Progress is delayed:
Covid-19 forced a large delay in timetables. The working group and subsidiary bodies met in person this year for two preparatory meetings after unsuccessful progress virtually in 2021.
The preparation for the post-2020 framework is effectively being led by the two co-chairs (Canada and Uganda) of the open-ended working group – the key place where drafting and negotiating is taking place.
Previous incarnations of the negotiating text published in July 2021 were lauded by some commentators for the ambitious targets, but criticised for the lack of detail on implementation mechanisms and accountability. Others see the text as a useful starting point from which to improve.
It is likely that this text will be the basis of the negotiations in Montreal.
Neutral presidency style:
China is taking a more cautious and facilitative approach from the very involved and directive French presidency of climate COP21 (which resulted in the Paris Agreement).
There has been some criticism of a leadership vacuum, resulting in knock-on implications for high-level attention on the CBD COP15, including the ability for other governments to play an outwardly leading role. Some fear this risks a lowest common denominator outcome rather than the ambitious and transformational outcome called for by many.
Broader geopolitical context:
There are currently diplomatic tensions between China and other G7 international partners. To some extent, all of the broader geopolitical issues will factor into China’s diplomatic role during the run-up to negotiations and in delivering a good outcome.
China has stepped up its environment ambitions recently, committing to a climate neutrality target, reappointing a skilled climate envoy, ending finance on overseas coal projects and mapping its flagship ecological conservation redlines policy. The recent Five-Year Plan, however, offered conflicting signals on China’s environmental trajectory. These mixed signals combined with China’s facilitatory approach to diplomacy means its intentions are not clear.
There has been limited progress on funding and funding mechanisms, despite commitments from the EU, China, Canada and the US. These will be critical to proper implementation, and to incentivising political agreement – many developing countries will struggle to deliver new goals if sufficient resources are not available.
- The CBD has principally used the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for funding before, but China established its own Kunming Fund and contributed 1.5 billion RMB ($232 million USD) (similar to the Japan Biodiversity Fund, which was set up to support the Nagoya Protocol), and invited other countries to contribute. However, no other countries have contributed to the fund so far, likely due to the tensions between China and donor countries.
- Both public and private financing mechanisms are possible and likely, with public funding amounts expected to be agreed at the CBD COP15. However, public money for nature is likely to be drawn from the same budget as official development assistance.
CBD COP15 Part 1
The first part of the CBD COP15 took place from 11-15 October, 2021. The timing was intended to make use of a politically salient moment shortly after the UN General Assembly and soon before the UNFCCC COP26.
Shortly before Part 1, the EU and China announced cooperation on various environmental issues, including deforestation.
The meeting was largely ceremonial and technical, consisting of the formal opening, China assuming the COP15 Presidency (formerly held by Egypt), the approval of budgets, and the hearing of reports on implementation and science.
There was also a leaders’ segment to increase political momentum in the CBD process. Several countries sent video recordings of leader speeches to the summit: Xi Jinping opened, followed by President Putin of Russia, President Fateh El Sisi of Egypt, President Erdogan of Turkey, President Emmanuel Macron of France, President Alvarado Quesada of Costa Rica, President Japarov of Kyrgyzstan, Prime Minister Marape of Papua New Guinea, the UK Prince of Wales (Prince Charles), and the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres.
Part 1’s major announcement was the Kunming Declaration – it committed to 17 points on reversing biodiversity loss, including the first point “to ensure the developing, adoption and implementation of an effective post-2020 global biodiversity framework”. Over 100 countries signed the Kunming Declaration, which was widely reported and applauded, though also criticised by some for being vague.
The other major announcement was Xi Jinping’s commitment to create a Fund for Biodiversity, which would accompany the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, to which China would add 1.5 billion RMB ($232 million USD). This is more than was committed by Japan under the Aichi targets, but commentators noted it fell far short of funds needed to reverse biodiversity loss, and was far behind the $5 billion USD pledged by philanthropists a few weeks earlier.
