompili, Minister of France at the Closing Plenary of the High-Level Segment

They also discussed the need for additional support towards developing countries, and discussed financial mechanisms to effectively implement the framework.

Further roundtables

On the second day of the High-Level Segment, two additional roundtables occurred in parallel, following the same organization as the day before.

The first roundtable, discussing “Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development”, focused on the interlinkage between biodiversity conservation, sustainable use, and access and benefit-sharing, with global development agendas and other environmental matters.

Ministers were thus invited to debate how biodiversity-related actions can be balanced with economic development, and can even contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

In the second roundtable, entitled “Knowledge, Innovation and Benefit-Sharing”, participants focused on the equitable sharing of all benefits from biodiversity knowledge, technologies and innovations. Technical experts and ministers discussed the importance of technology transfers and capacity-building, along with data-sharing, for the success of the Global Biodiversity Framework.

During the closing plenary of the High-Level Segment, the Kunming Declaration was adopted after been comments and amendments by Parties and observers during the weeks before COP. This political statement confirmed the ambition of its signatories to act for biodiversity, notably by developing and implementing an ambitious Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, mainstreaming the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in decision-making, and strengthening their actions and resource mobilization to achieve the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity. => this para is under the “Further roundtables” subsection while it should be moved down and merged with the first para of the “Closing High Level Segment” subsection

“We can’t afford to fail again. Under the EU Green Deal, Europe proposes concrete measures, a Biodiversity Strategy and a comprehensive, indicator-based monitoring framework.” Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries

Besides this declaration, some Parties took the opportunity to underline some weaknesses in the current implementation of the CBD agreements. Costa Rica highlighted the need for adequate means of implementation, especially after the COVID-19 crisis. The European Union recalled the shortcomings of the Aichi targets and the need for transformative change. The JUSCANZ group underlined the fact that ambition needs concrete implementation of policies in the field, and the African Group called for additional funds at international level, to reinforce capacity and to reverse biodiversity loss.

Through the intervention of various stakeholders, such as businesses and environmental NGOs, the alignment of financial flows and adequate sharing of benefits and technologies were also stated as critical for the success of the Post-2020 GBF. There were also calls to reinforce the participation of IPLCs in the whole process, and to ensure the protection of their human rights at the core of the future agreement.

Closing High Level Segment

During the closing plenary of the High-Level Segment, the Parties adopted the Kunming Declaration, which had been commented and amended by Parties and observers during the weeks prior to the COP. This political statement confirmed the ambition of its signatories to act for biodiversity conservation. The Declaration addresses key elements needed for a successful post-2020 framework: the mainstreaming of biodiversity across all decision-making; phasing out and redirection of harmful subsidies; strengthening the rule of law; strengthening their actions and resource mobilization to achieve the three objectives of the CBD; recognizing the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities and ensuring an effective mechanism to monitor and review progress; among others.

“Biodiversity is not a risk, it is a certainty and it is already here. The financial community must have clear guidelines to align financial flows. Yes, WE ARE calling for more regulations.” Finance for Biodiversity Initiative

Patricia Zurita, Birdlife CEO, on behalf of 4 NGOs (including WWF, Conservation International and WCS) addressed the audience: We must seize this opportunity and impose nature at the heart of inclusive, sustainable and just nature-positive economies by collectively closing the biodiversity finance gap…

Many young people have a finely-tuned ear for what they call blah-blah-blah. My daughters have an uncanny ability to see through our words. Let us prove them wrong. Prove to my daughters, and your children and grandchildren, that transformational change is not empty words but concrete and measurable actions in our daily lives, and our daily acts. Ambitions and aspirations won’t save nature alone, won’t reverse climate change, and won’t prevent the next pandemic– only action will.”

In this moment when history has its eyes on us, this moment will be remembered, for better or for worse. What will we think when we look back at this moment? Were we ambitious enough? Were we brave enough? Were we courageous? Swetha Stotra Bhashyam, GYBN

Altogether, 9 Heads of States, HRH the Prince of Wales and 99 ministers committed to supporting a transformative global biodiversity agenda.

“As a part of COP-15, the High-Level Segment has signaled renewed political will to boost ambition, enhance collaboration and maximize opportunities for synergies across other multilateral agreements. The Convention on Biological Diversity must strengthen global biodiversity governance. China will continue to play a leading role building on the vision of ecological civilization for shared future for all life on Earth.”, added Minister Huang Runqiu, Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment

C. Closing of CBD COP15

On Friday October 15th, with the participation of almost 2918 delegates in Kunming, and 2478 connecting online, the first part of the COP15 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity ended, as well as the MOP10 of the Cartagena Protocol of the Convention, and the MOP4 of the Nagoya Protocol.

During the closing ceremony, the Parties and observers received the conclusions of the forum on Ecological Civilization that was held the day before. The delegates of OEWG, SBI and SBSTTA, highlighted the progresses made during the negotiations and placed the next meetings of January 2022 in Geneva as key events for the elaboration of an ambitious Post-2020 GBF.

“To provide for a truly transformational framework, we have kept all stakeholders informed at all stages through the process.”, said Francis Ogwal, OEWG Co-chair

And Hesiquio Benitez, SBSTTA Chair, emphasized: “While there has been some progress, a considerable amount of work remains to be undertaken.”

During the closing statements, China confirmed its intention to establish the Kunming Biodiversity Fund, providing it with 1.5 billion yuan, to support biodiversity conservation in developing countries. The UK also pledged to give £200,000 to the Special Voluntary Trust Fund, to facilitate the participation of developing countries into the process of the CDB. The UK also reminded the Parties of the coming COP26 of the UNFCCC in Glasgow, and recognized the huge responsibility of world leaders to achieve a truly transformative change to meet the many environmental challenges occurring today.

Finally, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the CBD, thanked China for the organization of the first part of the COP, and underlined three main components for the success of the GBF: addressing all drivers of biodiversity loss, committing to adequate financial means, and ensuring an accurate measurement of progress on goals and targets.

Because of the High-Level Segment, with the endorsement of the Kunming Declaration and the groundswell of commitments for biodiversity, we can all feel a renewed sense of optimism she said and concluded: “We need a step change in the negotiations to accelerate the shift needed. Time is NOW.”

As a conclusion, COP15 President Huang Runqiu then congratulated all Parties and stakeholders for the progresses made so far, and encouraged all to work together for the success of the future Global Biodiversity Framework.

The landmark framework is now due for adoption at the resumption of the UN Biodiversity Conference in May 2022 following further formal negotiations to take place in January 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland.

More information on Part 1 here.

Check out CBD documents here.

Read the Kunming Declaration here.

Read the P2 Partnership Outcome Document from IUCN World Conservation Congress here

Watch the closing plenary

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