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Did COP15 deliver for biodiversity?

Born Free’s International Policy Specialist Adeline Lerambert and Head of Policy Dr Mark Jones reflect on the outcomes of the global biodiversity meeting that took place in Canada in December.

January 2023

World leaders, Environment Ministers and thousands of people representing all strands of society gathered at COP15 in the Canadian city of Montreal during December to finalise a new global deal for nature, the so-called Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. The meeting was the culmination of over three years of intense talks between governments under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The final version of the agreement received the seal of approval in the early hours of 19th December 2022.

The package of measures governments have agreed to implement are contained within four outcome-oriented goals for 2050, and 23 action-oriented targets to be initiated straight away and completed by 2030.

But will it prove to be the catalyst for halting and reversing the catastrophic decline in nature caused by humanity’s destructive activities?

Reversing nature’s decline

The agreement includes targets to effectively conserve at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, coastal and marine ecosystems, improve degraded systems, and bring the loss of areas of high importance for biodiversity to ‘close to zero’, by 2030. These key targets have been retained despite efforts by some countries to water them down. There is a focus on reducing the harmful effects of climate change, ocean acidification and pollution on biodiversity, including a target to reduce the risks from pesticides and harmful chemicals by half.

Governments have agreed to value nature and its contributions to people across policies, regulations, planning and development processes, and to utilise biodiversity sustainably and within planetary boundaries. Businesses are to be encouraged to monitor, disclose and progressively reduce their impacts on nature, and to provide consumers with information enabling them to make nature-positive choices, as well as reducing overconsumption and waste.

Another critical goal established under the agreement aims to progressively close the funding gap for nature by US$700 billion annually, through reducing financial incentives that harm nature by US$500 billion, and by mobilising US$200 billion of additional funding for nature-positive actions, although the exact mechanisms and timelines by which this is to be achieved, and the proportion that developed countries will need to stump up to help developing countries, have yet to be finalised.

Protecting wildlife species

For wild animal species, the agreement aims to halt human-induced extinctions, reduce extinction risk by a factor of 10 by 2050, and conserve and recover species (particularly threatened species) by 2030 while maintaining their genetic diversity. The effective management of human-wildlife interactions to minimize conflict and promote coexistence between people and wildlife is a key target. The conservation and sustainable use of wildlife is to be mainstreamed. Importantly, governments have also committed to ensuring that by 2030 the use, harvesting and trade of wild species is sustainable, safe and legal. There is a focus on controlling and preventing the impacts and spread of invasive species, a major cause of biodiversity loss, by at least 50%.

Enhancing human, animal and environmental health and well-being

The framework seeks the fair and equitable sharing of monetary and non- monetary benefits from nature, with a strong focus on meeting the needs of developing countries. The development of nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches to issues affecting both people and wildlife features heavily. The positive benefits of nature for people’s physical and mental health are recognised and encouraged, and the framework promotes the adoption of the One Health approach which recognises the interconnectedness of the health of people, wildlife and the environment. Measures are to be introduced to reduce the risk of pathogen spillover from wildlife exploitation, a major risk factor for the emergence of pandemic diseases.

The framework also seeks to increase action and cooperation by all levels of government and by all actors of society, ensure gender equality, empower women, girls, youth and persons with disabilities, recognise the rights and customs of indigenous peoples and local communities, and protect those who defend environmental human rights.

Importantly, COP15 also adopted a monitoring framework for reporting and tracking progress towards the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework. However, as it stands, the development and operationalization of indicators has not been completed. A full scientific and technical review is due to be finalised by COP16, in the last half of 2024, which could significantly delay progress towards the goals and targets.

The path ahead

In order to gain the consensus required under the UN Convention’s rules, politics have inevitably intervened, compromises have been struck, and some aspects of the text are vague or weak as a result. The process by which progress towards achieving the objectives of the agreement will be assessed is also far from comprehensive and will require further rounds of negotiations leading up to COP16 in Turkey in two years’ time. Key issues of contention have included how and by whom biodiversity protection and recovery should be funded, and how the benefits arising from biodiversity and genetic resources can be equitably shared between regions, countries and communities.

Nevertheless, the framework does represent a recognition by the global community that wildlife is in dire crisis, and that we need to seriously change our relationship with nature for its sake and for our own. At the very least, the framework provides us with a set of goals and targets against which civil society can hold governments to account.

Whether the framework will prove to be the catalyst that enables the Convention to achieve its vision of ‘living in harmony with nature’ by 2050 and its mission to ‘put biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030’ will depend on how committed governments across the world prove to be when it comes to delivery. Implementation is vital to ensure that promises translate through into a step change for nature.

If we are to successfully halt and reverse nature’s decline, governments and all of society will need to meet, and in many respects go well beyond, the measures agreed in Montreal.
You can find the final agreed text of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework at

Adeline Lerambert is International Policy Specialist at Born Free, Dr Mark Jones is Head of Policy at Born Fre

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The opinions expressed in this blog are the authors' and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.

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