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Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB)

Volume 09 Number 751 | Tuesday, 3 March 2020


Summary of the Second Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

24-29 February 2020 | Rome, Italy


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The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Strategic Plan 2011-2020, which lays out the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets is rapidly approaching its 2020 expiration date. In view of this, the fourteenth meeting of the CBD Conference of the Parties (COP 14) established an Open-ended Intersessional Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to update the Strategic Plan and develop a new post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF). This Working Group (WG) is tasked with advancing preparations for the development of the GBF, which is expected to be adopted at the UN Biodiversity Conference in October 2020, in Kunming, China.

The first meeting of the WG, which took place on 27-30 August 2019, at the UN Office at Nairobi, Kenya, deliberated on the structure of the GBF and agreed that the Co-Chairs and the CBD Bureau would develop a zero draft text on the GBF to be submitted at least six weeks before the WG’s second meeting.

At its second meeting, the WG commented on the zero draft of the GBF that was released in January 2020. The WG approved the final recommendation of the meeting compiled by Co-Chairs Francis Ogwal (Uganda) and Basile van Havre (Canada), and adopted the meeting’s report. In the recommendation, the WG, inter alia:

  • notes the progress made during itssecond meeting, as reflected in the text annexed to the report of the meeting;
  • invites the 24th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA 24) to provide elements for the development of the GBF for consideration by the third WG meeting;
  • invites SBSTTA to provide a scientific and technical review of updated goals and targets, and related indicators and baselines;
  • requests the WG Co-Chairs and the Secretariat to prepare a document, updating the elements of the draft framework that were reviewed by the second WG, and to update the tables in the appendices to the draft framework;
  • requests the Secretariat to provide scientific and technical information to support SBSTTA’s review, including an analysis of linkages with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and
  • requests the WG Co-Chairs and the Secretariat, to prepare a first draft of the GBF.

The second meeting of the WG convened for six days from 24-29 February 2020, at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, Italy, and was attended by 741 delegates: 380 representing parties to the Convention; five from non-parties; 61 from UN and specialized agencies; 49 from intergovernmental organizations; 154 non-governmental organizations; 29 representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs); five observers; 12 youth representatives; 16 from academia; one from a local authority; and 20 from the business community.

A Brief History of the Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

The CBD was adopted on 22 May 1992 and opened for signature on 5 June 1992 at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio “Earth Summit”). The CBD entered into force on 29 December 1993. There are currently 196 parties to the Convention, which aims to promote the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.

Three protocols have been adopted under the Convention. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (January 2000, Montreal, Canada) addresses the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms  (LMOs) that may have adverse effects on biodiversity, taking into account human health, with a specific focus on transboundary movements. It entered into force on 11 September 2003 and currently has 172 parties. The Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (October 2010, Nagoya, Japan) provides for international rules and procedures on liability and redress for damage to biodiversity resulting from LMOs. It entered into force on 5 March 2018 and currently has 47 parties.

The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from their Utilization (October 2010, Nagoya) sets out an international framework for the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and technologies, and by appropriate funding, thereby contributing to the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of its components. It entered into force on 12 October 2014 and currently has 123 parties.

Key Turning Points in Strategic Planning

2010 Target: In April 2002 at the sixth meeting of the COP in The Hague, the Netherlands, parties adopted a Strategic Plan 2002-2010 (decision VI/26) to guide further implementation at the national, regional, and global levels. The stated purpose of the plan was to effectively halt the loss of biodiversity so as to secure the continuity of its beneficial uses through the conservation and sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.

Parties also committed themselves to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional, and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth. This target was subsequently endorsed by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and the UN General Assembly and was incorporated as a target under the Millennium Development Goals.

Aichi Biodiversity Targets: At the tenth meeting of the COP in Nagoya, Japan, in 2010 parties adopted the CBD’s second Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2010 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (decision X/2). Under the theme “Living in Harmony with Nature,” the purpose of the Strategic Plan is to promote effective implementation of the Convention through a strategic approach, comprising a shared vision, a mission, and strategic goals and targets, that will inspire broad-based action by all parties and stakeholders. The Plan contains the “2050 Vision for Biodiversity”: By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.

The twenty Aichi Targets are organized under five strategic goals:

  • address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society;
  • reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use;
  • improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species, and genetic diversity;
  • enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services; and
  • enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management, and capacity building.

This current Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and the Aichi Targets expire in 2020.

COP 14: At COP 14 in November 2018 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, parties adopted decision 14/34, which set forth a comprehensive and participatory process to update the Convention’s strategic plan, and established an open-ended working group to develop the GBF to be adopted at COP 15 in China in 2020.

The process adopted by parties for the development of the GBF contains a set of principles, the organization of work, and a comprehensive consultation process, including provisions for global, regional, and thematic consultations. The process also required the development of a discussion document summarizing and analyzing the initial views of parties and observers.

Francis Ogwal (Uganda) and Basile van Havre (Canada) were appointed as Co-Chairs of the Working Group.

Preparations for the Working Group

Various events and consultations took place in preparation for the WG in order to contribute to an ambitious GBF and ensure a harmonized approach for its preparation. A high-level Ministerial Roundtable event titled, “Advancing the Biodiversity Agenda and the development of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework,” was held on 14 March 2019 on the margins of the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), in Nairobi, Kenya.

Regional consultations were held in 2019, including: Asia and the Pacific on 28-31 January in Nagoya, Japan; Western European and Others Group and other members of the European Union (EU) on 19-21 March in Bonn, Germany; Africa on 2-5 April in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Central and Eastern Europe on 16-18 April in Belgrade, Serbia; and Latin America and the Caribbean on 14-17 May in Montevideo, Uruguay.

A number of thematic consultations also took place, including:

  • an expert workshop for possible gender elements for the framework held in New York, US, on 11-12 April 2019;
  • a consultative workshop of biodiversity-related conventions held in Bern, Switzerland, on 10-12 June 2019; and
  • a global consultation on the science basis for the framework, held during the ninth Trondheim Conference on Biodiversity in Norway, on 2-5 July 2019. This conference convened under the theme “Making biodiversity matter: knowledge and know-how for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework,” and facilitated inputs to ensure the development of the GBF is knowledge-based, just, and inclusive.

First Meeting of the Working Group

The first meeting of the WG on the GBF, which took place on 27-30 August 2019, at the UN Office at Nairobi, Kenya, deliberated on the structure of the GBF and the future work of the WG. The WG adopted conclusions of the meeting compiled by Co-Chairs Ogwal and van Havre and the Report of the Meeting, which reflects decisions made by the WG including agreement on:

  • a non-paper on possible elements of the GBF;
  • the preliminary list of meetings, consultations, and workshops for the development of the GBF;
  • the dates and venue of the second and third meetings of the WG;
  • submissions on the structure of the GBF to be submitted to the Secretariat by 15 September 2019;
  • the provision of a zero draft text of GBF six weeks before the second meeting of the WG; and
  • a detailed workplan to be prepared by the Co-Chairs and the Secretariat, and be presented at the informal briefing of the Co-Chairs on 24 November 2019 during the SBSTTA meeting.

The WG also agreed to request SBSTTA to provide guidance on specific goals, targets, indicators, baselines, and monitoring frameworks related to the drivers of biodiversity loss for achieving transformative change, within the scope of the three objectives of the Convention.

Post-2020 Working Group Report

Co-Chair Basile van Havre opened the meeting on Monday, 24 February, thanking FAO for the warm welcome and China for the support in organizing the second meeting of the WG, which was relocated to Rome from Kunming, China, due to the ongoing situation following the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu provided an overview of FAO’s relevant initiatives to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, stressing the vital importance of biodiversity for food production. He emphasized the need to mainstream biodiversity considerations in all productive sectors, and highlighted the challenges that necessitate the transformation of global food systems. He underscored the role of the FAO in multilateral policies, stressing its long experience and expertise in information dissemination, policy consultation, and capacity building regarding food systems.

Hamdallah Zedan, Ministry of Environment, Egypt, speaking on behalf of COP 14 President Yasmine Fouad, underlined the GBF’s importance in providing a detailed plan of action to reduce biodiversity loss, which is taking place at an alarming rate and requires urgent response. He stressed the need to: focus on implementation; raise ambition in goals and targets; provide financial and other means of implementation; and develop mechanisms to hold each other accountable and review progress.

Xia Yingxian, Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), on behalf of the incoming COP 15 President Li Ganjie, stressed that “there are only 235 days left before COP 15, and yet a lot remains to be done.” He emphasized the significance of the COP 15 theme, “Ecological Civilization: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth,” and underscored the importance of ensuring goals and targets follow the Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) criteria, and the need to ensure accountability and transparency.

Elizabeth Mrema, Acting CBD Executive Secretary, underscored the importance of making progress at this meeting and to advance discussions on the GBF. She expressed hope that parties and stakeholders would build a common understanding on the different elements and contents of the zero draft of the GBF.

