India is pitching for a 30 by 30 vision at the Montreal biodiversity COP

Image shows a row of flags
  • Governments will aim to adopt the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), an agreement to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 at the Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of Parties on Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) or COP15 in Montreal, Canada.
  • The latest iteration of the Global Biodiversity Framework comprises a suite of over 20 targets across four goals, with work remaining on bridging the biodiversity finance gap, and access-and-benefit-sharing from digital sequence information.
  • There is strong support from Parties on the Framework’s 30 by 30 goal, a pledge to protect 30% of the world’s land and oceans by 2030.
  • Pre-COP15 meetings saw little progress on sticking points on DSI but there was progress on adopting a rights-based approach in the Framework relevant to the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

After multiple postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments began the final round of negotiations at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Canada to thrash out a landmark deal to halt biodiversity loss even as sticking points on closing the biodiversity finance gap, safeguarding indigenous rights and access and benefit-sharing from digital sequence information, remain.

Governments will aim to adopt the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), often referred to as the ‘Paris Agreement for nature’, to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 at the Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of Parties on Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) or COP15 that runs from December 7 to December 19. China is the President of COP15. Split into two parts due to the pandemic, the first part of COP15 saw the Parties adopt the Kunming Declaration, committing to negotiate an effective post-2020 biodiversity framework.

Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of host nation Canada, addressing at the United Nation Biodiversity Conference (COP 15). Photo by UN Biodiversity/Flickr.

The GBF will be the first global framework on biodiversity, adopted since the Aichi Biodiversity Targets were agreed upon in 2010, none of which, according to a 2020 CBD report, were fully met. In a landmark report in 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an independent science and policy group, estimated that one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction.

The draft GBF, set to replace the Aichi targets, comprises a suite of 22 action-oriented targets and four goals proposed for 2030. The targets will aid humans “living in harmony” with nature by 2050. The GBF targets range from reducing pollution, preventing or reducing the rate of introduction of invasive alien species, to all businesses assessing and reporting on their dependence and impacts on biodiversity and reducing their negative impacts. Parties had divergent views on the inclusion of two additional targets (on One Health and fair and equitable benefit sharing for potentially pandemic pathogens) in the GBF and they are not included in the 22 targets.

The foundation of the agreement is a pledge to protect 30% of the world’s land and oceans by 2030, usually referred to as the 30 by 30 goal.

The target has drawn criticism from indigenous rights activists and their allies, who say that it could prompt mass evictions. In a perspective published on December 5, a section of conservationists warned that insufficient attention to direct and indirect drivers of decline, unrealistic biodiversity response objectives, and timelines, and failure to address fundamental inequities of past and current conservation and sharing of nature’s benefits could undermine the potential for success of the GBF.

Ahead of COP15, negotiators at the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG-5), worked from December 3 to December 5, to advance a refined, less bracketed draft text of the GBF, that will set the stage for the final COP15 negotiations. Elizabeth Mrema, the CBD’s Executive Secretary expressed concern that while some progress has been made “but not so much as needed or expected.” “And I have personally to admit that I don’t feel that the delegates went as far as we had expected,” Mrema said at the COP15 opening press briefing.

The great Indian bustard is a critically endangered species. A report by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services states that more than one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Photo by Kesavamurthy N/Wikimedia Commons.

WWF also expressed concerns over the “desperately slow progress” over delivering a cleaner text in the pre-COP15 meetings but expressed optimism over the “considerable progress and consensus” on the need to firmly integrate a rights-based approach into the framework, relevant for the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to the lands and territories and also in relation to integrating a gender approach in the framework.

Ahead of the critical negotiations, the Youth Summit (December 3 to December 5), organised by the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN), saw over 300 young people from around the world participate alongside ministers and dignitaries to “organise, network, learn new skills, exchange knowledge, and share their hopes and concerns for COP 15.”

Pakhi Das, the national coordinator of the Indian Biodiversity Youth Network, told Mongabay-India, that youth can take on a raft of activities once the GBF is adopted for effective implementation of the GBF, such as setting up online citizen science portals and developing apps to monitor progress on the goals. “India’s youth make up for almost 30% of our national population and so we also have strength in our numbers. We can provide additional hands-on ground, undertake assessments, develop digital atlases and use technology to our advantage to make information more available, accessible, and public,” Das told Mongabay-India.

Closing the finance gap, implementation, and monitoring of goals

Among key issues under discussion is the mobilisation of resources for the implementation of the GBF and investments in nature-based solutions (NbS). The biodiversity finance gap is estimated to be around $700 billion a year by 2030.

COP15 has received more participation from the business and finance community than in previous editions. The biodiversity summit comes two weeks after the conclusion of the UN climate summit COP27 in Egypt, with a clear recognition of the key role of NbS in addressing climate change while stressing that they must not replace rapid and deep emission cuts to ‘keep 1.5 alive’.

But many countries prefer using the term ‘ecosystem-based approaches’ rather than NbS in GBF. “This is because many of the benefits from nature are intangible, such as mental health benefits from walking/living in green areas. And ecosystem-based approaches account for such intangible benefits,” said senior Indian forest officer Sonali Ghosh.

