South African decision makers visit the European Union and France

A study visit to focus on the KMGBF implementation through in-depth Team Europe and South Africa exchanges of views and experiences
After the recent adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF) and the need to trigger its implementation in the remaining seven years up to 2030 and in the context of the overall relations between South Africa and the European Union and its Member States, South Africa and the EU agreed to exchange on common strategies and approaches to tackle parties’ contribution to the achievement of the different KMGBF targets.

To that end, the EU mobilised the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework – EU Support project which assists 10 countries including South Africa in developing transformative initiatives in favour of a quick and ambitious GBF implementation.

South-Africa, 3rd most biodiverse country and working on developing its national policy framework for biodiversity

With over 95,000 known species, South Africa is the world’s third most biodiverse country.

As the country’s economy is dependent on biodiversity, enhancing biodiversity protection and its sustainable use represents a very important opportunity for reducing unemployment and inequalities, the key national development objectives of South Africa.

South Africa has been actively engaged in the process leading to the effective adoption of the KMGBF at CBD COP15, fostering engagement inside the African Group of negotiators, and proving inspiration to many in terms of designing biodiversity policy frameworks on the ground.

Last March, the South African government adopted The White Paper on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of South Africa’s Biodiversity which proposes to focus on transformation for disadvantaged populations to be further recognised as contributing to conservation and sustainable use, on mainstreaming of biodiversity and on strengthening governance, capacity and resources to continuously improve the management of biodiversity towards GBF vision and objectives.

On May 22, Minister Barbara Creecy delivered a keynote speech at Wits University on the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity 2023, mentioning the significant role of the private sector in the conservation of environment and noting that the white paper provides an excellent opportunity for South African businesses to contribute towards achieving KMGBF global targets for biodiversity conservation.

Team Europe Initiative with South Africa and Global Gateway opportunities

The study visit built on the momentum and opportunities created by the Just and Green Recovery Team Europe Initiative with South Africa officially launched in Pretoria last January 27, which aims to support the country in tackling pressing socio-economic challenges and to unlock a sustainable, biodiversity-friendly and circular economy and combat climate change.

The focus of the study visit was on deepening the partnership between the EU and South Africa, making full use of the opportunities created by current and future initiatives such as the Global Gateway. In this perspective, the study tour took a Team Europe approach, showcasing European policy frameworks, programmes and initiatives relevant to South Africa. It also showed experiences from Member States, European financial institutions, the European private sector and also civil society approaches to international collaborations for biodiversity with South Africa.

At the crossroads of the start of the white paper’s implementation and Minister Creecy’s recent statement, there was a real opportunity to exchange with European counterparts and explore avenues for collaboration and coordination for a successful KMGBF implementation.

Meeting with European Commission © Pierre Walter

Policy dialogues and exchanges of experiences as a source of mutual inspiration

To that end, a very diverse South African delegation comprised of high-level civil servants as well as private sector, civil society and traditional authority representatives, participated in the study visit organised from 19 to 23 June 2023 in Europe by the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework – EU Support project with the aim to:

  • exchange experiences and explore avenues for collaboration on topics related to South Africa’s needs after the adoption of the white paper and supporting the planning of actions in several key areas, such as effective management of protected areas and areas under other effective conservation measures (OECM) in relation to the Target 3;
  • showcase the design and implementation of the KMGBF in the frame of the European Green Deal, from the EU Biodiversity Strategy to EU sustainable finance initiatives;
  • explore best practices to secure means of implementation and operationalize mainstreaming, including through innovative financial instruments and with the active involvement of the private sector, aligned with the white paper and the relevant targets of the newly adopted KMGBF – namely targets 3 (protected areas) 14 (mainstreaming), 15 (Business), 19 (Resource mobilization) and 21 (Data & monitoring).
Meeting with French Biodiversity Agency (OFB) © Pierre Walter

Delegates spent two and a half days in Belgium, where they met officials from the European Commission’s Directorates General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA) and for the Environment (DG ENV).

They also visited the facilities of Copains Group. Copains is a bakery cooperative company based in Hainaut (south of Belgium) who is rethinking the bakery industry, and aims to create a range of good, local and regenerative breads for supermarkets and local authorities who want to consume sustainably.

Olivier de Cartier, CEO of Copains Group asserts “At Copains Group, we wanted to bring more sense to our industry. We were very happy to host the RSA delegation and show how businesses can put sustainability at the core.”

At Copains Group, they met representatives from BeeOdiversity, a Belgian technology company known for its development of BeeOmonitoring (also known as biomonitoring), a tool for measuring biodiversity and pollution through the analysis of pollen collected by bees, which act as natural drones and bioindicators. 

In addition, they had the opportunity to visit the Marine Natural Park of Picard Estuaries and the Sea of Opale and to meet with officials from Expertise France, the French Ministries of Ecological Transition and of Foreign Affairs, the French Development Agency and the French Biodiversity Agency, in France.

Cyrille Barnerias, European and international relations director at OFB, highlighted the significance of the interchange, stating “As biodiversity doesn’t know boundaries, it is very important to share our experiences and work together to protect this fundamental good for humanity. Thanks to the support of the EU, we were proud to welcome our colleagues from South Africa to share our experiences in marine protected areas management and hear their feedback.

As Hugo-Maria Schally (Adviser for International Environmental Negotiations at European Commision) put it, “meeting with the South African delegation led to very rich and interesting exchanges. It paves the way for further discussions and technical follow-ups in order to deepen the EU-RSA partnership.”

According to Flora Mokgohloa (Deputy DG Biodiversity and Conservation, Department of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment, South Africa), “this study tour in Europe provided us with food for thoughts and future perspectives for a deepened RSA-EU partnership.”

During the visit, Hugo Rivera, team leader of the Post2020 Biodiversity Framework – EU Support project, emphasized that “We are sure that these exchanges between the South Africa and European Union decision makers and stakeholders will provide a deeper understanding of the transformative actions needed to achieve the framework’s goals and targets, for Nature and People.

At the end of the tour, South African and European counterparts agreed to work on follow-up discussions in the summer in order to come up with concrete collaboration initiatives and projects aligned with South African and EU priorities in the near future.

Watch our videos:

Read our relevant 4 pagers:

Expertise on #35 – Mainstreaming biodiversity in practice and at all scales
Transformative actions #38 – A next step for biodiversity disclosure: building on the GBF and existing tools and measures
Expertise on #26 – Reforming Biodiversity-harmful subsidies

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