New Zealand, on behalf of a group of non-EU developed countries, and Croatia for the EU, noted that although much work remains the zero draft is a good basis for negotiation. The EU further called for the draft to, inter alia: better reflectthe urgency of the biodiversity challenge, and the aim for higher ambition; have much stronger links with the SDGs; and make more explicit how the CBD will interact with other multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs).

South Africa, for the African Group, noting the low level of support for developing country participation at the WG meeting, underlined the need to ensure the process is country-driven and participatory. He highlighted the recognition by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) of the areas of focus of the GBF, which are aligned with the African Union Agenda 2063, “The Africa We Want,” and emphasized the need to ensure effective and timely means of implementation to support capacity building and technology transfer.

Costa Rica, for the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC), said sustainable development is a cornerstone of the GBF, emphasizing that, “a society in harmony with nature is one that leaves no one behind.” She urged parties to ensure that:

  • the goals and targets adequately reflect the CBD objectives;
  • resource mobilization is assured for implementation;
  • goals are adequately ambitious to address the drivers of biodiversity loss; and
  • the second meeting of the WG focus on developing a succinct and clear document, leaving percentages and details to SBSTTA 24 and the third meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 3).

Georgia, for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), said that, while it is important to ensure a conclusive analysis of the failures of the Aichi Targets, there is also a need for ambitious goals, targets, and implementation plans, supported by adequate resources in order to address the drivers of biodiversity loss.

Kuwait, on behalf of the Asia-Pacific Group, stressed the need to address biodiversity loss, highlighting the relevant work of organizations, individuals, and governments around the world, and emphasizing the need to work together to achieve common goals.

The Liaison Group of Biodiversity-related Conventions underscored the need to enhance implementation while promoting complementarity and synergies, further stressing the need for quantitative and qualitative indicators, and raising public awareness.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) stressed that climate change and biodiversity loss are “on the same side of a coin,” noting that the relationship between them is well documented. Highlighting the need for transformative change, he stressed the need for a coherent approach, decoupling positive action on climate change with potentially unintended negative consequences for biodiversity.

The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity emphasized that cultural diversity loss goes hand in hand with biodiversity loss, and noted the need to integrate human rights in goals, targets, and indicators.

IPLC organizations stressed the need for financial means to galvanize urgent and transformative action across all society, and called for a rights-based approach, which includes IPLCs, women, peasants, and youth.

The Global Youth Biodiversity Network called for a standalone target on transformative education, and underscored the importance of indicators on youth and children. The CBD Women’s Caucus called for measuring both the quantity and quality of representation, and highlighted the emerging issue of gender-based violence.

The Business for Nature Coalition highlighted that forward-thinking businesses are changing the way they operate through understanding the importance of nature for their business, arguing that an ambitious GBF would result in a positive policy-business feedback loop.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) proposed a new target on emergency action for species, and announced that IUCN is ready to create a platform that assesses, stores, and curates commitments from all stakeholders on promoting biological diversity.

Adoption of the Agenda and Organization of Work: On Monday, Leina El-Awadhi (Kuwait) was appointed as meeting rapporteur. Delegates adopted the agenda and proposed organization of work (CBD/WG2020/2/1 and Add.1), and decided to establish four contact groups to allow in-depth discussion of the zero draft:

  • Goals for the GBF, co-led by Rosemary Paterson (New Zealand) and Vinod Mathur (India);
  • Reducing Threats to Biodiversity, co-led by Wadzanayi Goredema-Mandivenyi (South Africa) and Gabriele Obermayr (Austria);
  • Meeting People’s Needs, co-led by Jorge Murillo (Colombia) and Anne Teller (EU); and
  • Tools and Solutions for Implementation and Mainstreaming, co-led by Charlotta Sörqvist (Sweden) and Teona Karchava (Georgia).

Information sessions took place on Monday to Friday during the lunch break, under the following themes:

  • Biodiversity, Agriculture, and Food, which highlighted FAO’s work in sustainable food production, ecosystem health, and resilient livelihoods;
  • Outcomes of the First Global Dialogue on Digital Sequence Information (DSI), which highlighted the recommendations from the meeting in Pretoria, South Africa (6-8 November 2019);
  • Resource Mobilization and the Financial Mechanism, which provided briefings on the resource mobilization for the GBF and the Eighth Replenishment of the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund (GEF-8);
  • Role of Science for the GBF, a special session organized as a virtual panel involving the GBF and the World Biodiversity Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland; and
  • Role of Financial and Business Sectors in implementing the GBF, which discussed the ways to engage these sectors in the development and implementation of the GBF.

Progress since the First Meeting of the Working Group

Reports of Consultations and other Contributions to the Post-2020 Process: The Secretariat introduced document CBD/WG2020/2/2, which provides an overview of the outcomes of the consultations conducted and other contributions received regarding the preparation of the GBF since the first meeting of the WG. Presentations from the co-leads of these workshops and consultations ensued.

Eugenia Montezuma (Costa Rica), co-lead of the Thematic Workshop on Ecosystem Restoration for the GBF (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 6-8 November 2019), underscored the wealth of information available to address restoration in the GBF, emphasizing the need to “act now, while improving enabling conditions.” She stressed the need for a holistic, outcome-oriented global target on restoration, highlighting spatial planning as well as the need for a fully participatory process.

Adam van Opzeeland (New Zealand), co-lead of the Thematic Workshop on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity for the GBF (Montreal, Canada, 13-15 November 2019), underscored key messages, including: the complexity of marine biodiversity challenges; that Aichi Target 6 (sustainable fisheries) includes useful elements that can be improved through measurement, indicators, monitoring, and collaboration; and complementarity between targets and among international marine bodies for successful outcomes.

Summarizing the outcomes of the Thematic Workshop on Area-Based Conservation Measures (Montreal, Canada, 1-3 December 2019), Stefan Seiner (EU) highlighted that Aichi Target 11 (area-based conservation) was considered a success to build upon, and that area-based conservation measures are relevant across multiple goals and targets in the new framework.

Ines Verleye (Belgium) reported on the Thematic Workshop on Resource Mobilization for the GBF (Berlin, 14-16 January 2020). She stated that the workshop was set up to improve understanding of the different aspects of resource mobilization, with Luciana Melchert (Brazil) highlighting discussions on policy coherence and just transitions.

The CBD Secretariat presented on work regarding funding needs associated with GEF-8, highlighting that an expert team has been established and has designed a questionnaire to assess the funding needs of parties between July 2022 and June 2026.

Alfred Oteng-Yeboah (Ghana) presented on the Thematic Consultation on Transparent Implementation, Monitoring, Reporting, and Review for the GBF (Rome, 20-22 February 2020). He said the workshop highlighted the importance of national reports, the need to build flexibility to take account of national circumstances, and a clear desire to avoid “overly cumbersome” implementation, monitoring, reporting, and review processes. Rosemary Paterson (New Zealand) outlined recommendations, including: convening thematic rather than, or in addition to, comprehensive reviews; creating an implementation support committee; and using a small set of global headline indicators for parties to report on.

Oteng-Yeboah further provided an overview of the expert Thematic Workshop on Landscape Approaches for the GBF held back-to-back with theEighth Global Conference of the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative (Kumamoto, Japan, 3-6 September 2019). He stressed that landscape approaches can foster transformative change, reconcile conflicts, and help policy alignment at different levels.

Polina Shulbaeva (Russian Federation) presented the main outcomes of the Thematic Workshop on Human Rights as Enabling Condition in the GBF (Chiang Mai, Thailand, 18-20 February 2020). She emphasized that human rights and planetary health are mutually dependent, stressing that “in order to bend the curve of biodiversity loss, we need to bend the inequality curve,” and highlighting the need to address unsustainable models of economic growth.

Theresa Mundita Lim (Philippines) provided an overview of the work of the Informal Advisory Group on Mainstreaming of Biodiversity. She stressed that mainstreaming has been recognized in the zero draft as a central component, noting that it requires a whole-of-government and a whole-of-society approach. She underscored the need for: an action plan with further details; additional focus on concrete outcomes; strengthening the recognition of impacts of economic sectors on nature; and proposing innovative solutions.

Introduction of Upcoming Consultation Meetings: The Secretariat presented upcoming thematic consultations oncapacity building and technical and scientific cooperation for the GBF to be held in Rome, Italy, 1-2 March 2020, and on sustainable use of biodiversity to be held in Bern, Switzerland, 30 March-1 April 2020. The Secretariat further highlighted that a consultation meeting on access and benefit-sharing is envisioned, inviting input on relevant modalities and timing.

Matthew Bird (Scotland) presented the Workshop of Subnational, Regional and Local Governments on the GBF, which will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK on 1-3 April 2020. He stressed the opportunity to share best practices and demonstrate the role of subnational and local actors, providing inputs to the GBF.

UNEP provided an overview of the Second Consultation Workshop of Biodiversity-Related Conventions on the GBF (Bern II) to be held in Bern, Switzerland, 25-27 March 2020.

Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

On Monday, the Co-Chairs presented the zero draft text of the GBF (CBD/WG2020/2/3) prepared on the basis of the consultations undertaken, the submissions received, the results of the first meeting of the WG, and recommendations from the eleventh meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions and SBSTTA 23. Delegates delivered general statements on the zero draft on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Contact Group discussions took place from Tuesday to Friday to negotiate the organization and language of the zero draft GBF.

Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Oceans, asked delegates to consider whether the zero draft sufficiently meets the current climate and environmental emergency. He implored delegates, if they had doubts in this regard, to take responsibility to strengthen the draft. He suggested that the work done in Rome and later in Kunming be seen as part of a greater whole, especially related to the 2020 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, and UNFCCC COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

General Comments on Zero Draft: On Monday, Argentina stressed the need for commitment to a fair transition to sustainable consumption and production. Colombia said changes in patterns of production and consumption need to be addressed in both 2030 and 2050 timeframes. India called for a target on reducing consumption and for reliable funding sources for action on the ground.

Peru stressed the links between biodiversity, food security, disaster risk reduction, climate change, and human health, calling for sufficient resources to achieve the agreed targets. Mexico called for ensuring a coherent document, leaving discussions on specific quantitative indicators to SBSTTA. Ecuador said the GBF should focus on the drivers of biodiversity, gender equality, and the full participation of IPLCs. New Zealand stated that the role of traditional knowledge and IPLCs needs more attention.

Norway said that the guidelines for national reporting should enable the collection of data that is adequately detailed to ensure baselines to measure progress. Malaysia noted that in situations where baseline information is limited, financial and technical expertise should be made available to balance progress. Jordan drew attention to the need for baselines regarding ecosystem loss and more effective management measures.

Australia highlighted the need to have clearer points of access for non-state actors.

The EU proposed a goal on ecological footprint and mainstreaming, noted that ecological connectivity is not well reflected, and called for a focus on marine and ocean issues due to their current prominence in the public debate. Singapore stressed that more effort is required on habitat restoration and enhancement.

Switzerland and the Russian Federation emphasized the need for a simpler and clearer structure for the GBF, including a strong political message. Switzerland further welcomed maintaining a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach, and engaging all biodiversity-related conventions. Ethiopia and Venezuela urged coherence with other MEAs and the SDGs.

Brazil highlighted the principles of fairness, equity, as well as common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), particularly on means of implementation. Indonesia urged harmonizing economic growth, employment, and food security with biodiversity conservation.

Canada called for avoiding duplication and overlap, developing an approach for monitoring progress, and focusing on the objectives of the Convention.

Ghana noted that all ecosystems should be covered, highlighting the provision and equitable sharing of benefits arising from sustainable use of biodiversity. Tuvalu, speaking on behalf of Pacific Small Island Developing States, stressed the need to further focus on oceans and marine ecosystems.

Georgia, for the CEE, welcomed aspects of the GBF such as spatial planning, urbanization, and sustainable production and consumption that are not covered in the current strategic plan.

Several parties called for more ambitious goals and targets, with China cautioning that the level of ambition needs to take into account parties’ capabilities for implementation. Iran said ambitious goals need ambitious means of implementation, and urged the CBD to act independently, and not be influenced by external political pressures. Cuba called for institutional strengthening, including building human and technological capacities, and cautioned against increasing the reporting burden for parties. Belarus asked for ensuring technological transfer that includes modern genetic methods capable of tracking and monitoring changes in biodiversity.

On Tuesday, Uganda stated that benefit-sharing is the very basis of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and called for a global multilateral benefit-sharing system that includes DSI.

Côte d’Ivoire, underscoring that the draft should be based on solid and credible information, called for an in-depth and independent examination of the implementation of the Aichi Targets to inform the GBF.

Lebanon highlighted the need for long-term ecosystem protection to ensure connectivity between protected areas. Mongolia asked that nature-based solutions and expansion of protected areas be strongly reflected in the draft.

Japan said the goals of the GBF should be ambitious and realistic, and that the framework should be flexible with respect to national prioritization and implementation of targets. The Philippines urged equal emphasis on the three objectives of the Convention.

Syria and Sudan underscored that ambitious objectives need resource mobilization and financial tools for their implementation. Costa Rica and the Philippines emphasized the importance of an ambitious funding mechanism and stressed the crucial role of indigenous peoples in spatial measures for implementation. Sudan added that the goals should be quantifiable, global, and compatible with the theory of change.

Highlighting the need to promote capacity building, technology transfer, and cooperation, Viet Nam supported the use of the SMART criteria, accompanied by adequate funds for successful implementation. Eritrea underscored the need to respect human rights and rights of IPLCs as well as the importance of benefit-sharing. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights welcomed the clear commitment on a rights-based approach to implementation, noting it is critical as a legal obligation as well as for policy coherence and effectiveness.

The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) suggested additional targets and indicators, including: strengthening the links between nature, people, and culture; skills and lifelong learning; co-production of knowledge, including indigenous knowledge; and taking into account protected areas, other effective conservation measures, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands sites, and UNESCO sites as well as their management.

The UN University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) stressed that multi-stakeholder landscape approaches can improve inclusiveness, provide an overarching spatial framework, and promote connectivity and mainstreaming of biodiversity vertically and horizontally.

The FAO said that transformative change could support sustainable production, contribute to food security and healthy diets, and address externalities that affect biodiversity.

The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) highlighted that the recent adoption of the Gandhinagar Declaration during CMS COP 13calls for migratory species and the concept of “ecological connectivity” to be integrated and prioritized in the GBF.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) expressed satisfaction over the species-specific goal in the zero draft, noting the need to strengthen it with compliance tools and solid data to measure progress, and pointed to CITES’ databases in that respect.

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture called for improvement of targets on genetic diversity and sustainable use.

UN Women said the goals and targets of the GBF need to have provisions for gender-related data and analysis.

UNEP highlighted a submission on a consultative process on the GBF made by the UN Environment Management Group, and that this group will provide a report to CBD COP 15 on this process.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said that trade is an indirect driver of biodiversity loss, but can also be an incentive for achieving sustainable use and reach the SDGs.

UN Development Programme (UNDP) supported the inclusion of net approaches and called for a focus on maximizing benefits rather than reducing negative impacts.

The CBD Advisory Committee on Sub-National Governments and Biodiversity stated that the 20 action-oriented targets present an opportunity to recognize the essential contribution and role of sub-national governments and cities.

Birdlife International, on behalf of a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), emphasized the need for net-gains and increases regarding biodiversity rather than decreasing net-loss, and called for clear guidance on net-outcomes and baselines.

The CBD Women’s Caucus said that the draft currently only references gender and women in the context of participation, which is akin to tokenism.

The CBD Alliance lamented that the draft is not addressing the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, but is instead only considering symptoms, and expressed concern about green corporate capture of the CBD.

The Ramsar Convention urged for strengthening actions in coastal and marine ecosystems, in line with the CBD Marine and Coastal Programme, and for the GBF to contribute to SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation).

The Business for Nature Coalition asked delegates “not to allow the pursuit of perfection to be an enemy of good,” adding that the strive for transformation, should not be paralyzed by complexity. World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) said the current biodiversity emergency needs urgent actions by 2030 to bend the curve, saying every goal, target, and implementation tool must add up to achieve this. The Global Youth Biodiversity Network noted the need for targets on transformative education.

The Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network urged identifying actions and responsibilities for different scales and sectors, and for voluntary national commitments that contribute to the 2030 goals and targets.

The World Bank highlighted sustainable practices across sectors of economic activity, stressing the need to collect best available input, including from financial and economic sectors, as well as using benchmarks for effective implementation.

The Global Biodiversity Information Facilitydrew attention to the monitoring, sharing, and accessibility of data, noting that a current target trying to combine education, traditional knowledge, and more general scientific information needs to be refined.

The China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, speaking also for the Biodiversity Committee of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, highlighted that the 2030 mission should be more ambitious and the COP15 theme of ecological civilization needs to be better incorporated in the GBF.

The African Wildlife Foundation urged the engagement of all sectors of society and government as well as for financial support for implementation and review. Highlighting the need for more emphasis on a rights-based approach, he called for a people-centered ambitious framework that includes the necessary transformation of relevant economic sectors.

The International Tropical Timber Organization underscored that the forestry sector has a lot of potential to contribute to sustainable development, drawing attention to implementation mechanisms and enabling conditions, and stressing that the targets should be simple with measurable indicators, conveying the sense of urgency.

The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty emphasized that the human rights lens is important, especially recognizing rights of IPLCs and small-scale producers. She urged for an ambitious GBF, noting that the goal of a no net-loss of biodiversity is not sufficient.

Co-Chair van Havre explained that the goals in the zero draft are the expression of the vision, while the targets are expressed in terms of actions to reach those goals. He further explained that those elements of goals and targets related to the CBD would be included in the relevant draft decision, while elements related to other conventions and bodies would be incorporated in the GBF.