The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework will be agreed at the CBD COP15 Part 2 in December in Montreal. Despite the Kunming Declaration and commitments made by signatory parties, huge challenges remain to achieve an ambitious agreement.
Political dynamics and national interests
Biodiverse developing countries want funding to help their national biodiversity efforts:
The African group is trying to balance protecting nature with its development needs. As such it is keen to see specific funds in place that can support an overall post-2020 framework for biodiversity. The group ideally wants to see a new “Nature Fund” along the lines of the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund or the Green Climate Fund, which can fully support a biodiversity framework. It is asking for 1% of GDP to be committed to nature funding.
The Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries (LMMC) is a group of mega biodiverse countries that came together to negotiate for a stronger framework on Access to Benefit Sharing (ABS – the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from genetic resources), resulting in the Nagoya Protocol. Ahead of the CBD COP15, the group has adopted varied positions:
- Costa Rica and Colombia are asserting high ambition in a post-2020 framework, with Costa Rica co-leading the High Ambition Coalition.
- Brazil (and likely others) will be focusing on more financial resources, particularly through the ABS mechanism.
- India, Indonesia and others are often more passive – as yet their interests are not clear.
Many LMMC countries would be looking to China to protect their interests. However, its joint role in both the Presidency and as Party to the negotiations means China’s positions are difficult to predict.
The EU and JUSCANZ (Japan, the US, Canada, Australia & New Zealand) are seeking consensus on goals and implementation, but not forthcoming on financing developing countries:
The EU is relatively ambitious on biodiversity targets, having already committed to a 2030 biodiversity strategy, including an EU Nature Restoration law that is being finalised. However, the war in Ukraine has resulted in some relaxation and deregulation in parts of the EU.
Currently, some countries (the UK, France, Germany) have announced nature funding. In particular, France has invested political capital in protecting nature and biodiversity by hosting the One Planet Summit, the IUCN Congress and pressuring EU trade deals over biodiversity concerns.
Canada is pushing for ambitious targets and so far has been involved principally as a chair of the Open-Ended Working Group. Japan, Australia and New Zealand are likely to be gently positive influences on targets.
As the host of the COP26, the UK had a vested interest in securing an ambitious outcome from the CBD, but with new Prime Ministers, domestic policy to protect and restore nature is uncertain.
Uncertain national interests around the CBD include India, Indonesia and Russia:
Each of these countries has influence in international negotiations, with India and Indonesia both being highly biodiverse countries. Their input at the CBD COP15 could be impactful, but we do not yet know on which agendas they will focus.
INFO: Access and Benefit Sharing
- Access and Benefit Sharing of biodiversity (ABS) is one of the three key functions of the CBD.
- In the CBD, ABS is expressed in Article 15 of the 1992 Convention and is based on the sovereign right of countries to ownership of their biodiversity and associated genetic resources.
- The term genetic resources refers to any biological material which contains genes or metabolic material that may be derived from genes.
- The Nagoya Protocol is the negotiated outcome of the Access and Benefit Sharing debate. The protocol came into force in 2014 and codifies ABS. It is a legal framework to create transparent implementation of ABS.
- ABS was intended to be a way to raise money from countries wanting “access” to other countries’ genetic resources, and to incentivise genetically diverse countries to conserve their biodiversity. So far, it is an untapped resource, not generating any significant revenue.
- Technological progress in digital sequencing of genetic information (DSI) has created more challenges to the implementation of ABS:
- Traditionally, ABS was managed using physical samples of genetic material, with tracking to any breakthrough (academic, medical, commercial, etc.).
- But, with DSI, huge amounts of genetic information can be digitally sequenced and stored in publicly available online banks outside the negotiated ABS framework.
- Many countries see this issue as a key way to generate funding for protecting nature and thus a key part of the CBD outcome. Megabiodiverse countries in particular see it as an inextricable part of the CBD package deal.
COP15 information note for participants (for info on registration and media)