A new UNEP report released ahead of COP15 shows that carefully targeted efforts, to conserve 30% of the Earth’s ecosystems on land by 2030, alongside restoring 15% of converted landscapes, could reduce carbon dioxide emissions (GtCO2) by at least three gigatons a year. The second edition of the State of Finance for Nature report published ahead of COP15 reveals that finance flows to NbS are currently only $154 billion/year, which is less than half of the $384 billion/year investment in NbS needed by 2025 and only a third of investment needed by 2030.

“Unfortunately, not adequate attention was paid by all concerned towards implementing the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and hence we could not achieve them. Implementation is also intimately linked with resource mobilisation. In the context of the GBF, the Global South, India in particular, has been voicing serious concerns that high ambition linked with GBF must be backed by high-resource mobilisation,” Vinod Mathur, former chairperson of India’s National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), told Mongabay-India.

Guido Broekhoven, Head of Policy Research and Development, WWF International at a press briefing on the main takeaways from the Working Group’s meeting said that discussions on the implementation mechanism and how to strengthen it has been “consistently plagued by a lack of time” and also in the Working Group discussions that have just been concluded, “they were not on the table.”

“Also, the role of business was discussed, but there’s no agreement on how to change the course of business from harming nature to investing in nature-positive activities. So we believe really that Parties are playing with fire, and they really need to change tack,” Broekhoven said.

Read more: [Explainer] What is biodiversity finance?

30 by 30 and OECMs

India, a signatory to the CBD, supports the 30 by 30 (30X30) goal by seeking to integrate other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) into the wider landscapes and seascapes. The country is part of the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, a group of more than 70 countries encouraging the adoption of the global goal to protect 30% of land and seascapes by 2030, but details on safeguarding rights of indigenous communities are yet to be hammered out.

A representative image of peatlands. The biodiversity finance gap is estimated to be around $700 billion a year by 2030. Photo by Miya.M/Wikimedia Commons.

The country has developed a 14-category classification system clustered under three broad groups -terrestrial, waterbodies, and marine, to potentially define OECMs, including in agricultural landscapes, biodiversity parks, and industrial areas.

“We are moving ahead with the OECM approach because the OECMs provide a much better and effective route for in-situ biodiversity conservation and in achieving the 30 by 30 goal. Local communities, who may contribute their land to OECMs will be incentivised through biodiversity finance, which is why resource mobilisation will be crucial in COP15,” Mathur added.

Currently, nearly 17% of the world’s land and oceans are protected, closing in on the Aichi Target 11 set in 2010 of protecting or conserving 17% of the Earth’s surface but falling short of safeguarding 10% of marine environments worldwide. India, too, says it has achieved the Aichi target of 17% of terrestrial area-based conservation.

“We will also need to mainstream the grassroots efforts by local communities that go into conserving these OECMs in a more formal way such that their involvement is recognised as part of the larger policy and funding mechanisms,” Ghosh told Mongabay-India. “Additionally, we will need to look at the categories and criteria of OECMs more realistically, because there are more such biodiversity and carbon-rich patches, such as sacred groves, that are not reflected in our policies,” she said.

India also threw its weight behind a specific target on gender equality in the GBF (a new standalone Target 22), first proposed by Costa Rica and supported by 11 other Parties in Geneva in March 2022.

“Gender mainstreaming is required in all GBF targets, but a dedicated target on gender would also be very helpful to have in GBF. India, in several of its legislations, is mainstreaming gender, particularly in the constitution of Biodiversity Management Committees under the Biological Diversity Act, 2003. Therefore, India has taken a strong stand for pushing a separate target for gender in the GBF,” said Mathur.

If the GBF is adopted in Montreal in December 2022, India and other countries will have to align their National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) to the GBF for its effective implementation. “The States/Provinces (in India) will also have to align their State Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans with the national targets. Funds from the Global Environment Facility (a multilateral environment fund) will have to be accessed to help align the NBSAP to implement the GBF by all countries,” added Mathur.

Commitments made by Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at the recently-concluded CITES meeting (COP19) to address the biodiversity crisis by adopting proposals to regulate international trade in more than 500 new species, will also help advance work on the GBF at COP15.

Digital Sequence Information and benefit sharing

Under intense focus at COP15 is the relationship between Digital Sequence Information (DSI) and existing world agreements on access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing. Parties will consider options based on the work of the Working Group on the GBF and informal consultations.

Vishaish Uppal, Director of Governance, Law and Policy, WWF India at a press briefing on the main takeaways from the Working Group’s meetings shared that although there is still a long way to go as the entire text is still to be negotiated, there is an emphasis in the text that the “benefits from digital sequence information on genetic resources should be used to support conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and that the main recipients of such benefits need to be indigenous people and local communities who are the custodians of resources and associated traditional knowledge.”

“We really need an agreement and a recommendation on how to address digital sequence information on genetic resources in the context of the post-2020 GBF,” Uppal told the media.


Banner image: The biodiversity summit comes two weeks after the conclusion of the UN climate summit COP27 in Egypt. Photo by UN Biodiversity/Flickr.

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