On Thursday, delegates continued statements on the zero draft, focusing their interventions on the section on tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming, implementation support mechanisms, enabling conditions, responsibility and transparency, and outreach, awareness, and uptake.

Switzerland, with Canada, said tools and solutions for implementation need further elaboration, and urged for a holistic approach to resource mobilization for implementation, which includes disclosure of financial flows for transformative change. On new technologies, many delegates called for application of the precautionary principle.

Malawi, for the African Group, said without technological transfer, the challenges of implementation of the Aichi Targets would be transferred to the GBF.

Australia emphasized the need to ensure clear messaging for all people on the planet and intergenerational equity.

Norway stressed the need for guidelines for national level implementation.

Eswatini called on the GEF to set up a financial mechanism for biodiversity, and said capacity development and technology transfer mechanisms should be based on needs assessments.

The EU underscored the importance of clearinghouse mechanisms, including sharing best practices, and, with Canada and Norway, emphasized full participation of IPLCs, youth, and other groups. He said the outreach, awareness, and update needs to be aligned with the CBD communication strategy.

Singapore stressed the need to involve cities, regarding their role and actions in biodiversity conservation efforts through various channels, including the City Biodiversity Index.

The UK noted the need for an ambitious resource mobilization package that captures all funding sources, and also includes human, technical, and institutional resources.

Brazil stressed the need for concrete, substantial financial commitments, especially from developed countries, to ensure effective implementation of the GBF, expressing disappointment that only one contact group was devoted to this discussion at this week’s meeting.

Morocco underscored the need for resource mobilization, capacity development, and technical and scientific cooperation, adapted to the national context and in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to achieve implementation at the national level.

Iran noted that all suggestions on targets should take into account national mechanisms and legislation, stressing the needs for mechanisms, in addition to the GEF, to help developing countries in effective implementation.

Japan called for involving relevant regional instruments, subnational and local governments, youth, women, and the business sector in implementation, adding that lessons learned from the Japan Biodiversity Fund need to be taken into account.

Argentina expressed concern about one-size-fits-all solutions, stressing the need to take into account national specificities and allow for flexibility for national implementation as well as to include a reference to the idea of fair transition, encompassing socio-economic concerns.

Chile noted the need to consider formal and informal education at all levels to promote behavioral change, and called for solid communication on the GBF’s importance.

The CMS suggested further developing synergies with relevant MEAs at the national level, including through coherent National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs) that include national commitments to implement other biodiversity-related conventions.

Norway argued that there is no reference to CBDR in the CBD and, as such, it is outside the scope of the Convention. Venezuela said that CBDR “cannot be left by the wayside” and called for inclusive implementation of the GBF. Brazil argued that the CBD was negotiated under the guise of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which established the overarching principles for all the three conventions including CBDR. Additionally, he noted that although the principle might not be explicitly mentioned in the text of the CBD it is implicit in several provisions, such as Article 20 (financial resources).

Jordan called for more focus on means of implementation, such as cooperation on technology and science between states. Colombia outlined the need to move forward on transforming patterns of production and consumption, and for integration with the Green Climate Fund due to synergies between action on biodiversity and climate change.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said it is the responsibility of businesses to protect human rights and prevent harm, including to biodiversity and asked for consideration of ways to reflect this within the GBF.

The International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association said the private sector has a critical role in the implementation of the GBF and that the environmental, social, and economic consequences of the elimination of subsidies and economic reform must be fully understood.

The University of Cambridge Environmental Leadership and Conservation Alumni Network argued for the need to reform economic subsidies and redirect harmful investments into areas where biodiversity loss has occurred.

Goals for the GBF: This contact group met on Tuesday and Wednesday to deliberate on the organization and language of the goals of the GBF. Rosemary Paterson (New Zealand) and Vinod Mathur (India) co-led the contact group.

On Tuesday, delegates provided general observations on the structure of the goals, noting, inter alia, the need to:

  • frame the goals as high-level statements of intent and not include numerical values;
  • refine language to distinguish goals from targets;
  • ensure balanced focus between biodiversity and nature’s benefits to people;
  • include baselines as much as possible, particularly for area-based goals and targets;
  • differentiate long-term versus short-term action targets;
  • differentiate between outcomes and actions;
  • ensure the language of the goals and targets is in accordance with already agreed language; and
  • align the goals with the three objectives of the CBD.

Delegates also identified gaps, including:

  • tools and mechanisms for implementation, with some specifying financial mechanisms;
  • eliminating biopiracy;
  • oceans and marine ecosystems;
  • values and ecological footprints;
  • bioculture or cultural diversity;
  • patterns of consumption and production;
  • mainstreaming biodiversity action;
  • the role of ecosystem functions as means of achieving ecosystem resilience;
  • equity for people across nations that considers the human right to safe and healthy environment; and
  • sustainable use.

Some contentious issues on goals and targets that arose from the discussions included the 2030 and 2050 timelines, with some delegates favoring focus on the 2050 goals, supported by measurable milestones for periodic review. Opponents said the loss of the 2030 goals would jeopardize efforts towards transformative change required to bend the curve on biodiversity loss. Some delegates urged separating goals on ecosystems and species, and the need to ensure interconnection between biodiversity and human wellbeing. While some supported merging goals on species, ecosystems, and genetic diversity, others noted that this would cause loss of necessary information, including addressing the interdependence between people and nature.

On Wednesday, delegates addressed the goal on conservation, included in the zero draft as “no net loss by 2030 in the area and integrity of freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems, and increases of at least [20%] by 2050, ensuring ecosystem resilience.” They suggested, inter alia:

  • replacing freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems with “all natural ecosystems” or “ecosystems of high ecological integrity”;
  • replacing reference to resilience with functionality or intactness;
  • inserting the notion of connectivity regarding both 2030 and 2050;
  • adding ecosystem services in addition to ecosystem resilience;
  • adding ecosystem restoration;
  • including a chapeau text, noting that “for area-based targets and goals, the framework will consider area and type of natural ecosystems before any human disturbance with the potential natural vegetation of each country as a measurement for the contribution that each party shall commit under the Convention, either through conservation or restoration”;
  • referring to no net loss by 2030 in the area and integrity of highly fragmented or threatened freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems; and
  • including reference to coastal ecosystems;

On Thursday in plenary, the Secretariat introduced a summary of the discussions prepared by the contact group co-leads (CBD/WG2020/2/CRP.1-Annex, Part 1). Contact Group Co-Lead Mathur noted that the group had considered all goals under this cluster. He highlighted that a range of issues have been addressed, offering a better understanding on different perspectives, noting that divergent views remain on a number of issues.

Argentina, for GRULAC, stressed that some of the qualifying adjectives in the document do not reflect discussions in the contact group, requesting their removal from the document or that the contact group is consulted regarding their use.

The EU, Argentina, South Africa, the Russian Federation, Uganda, and others provided a number of comments on paragraphs not accurately reflecting the discussion. The EU stressed that deliberation on baselines was not part of the contact group’s mandate, thus requesting that baseline-related proposals be moved to the part of the document presenting new proposals.

Brazil and Argentina emphasized that baselines are a critical element of the GBF, with Brazil requesting that the relevant discussion be reflected in the main body of the text.

Norway suggested that references to baselines be footnoted in the meeting’s report, noting that the matter will be discussed during the third WG meeting as well as at SBSTTA 24.

The UK said the wording of baselines, rather than placement, is the issue, suggesting baselines fit better in the Co-Chairs’ summary of the report.

 Co-Chair van Havre suggested, and delegates agreed, that the discussion on baselines remain in its current place in the report with appropriate language clarifying the situation.

Reducing Threats to Biodiversity: On Tuesday, a second contact group co-led by Wadzanayi Goredema-Mandivenyi (South Africa) and Gabriele Obermayr (Austria) convened for its first meeting to negotiate the organization and language on targets clustered under reducing threats to biodiversity. The group completed its deliberations on Thursday.

Discussing the target on retaining and restoring ecosystems and spatial planning, included in the zero draft as: “retain and restore freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, increasing by at least [50%] the land and sea area under comprehensive spatial planning addressing land/sea use change, achieving by 2030 a net increase in area, connectivity and integrity and retaining existing intact areas and wilderness,” delegates suggested, inter alia:

  • separating targets on spatial planning and restoration, and better defining spatial planning;
  • merging this target with the next target on protected areas;
  • including habitat loss;
  • recognizing that parties have the flexibility to adjust targets to national circumstances;
  • emphasizing critical and vulnerable ecosystems; and
  • focusing on “natural ecosystems.”

On the target on protected areas, included in the zero draft as: “protect sites of particular importance for biodiversity through protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, by 2030 covering at least [60%] of such sites and at least [30%] of land and sea areas with at least [10%] under strict protection,” delegates suggested, inter alia:

  • including elements related to adequacy and viability of sites;
  • recognizing IPLCs and the importance of protected sites for biological and cultural diversity;
  • considering threats at species level;
  • focusing on all ecosystems instead of only on ecosystems of particular importance;
  • differentiating terrestrial and marine protected areas, and other effective area-based conservation measures; and
  • elaborating on the understanding of terms, such as “strict protection” and “particular importance.”

A number of delegates welcomed the target, but noted missing elements of Aichi Target 11 (protected areas), including management effectiveness. Others highlighted the need for the target to include the importance of connectivity of protected areas.

On Wednesday, Co-Lead Obermayr invited delegates to discuss the target on invasive alien species (IAS), included in the zero draft as: “control all pathways for the introduction of IAS, achieving by 2030 a [50%] reduction in the rate of new introductions, and eradicate or control IAS to eliminate or reduce their impacts by 2030 in at least [50%] of priority sites.”

Delegates suggested, inter alia:

  • distinguishing between intentional and unintentional introductions;
  • focusing on “potential” IAS, with other delegates questioning the concept;
  • replacing “control” of pathways with “manage,” with others proposing using both terms, or an alternative text referring to controlling high-risk pathways;
  • increasing the level of ambition for successful preventions and eradications of IAS through measurable targets;
  • including reference to island IAS as well as an indicator on marine pathways;
  • analyzing the relationship between connectivity and IAS prevention;
  • focusing on human-mediated pathways;
  • adding links to climate change and land degradation;
  • addressing IAS elimination via environmentally friendly approaches; and
  • taking into account the use of localized invasive species by IPLCs.

Co-Lead Goredema-Mandivenyi invited comments on the target on reducing pollution from excess nutrients, biocides, plastic waste, and other sources by at least [50%]. Delegates suggested inclusion of, inter alia:

  • principles of circular economy, such as recycling;
  • interventions that reduce impacts on biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human health;
  • interventions through changes in consumption and production patterns;
  • indicators of industrial and urban household dumping;
  • underwater noise, light, and sedimentation as pollutants;
  • information on specific sectors responsible for pollution; and
  • the polluter pays principle.

On categories of pollutants, some participants suggested elaborating on a separate list of pollutants, while others urged synergies with the chemicals conventions. They also debated on whether to use the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) categorization of five major pollutants, namely: nitrogen, phosphorus, nitrates, plastics, and pesticides. Many suggested replacing the term biocides with pesticides, which is broader.

Regarding the use of “at least 50%” as the level of reduction of pollutants by 2030, some said the figure is too general, noting that for some pollutants, reducing by 50% may have no positive effects on biodiversity. Some suggested retaining elements from Aichi Target 8 (reduce pollution) on bringing down pollution to levels that are not detrimental to biodiversity and ecosystem functions.

On the target on sustainable use, noting the need to ensure that by 2030 the harvesting, trade, and use of wild species, is legal and at sustainable levels, delegates suggested, inter alia, that harvesting, trade, and use of wild species: comply with national laws and international commitments, and is monitored and regulated to be kept to sustainable levels; and is reduced and is traceable.

Delegates also suggested:

  • referring to the management of all species with emphasis on improving the conservation status of threatened species;
  • including reference to illegal, unreported, and unregulated, fishing, bycatch, and bottom trawling, and their environmental and socio-economic consequences;
  • adding species that are socially and economically important, as well as local and traditionally used animal breeds, respecting the rights of IPLCs to collect and use wild species;
  • finding ways to maximize synergies with other conventions and bodies without duplication of efforts, noting that this target offers good linkages with CITES and FAO;
  • reframing the target to focus on over-exploitation;
  • including references to new technologies for sustainable harvesting, ecosystem-based management in fisheries, and sustainable forest management;
  • noting the need to ensure that the population of wild species, subject to harvesting or use, is healthy, productive, and resilient as well as to ensure recovery of threatened species;
  • adding reference to halting biopiracy, with others querying its definition;
  • referring to safe ecological limits as well as to impacts on non-target species and habitats;
  • including direct uses, such as trade and harvest, and indirect uses, such as tourism and non-material use;
  • focusing on ensuring that implementation of wildlife policies is effectively enforced;
  • assisting sustainability of wild species with relevant scientific research as well as incorporating conservation and management plans; and
  • reducing environmental crimes that affect biodiversity through concerted efforts at national and international levels.

During the Contact Group discussions on Thursday, Co-Lead Goredema-Mandivenyi invited discussion on the target on nature based solutions contribution to climate action, included in the zero draft as: “Contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation and disaster risk reduction through nature-based solutions providing by 2030 [about 30%] [at least XXX MT CO2=] of the mitigation effort needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, complementing stringent emission reductions, and avoiding negative impacts on biodiversity and food security.”

Delegates suggested, inter alia:

  • including reference to of safeguarding food security, nutrition, and clean water;
  • replacing the term “nature-based solutions” with “ecosystem-based approaches”;
  • emphasizing the importance of enhancing resilience of ecosystems and the communities that are the custodians of biodiversity; and
  • ensuring the retention of natural carbon stocks in addition to avoiding negative impacts through ecosystem-based approaches for climate adaptation and mitigation.

Several delegates argued that the UNFCCC is the main body to address climate change and it is not appropriate for the CBD to include a numeric value to monitor climate change action. Several suggested that the target should focus instead on the interlinkages between climate change and biodiversity loss. SBSTTA Chair Hesiquio Benítez Díaz (Mexico) stressed that the elements of the target need to be measurable.

Co-Lead Obermayr asked delegates to consider a proposal to include a target on species conservation, suggested by one party, which reads: “By 2030, the percentage of species threatened by extinction is reduced by X%,” and was highlighted as a placeholder to enable more specific language negotiations at a later stage. Several parties expressed support for having a target on species conservation noting that the current goal on species extinction does not have an associated target.

On Wednesday the co-leads invited comments on a goal concerning threatened species, included in the zero draft as: “The percentage of species threatened with extinction is reduced by [X%] and the abundance of species has increased on average by [X%] by 2030 and by [X%] by 2050.” Participants suggested including captive breeding and ex situ conservation as new elements in the goal. Several delegates suggested alternative wording for the goal, with some preferring not attaching quantitative measures to the targets.  They further proposed a simple and overarching goal with numerical values specified in associated targets. 

On a proposed goal that states that “genetic diversity is maintained or enhanced on average by 2030, and for [90%] of species by 2050,” delegates only had a few alternative formulations, including to reference: halting genetic erosion of all wild and domesticated species by 2030; restoring genetic diversity and safeguarding their adaptive potential by 2050; and maintaining genetic diversity by 2030 and increasing it to [90%] by 2050.

On a proposed goal outlined in the zero draft as “nature provides benefits to people,” many delegates suggested additional elements, including:

  • valuation of ecosystem services;
  • safeguarding ecosystem function and services;
  • sustainable use;
  • sustainable patterns of consumption and production;
  • payments for ecosystem services;
  • contributions to socio-economic development; and
  • climate change.

In association with these, several delegates proposed alternative textual proposals.

On the last goal included in the zero draft as: “the benefits, shared fairly and equitably, from the use of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge have increased by [X] by 2030 and reached [X] by 2050,” delegates suggested the goal:

  • reflect the three objectives of the Convention;
  • have flexibility to take into account other relevant benefit-sharing arrangements;
  • promote the sharing of benefits by facilitating access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge;
  • focus on ratification and strengthened implementation; and
  • enable measurability of progress.

Several delegates suggested textual proposals, one of which includes specific reference to monetary amounts of USD 500 billion by 2030 and USD 500 billion by 2050 that should be fairly and equitably shared from the utilization of genetic resources and associated knowledge.

Co-Lead Goredema-Mandivenyi subsequently thanked delegates for their efforts and concluded the work of the contact group.

On Thursday in plenary, Co-Lead Obermayr reported back on progress summarized in document CBD/WG2020/2/CRP.1-Annex, Part 2. She stated that a number of crosscutting issues are interlinked with targets in other sections and noted the need to discuss these further during the meeting.

A number of parties, including the EU, Ethiopia, UK, Argentina, Malawi, and Japan had minor suggestions for how their proposals could be better reflected in the report, whereas others, including Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, and Uganda, noted that their suggestions were missing altogether.

In plenary on Friday, Co-Lead Goredema-Mandivenyi thanked delegates for the pleasant atmosphere and spirit of colleagueship, and the Secretariat presented the contact group report (CBD/WG2020/2/CRP.1-Annex, Part 2). Co-Chair Ogwal invited delegates to accept the annex as a basis for input for future work. Some delegates called for minor revisions, based on missing text or clarifications on their text submissions.

Meeting People’s Needs: On Wednesday the contact group co-led by Jorge Murillo (Colombia) and Anne Teller (EU), convened to discuss text on targets of the zero draft clustered under the topic, “Meeting people’s needs through sustainable use and benefit-sharing.”

Discussing the target on enhancing “sustainable use of wild species, providing benefits, including enhanced nutrition, food security, and livelihoods for at least [x million] people, especially for the most vulnerable, and reducing human-wildlife conflict by [x%],” delegates, inter alia:

  • underscored that this should refer to enhancing benefits from sustainable use as the current language suggests enhancing use;
  • cautioned that sustainable use and benefit-sharing are two separate issues and should not be combined in the same target;
  • agreed that “reducing human-wildlife conflict” has a negative connotation and should refer to “enhancing human-wildlife interactions,” with some delegates favoring moving reference to these interactions to the section on reducing threats to biodiversity;
  • asked to include health, nutrition, food security, well-being, socio-economic, and cultural benefits in the list of benefits;
  • favored reference to sustainable use of “biological resources” in place of “wild species”;
  • debated whether the principle of CBDR is under the scope of the Convention;
  • suggested reference to phytosanitary and epidemiological concerns;
  • debated on whether to merge targets on benefits from sustainable use with the previous section on legal and sustainable levels of harvest and trade in biodiversity;
  • highlighted non-consumptive uses of wildlife, such as wildlife tourism;
  • underscored the need to consider conservation, in addition to sustainable use, possibly under a new target;
  • suggested including reference to local varieties and under-utilized species;
  • discussed reference to ecological, economic, and social sustainability regarding the use of wild species; and
  • discussed whether to include reference to customary sustainable use and rights of IPLCs, and food sovereignty.

Co-Lead Teller invited comments on a target that considers sustainable use in agriculture, included in the zero draft as: “Conserve and enhance the sustainable use of biodiversity in agricultural and other managed ecosystems to support the productivity, sustainability, and resilience of such systems, reducing by 2030 related productivity gaps by at least [50%].”

Many delegates expressed concern regarding the productivity gap concept, with several noting that it is not clear what the gap refers to, whereas some delegates supported its inclusion. Other delegates highlighted that a focus on increasing productivity could result in perverse incentives, which may result in negative impacts on biodiversity.

Delegates suggested, inter alia:

  • inserting reference to other primary sectors, such as fisheries, forestry, and aquaculture;
  • including reference to products from diversified, resilient, and productive ecosystems;
  • referencing on-farm conservation;
  • acknowledging the contribution of IPLCs; and
  • adding language on achieving sustainable use in managed ecosystems through ecosystem-based approaches.

Delegates and participants further debated whether to include references to:

  • increasing the total area devoted to agro-ecological production, while reducing area dedicated to uniform production;
  • achieving sustainability in agricultural landscapes;
  • biodiversity-friendly agricultural practices; and
  • the role of women as food producers.

Discussing the target on enhancing nature-based solutions contributing, by 2030, to clean water provisions for at least [xxx million] people, delegates:

  • noted the need for alignment with Aichi Target 6 (clean water and sanitation);
  • suggested that ecosystem services be used in place of nature-based solutions, as it is a more recognized concept;
  • said that clean water is a function of watershed ecosystems and urged for broadening the target to reflect this;
  • urged raising the ambition for water provision to all people;
  • called for differentiation between clean and safe water; and
  • stressed the need to reflect the findings of the IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, on the need for integrated water resource management.

Delegates then addressed a target on health and wellbeing, included in the zero draft as “enhance the benefits of green spaces for health and well-being, especially for urban dwellers, increasing by 2030 the proportion of people with access to such spaces by at least [100%].”

Delegates proposed alternative formulations for the target and suggested, inter alia:

  • including quantitative and qualitative elements, and spatial planning;
  • broadening the target, recognizing the contribution of ecosystem services and the multiple benefits of green spaces;
  • focusing on urban biodiversity and on related benefits of green spaces;
  • including “blue spaces,” such as lakes, rivers, and coastlines; and
  • underscoring the role of cities and action at the local level.

Delegates addressed a target on benefit-sharing, contained in the zero draft as: “ensure that benefits from the utilization of genetic resources and related traditional knowledge are shared fairly and equitably, resulting by 2030 in an [X] increase in benefits.”

Delegates suggested, inter alia:

  • distinguishing between monetary and non-monetary benefits;
  • including the concepts of free, prior, and informed consent, and mutually agreed terms;
  • linking benefit-sharing to access and utilization of genetic resources, and associated traditional knowledge;
  • equally weighing increasing of benefits and benefit-sharing;
  • creating a global benefit-sharing fund for biodiversity;
  • including DSI when referring to use of genetic resources; and
  • ensuring synergies with other global instruments on benefit-sharing.

On Thursday in plenary, Co-Lead Teller reported back on progress made, noting that a non-paper had been produced compiling text proposal submissions and text changes made during the group.

In plenary on Friday, Co-Lead Murillo outlined progress represented in document CBD/WG2020/2/CRP.1-Annex, Part 4. He noted the constructive discussions providing helpful contributions to the new draft of the GBF. Many parties requested minor changes or additions in order to adequately reflect their proposals.

Tools and Solutions for Implementation and Mainstreaming: On Friday, the contact group on tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming, co-led by Charlotta Sörqvist (Sweden) and Teona Karchava (Georgia), met to address relevant targets in the zero GBF draft, with co-lead Sörqvist noting that some elements included in the draft will be discussed during SBI 3.

Delegates stressed the need to use stronger language in addressing harmful subsidies and suggested retaining the wording from Aichi Target 3 (harmful subsidies). Some delegates noted that it is estimated that harmful subsidies are currently 10 times the amount of money required to fund biodiversity conservation programmes. Some parties requested clarification on what constitutes a “harmful subsidy” for biodiversity as well as a “positive incentive,” while others noted the need to further clarify the difference between incentives and subsidies.

Delegates suggested, inter alia:

  • referring to subsidies harmful to biodiversity, rather than those that “are most harmful”;
  • adding reference to enhancing positive incentives for conservation and sustainable use, including payments for ecosystem services;
  • identifying, reforming, and repurposing subsidies, in addition to eliminating them;
  • introducing language regarding consistency with relevant international obligations as well as taking into account national socio-economic conditions;
  • linking the target with relevant SDGs and accompanying indicators;
  • including reference to effective regulatory approaches or mechanisms; and
  • including the financial sector, with others noting that the private incentives need to include, but not be limited to, the private sector.

Co-Lead Sörqvist asked parties to consider a target on biodiversity values, included in the zero draft as: “Integrate biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts, ensuring by 2030 that biodiversity values are mainstreamed across all sectors and that biodiversity-inclusive strategic environmental assessments and environmental impact assessments are comprehensively applied.”

Most delegates expressed support for the inclusion of this target, whereas one party suggested that it be merged with the preceding target on reforming incentives and eliminating subsidies and the succeeding target on reforming economic sectors towards sustainable practices, which garnered some interest.

Other suggestions included:

  • referencing education and health sectors, sub-national governments, and cultural and spiritual values of biodiversity;
  • reframing the target to reflect that sustainable use links to biodiversity conservation;
  • mentioning budgeting and reporting processes, climate change action plans and systems of national accounts, and payments for ecosystem services;
  • rephrasing the target in a way that affects buy-in from different sectors and UN agencies;
  • highlighting the need to transform ecological advantages to economic advantages and the development of an ecological industry;
  • highlighting diverse biodiversity values;
  • mentioning spatial planning as a key tool for mainstreaming;
  • making the target SMART, including defining biodiversity values and what sectors the target addresses;
  • mentioning that environmental impact assessments should involve IPLCs, academia, investors, businesses, and others; and
  • including metrics in the target.

Co-Lead Karchava invited delegates to discuss a target on reforming economic sectors, included in the zero draft as: “reform economic sectors towards sustainable practices, including along their national and transnational supply chains, achieving by 2030 a reduction of at least [50%] in negative impacts on biodiversity.”

Several delegates noted the need to align this with the target on sustainable consumption, “people everywhere take measurable steps towards sustainable consumption and lifestyles,” and suggested inter alia:

  • adding reference to financial flows and supply chains;
  • linking to IPBES discussions on transformative change;
  • “facilitating” reform in economic sectors as well as taking into account other international obligations;
  • replacing economic sectors with “productive and private” sectors, and consider services in addition to products;
  • including credit lines and comprehensive management, and circular flow of materials, such as water and energy;
  • enhancing the sustainable practices of productive sectors;
  • merging this target with relevant targets on subsidies, development processes, and poverty reduction strategies;
  • identifying, measuring, and reporting the impact of private sector institutions and their global supply chains on biodiversity, and mitigating those impacts;
  • including the concepts of planetary boundaries and ecological footprint;
  • ensuring the target is action-oriented and influential for change;
  • including a range of sustainable practices including payments of ecosystem services, and fair and equitable benefit-sharing;
  • aligning with Aichi Target 4 (sustainable production and consumption); and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production); and
  • addressing extractive industries.

Discussing a target on resource mobilization and capacity building, included in the zero draft as “resources, including capacity-building, for implementing the framework have increased from all sources so that by 2030 resources have increased by [X%] and are commensurate with the ambition of the targets of the framework,” many delegates stressed the importance of resource mobilization and capacity building for successful implementation of the GBF. Some delegates noted it is premature to discuss specific numeric or percentage targets, pointing to relevant discussion by the expert panel on resource mobilization.

They also suggested, inter alia:

  • explicitly referring to capacity building and technology transfer;
  • adding technical and financial resources;
  • splitting the target in three parts to deal with: financial resources; science, technology, and innovation; and capacity building;
  • addressing all sources in a balanced way, including domestic, international, private, and public;
  • distinguishing between monetary and non-monetary aspects of resource mobilization;
  • adding scientific cooperation to capacity building;
  • including an absolute target, not only a percentage target;
  • making full use of existing financial mechanisms and focusing on mechanisms that deliver multiple benefits;
  • strengthening monitoring, and improving efficiency and effectiveness in allocation and use of international funds;
  • including reducing resource needs via reduction of subsidies;
  • distinguishing financing for GBF implementation from financing related to benefit-sharing;
  • focusing on outcomes rather than specific numeric targets regarding resource mobilization; and
  • taking into account biodiversity mainstreaming and its links to resource mobilization, further collecting and assessing relevant data.

Delegates addressed a target on biotechnology, contained in the draft as: “Establish and implement measures in all countries by 2030 to prevent potential adverse impacts of biotechnology on biodiversity,” and suggested, inter alia:

  • recognizing the positive contribution and aspects of biotechnology to the objectives of the Convention;
  • focusing on biosafety, with others noting the target should be broader;
  • using the term “modern biotechnology” in line with the Cartagena Protocol or clarifying the types of biotechnology addressed;
  • including references to human health, with others noting that these aspects are regulated under the World Health Organization (WHO);
  • including separate targets on bio-economy and biosafety;
  • referring to genetic engineering activities and their control; and
  • including references to synthetic biology and other emerging technologies, with others noting that relevant discussions under the Convention are still ongoing.

In the contact group on Friday, co-leads invited comments on two targets that were considered to be of a similar subject matter, included in the zero draft as: “People everywhere take measurable steps towards sustainable consumption and lifestyles, taking into account individual and national cultural and socio-economic conditions, achieving by 2030 just and sustainable consumption levels,” and “foster diverse visions of good quality of life and unleash values of responsibility, to effect by 2030 new social norms for sustainability.”

Several delegates mentioned that these two targets are too broad and present concepts that are not clearly defined, such as, “just consumption” and “new social norms.” Several noted the importance of addressing consumption patterns, whereas others also saw a need to promote both sustainable consumption and production patterns, as well as lifestyles. It was suggested that the two targets be merged.

Delegates then considered a target on biodiversity knowledge, included in the zero draft as: “Promote education and the generation, sharing and use of knowledge relating to biodiversity, in the case of the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of IPLCs with their free, prior and informed consent, ensuring by 2030 that all decision makers have access to reliable and up-to-date information for the effective management of biodiversity.”

Two key elements were suggested for inclusion in this target:

  • recognition of traditional knowledge’s contribution to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity; and
  • protection of traditional knowledge, including recognition of the need for free prior and informed consent, in accordance with national circumstances, before traditional knowledge can be accessed.

Some suggested that language on DSI be included, which others opposed. It was suggested that the areas of research and knowledge were missing from this target as well as from the targets in general. Some proposals were made to include relevant language on research and knowledge, with others suggesting that a separate target could be developed to give adequate prominence to this issue and to avoid developing a complex target addressing multiple issues.

Delegates expressed general support for a target on effective participation of various groups in decision-making, included in the zero draft as: “Promote the full and effective participation of IPLCs, and of women and girls as well as youth, in decision making related to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, ensuring by 2030 equitable participation and rights over relevant resources.” It was noted by several that IPLCs, women, and youth are key stakeholders, and that a target to include them in decision-making on biodiversity is important to realize the vision of “living in harmony with nature.” Additionally, suggestions were made to:

  • make the target more inclusive of all key stakeholders; and
  • add a new target in the GBF focused on supporting and protecting those at the forefront of defending biodiversity and human rights.

During the discussions under “tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming,” delegates highlighted, inter alia:”

  • the need to discuss potential overlap with other sections;
  • the need to better distinguish between tools for strengthened implementation and means of implementation;
  • that financial resources available for the implementation of the framework need to be directly accessible to the custodians of biodiversity, including IPLCs; and
  • the need for including human rights safeguards in line with the CBD voluntary guidelines on safeguards in biodiversity financing mechanisms.

The following elements were suggested as additions:

  • an enhanced financial mechanism taking into account the role of IPLCs;
  • an operational scientific co-operation and technology mechanism at the global level linking to regional networks;
  • an operational capacity-building mechanism, scientific research, and sharing best practices;
  • an effective communication framework; and
  • the CBD clearing-house mechanism.

During the discussions titled, “enabling conditions,” delegates made suggestions, including that:

  • on stakeholder participation, “rights holders” should be added to reflect inclusiveness in the process and interactions;
  • it is essential to ensure all relevant stakeholders are included, and that all key sectors critical to address biodiversity loss are involved in implementation;
  • issues of gender equality, empowerment of women, and gender-sensitive approaches need to be formally and structurally integrated, taking into account the need to develop supporting indicators;
  • the GBF should provide concrete guidance, commitments and mechanisms to strengthen synergies with the other Rio Conventions and the 2030 Agenda;
  • reversing biodiversity loss is not only about activities but also about policies, programmes, and other actions;
  • emphasis should be placed on education, awareness, and communication programmes;
  • a mechanism for mobilizing and providing effective and efficient financial flows to support action is established; and
  • taking into account traditional knowledge, the results of science as a basis for innovation, and technology transfer.

During the discussions titled “responsibility and transparency,” delegates said this section needs further discussion at SBI 3, and proposed separation into two parts: transparent implementation and monitoring, and reporting and review. Delegates suggested elements for inclusion, inter alia:

  • continuation of NBSAPs as the main vehicle for national implementation of the Convention;
  • regular national reporting as the main mechanism through which parties report on their progress against their commitments and reflect their contribution to the new post-2020 targets;
  • greater transparency, accountability, and comparability of national commitments;
  • a small number of comparable headline indicators to be used at national and global levels;
  • a regular review process or “global stocktake” to track progress towards global goals and targets;
  • a voluntary peer review process to help parties strengthen their implementation;
  • full participation of IPLCs, women, and youth;
  • national and subnational commitments towards achieving the global targets;
  • procedural obligations to ensure commitments are adequate and followed up; and
  • cyclical, repetitive processes to coordinate scaling up of ambition and commitment.

The last section on the zero draft titled “outreach, awareness, and uptake” was met with comments that it needed further work and should be seen as a placeholder. Delegates outlined that there were connections between the content in this section and in other parts of the GBF, and wondered if it was necessary to have a separate section. Others highlighted a need: to assess the effectiveness of various communication channels and messages; to address communication barriers; and for indicators able to measure the impact of awareness initiatives, including changes in people’s perception of the value of biodiversity, and how they are getting interested, engaged, and committed in implementation of the framework.

On Saturday delegates convened in plenary for a report back from co-leads on the contact group (CBD/WG2020/2/CRP.1/ANNEX/Part.5). Co-Lead Sörqvist thanked participants for their constructive and collaborative spirit, even after long hours of discussions.

Draft Recommendation

On Friday, Co-Chair van Havre invited delegates to consider the draft recommendation contained in document CBD/WG2020/2/CRP.1.

Canada, supported by the EU, suggested that submissions provided through notification 2019-108 should also be included in the update. Canada further proposed that the Co-Chairs and the Secretariat, in consultation with the SBSTTA Chair, prepare an update to Annex 1 part 2 of the zero draft of the GBF, updating those elements of the draft framework that were reviewed by the WG at its second meeting, taking into account the annex to the report of the meeting for consideration by SBSTTA 24 and SBI 3. Canada also suggested requesting SBI 3 to contribute to the development of the GBF and to complement it with elements related to means of support and reviewed implementation.

Mexico, with South Africa, Chile, and others, noted that many parties are interested in a revised version of the zero draft to reflect this meeting’s deliberations, further requesting, with Argentina, restructuring the order of the paragraphs in the draft recommendation. Mexico suggested requesting the Co-Chairs and the Secretariat, under the oversight of the Bureau, to provide to parties a robust new version of the GBF, in the light of the outcomes of this meeting and other consultations, at least eight weeks before SBSTTA 24 for its consideration.

Co-Chair van Havre and SBSTTA Chair Díaz clarified the process ahead leading to SBSTTA 24, SBI 3, and the third meeting of the WG in Cali, Colombia. Co-Chair van Havre suggested that delegates refrain from referring the document that will go to SBSTTA as a “draft,” noting that SBSTTA will be invited to provide technical and scientific advice, but not negotiate the document, and adding that significant input is expected from SBI 3. He further clarified that no new submissions will be invited before the third meeting of the WG.

Brazil concurred that SBSTTA does not have a negotiating mandate and requested adding baselines to the elements of the goals and targets in the document.

The EU suggested requesting the Secretariat to identify how the draft goals and targets support the SDGs, including in the monitoring framework, the implementation support mechanisms, and indicators, and make this analysis available six weeks before SBSTTA 24.

On Saturday Co-Chair van Havre invited delegates to consider a revised draft recommendation (CBD/WG2020/CRP.1/Rev.1).

On a request to the Secretariat regarding SBSTTA 24, SBSTTA Chair Díaz suggested that the Secretariat provide scientific and technical information to support the review by SBSTTA, and to make the information and analysis available six weeks before SBSTTA 24.

On a paragraph related to SBI 3, Mexico, supported by Norway, suggested that “the WG invite SBI 3, in line with paragraph 18 of decision 14/34, to provide elements to the development of the GBF, in particular with regard to the topics addressed in sections E to H of the current annex of the zero draft, for consideration of the WG in its third meeting.” Brazil noted that the proposal sounds redundant and unnecessary in light of existing mandates.

Following informal discussions, Argentina announced that agreement was reached to “invite SBI 3, in line with paragraph 18 of decision 14/34, to provide elements to the development of the GBF, in particular with regards to means to support and review implementation, including implementation support mechanisms, enabling conditions, responsibility and transparency, and outreach and awareness, taking into account the report noted in paragraph 1 and the document referred in paragraph 4” of the draft recommendation.

On a request to the WG Co-Chairs and the Secretariat, in consultation with SBSTTA Chair, to prepare a document updating those elements of the draft framework that were reviewed by the WG at its second meeting, Argentina suggested this be done under the oversight of the COP Bureau. The EU suggested that both the COP and SBSTTA Bureaus should be included in the oversight, and further proposed taking into account the submissions received in response to notification 2019-108. SBI Chair Sörqvist reminded delegates that SBI has a clear mandate provided by the relevant COP decision.

Brazil supported oversight by the COP Bureau, requesting a footnote noting, “Bureau members are to be consulted at all steps of the elaboration of the document.” Norway said that the Co-Chairs are in regular contact with the Bureau and such detailed guidance is unnecessary.

On a request to the Secretariat to prepare an analysis of the linkages between the proposed goals, targets, and monitoring framework of the GBF and the SDGs for SBSTTA 24, Argentina suggested that this be done within the scope of the Convention.

On a request to the Co-Chairs and the Secretariat, under the oversight of the COP Bureau, to prepare a first draft of the GBF, taking into account the text annexed to the report of the second meeting of the WG as well as ongoing consultation processes, and the outcomes of SBSTTA 24 and SBI 3, South Africa suggested taking into account the outcomes of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on DSI.

With these amendments, the recommendation submitted by the Co-Chairs, including its annex, was approved.

Final Recommendation: In the final recommendation (CBD/WG2020/2/L.2), the WG, inter alia:

  • notes the progress made during itssecond meeting, as reflected in the text annexed to the report of the meeting;
  • invites SBSTTA 24 to provide elements for the development of the GBF for consideration of the third WG meeting;
  • invites SBSTTA to provide scientific and technical review of updated goals and targets and related indicators and baselines;
  • requests the Co-Chairs and the Secretariat to prepare a document updating the elements of the draft framework that were reviewed by the second WG, and to update the tables in the appendices to the draft framework;
  • requests the Secretariat to provide scientific and technical information to support SBSTTA’s review, including an analysis of linkages with SDGs;
  • also requests the WG Co-Chairs and the Secretariat to prepare a first draft of the GBF; and
  • to make the draft available six weeks prior to the third WG meeting.

Other Matters

On Saturday, the Russian Federation, supported by Iran and Venezuela, stressed the need to avoid politization of international environmental cooperation, in particular with respect to the official financial mechanism, the GEF (in accordance with CBD Articles 20, 21 and 39), that considerably undermines the implementation of CBD and the GBF at national and global levels.

Closing Plenary

The closing plenary was held on Saturday afternoon. Delegates briefly discussed and subsequently adopted the meeting’s report (CBD/WG2020/2/L.1).

Elizabeth Mrema, Acting CBD Executive Secretary, praised delegates for their diligence, flexibility, and spirit of cooperation, which led to progress on the various streams of the GBF. She noted that although, “all roads lead to Rome,” the journey to generate a clear, actionable, and transformative GBF will continue on to Kunming, via SBSTTA 24, SBI 3, the third meeting of the WG, and the UN Biodiversity Summit. She concluded that “time is not on our side,” especially in light of the great number of submissions made in Rome, but expressed confidence that the WG will succeed and deliver the GBF as expected.

The EU said the GBF should be realistic and ambitious enough to communicate and engage everyone in the transformative change desired. He urged clear incorporation of messages from IPBES and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and for strengthening mechanisms of implementation, monitoring, and review of the GBF.

New Zealand, on behalf of a group of non-EU developed countries, emphasized the need to involve IPLCs, women, youth, subnational and local governments, and the private sector, in order to provide a roadmap for transformative actions suited for biodiversity conservation.

The Asia-Pacific Group noted the importance of drawing lessons from experience in implementing the Aichi Biodiversity Targets for future work, lauding the second meeting of the WG for contributing important groundwork for ensuring the adoption of the GBF at COP 15.

The African Group called for increased support for developing countries to attend upcoming meetings including the SBSTTA, SBI, and third meeting of the WG. She noted the increased level of ambition based on new elements included in the GBF, calling for proponents to assure additional funds for implementation.

GRULAC said the desire to conserve biodiversity is clearly reflected in the ambitions of the GBF, but that financial resources have always been the “Achilles heel of the CBD.” He called for clear commitments to ensure financial support for implementation.

Small island developing states said the Islands Biodiversity Programme of Work adopted at CBD COP 8 is still relevant for the GBF, and called for ensuring targets on marine and coastal ecosystems are strengthened.

CEE noted the importance of measurable indicators for implementation and called for timely sharing of outcomes of upcoming consultative meetings.

Egypt, for the COP Presidency, highlighted the comprehensive and participatory process, and the impressive results of the meeting, and encouraged delegates to ensure the full engagement of relevant national ministries. He further emphasized, in addition to ambitious goals and targets, the need to provide the necessary means, financial and otherwise, to achieve the goals, and the mechanisms to monitor and review progress on implementation.

China, for the incoming COP Presidency, welcomed progress made during the meeting, expressing confidence that under the strong leadership of the Co-Chairs, an ambitious GBF will be developed for adoption in Kunming.

UNEP underscored the importance of engagement of stakeholders from various sectors, including business, education, women, youth, IPLCs, civil society, and UN entities.

FAO highlighted that a precondition for the success of the GBF is to bring onboard the production sectors in order to achieve conservation through sustainable use.   

IPLCs said the GBF should acknowledge the co-evolution of biological and cultural diversity.  

NGOs highlighted, inter alia,that: despite support for some NGO proposals, the meeting did not reach the level of ambition required; neither the CBD nor the GBF explicitly acknowledge the rights of peasants in spite of their role in producing 70% of food on 30% of the planet’s lands; and industrial food systems are a root cause of climate change and biodiversity loss.

The CBD Alliance rejected nature-based solutions, net-loss, and net-gain concepts, and called for clarifying the role of corporations in CBD processes.

The Global Youth Biodiversity Network said that the words of the GBF draft need to be brought to life in the coming eight months and that implementation is ultimately what will “make or break us.”

The CBD Women’s Caucus said it is time to move away from a focus on women’s vulnerability and instead focus on women as agents of change and biodiversity defenders.

IUCN said that the IUCN programme for the decade 2021-2030, to be adopted in Marseille in June 2020, offers a platform to document progress on the GBF, especially from non-state actors.

Sub-national governments said that participation by all levels of government is imperative if we are to achieve transformative change.

Co-Chairs van Havre and Ogwal thanked delegates and participants for the spirit of collaboration and hard work. They noted that they face a significant workload preparing for SBSTTA, SBI, and the third meeting of the working group, but stressed that they have a good mandate and a lot of guidance for their work. They gavelled the meeting to a close at 5:44 pm.

A Brief Analysis of the Meeting

As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

-- C.P. Cavafy, Ithaka, 1910

The path towards the post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF) resembles Ulysses’ efforts to return to Ithaka, which Homer depicted, more than 26 centuries ago, as the process involved in reaching a goal, in recovering something we’ve lost. Ithaka, albeit an island in Greece and Ulysses’ home, is not a place but a process, a journey in one’s life, a symbol of completion and value.

The GBF is the biodiversity community’s Ithaka. The process that, if successful, will set the foundations for recovering humanity’s lost connection with nature, reverting the negative trends of biodiversity loss, and ensuring that future generations will not have to face a planet irreversibly damaged by human activity.

This brief analysis will follow the path of the GBF’s development, focusing on main achievements of the second meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (WG) as well as highlighting obstacles ahead on the road to the Convention on Biological Diversity’s 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CBD COP 15), scheduled to be held in Kunming, China, in October 2020.

Charting the Journey

Following the first meeting of the WG in Nairobi, Kenya, the WG Co-Chairs produced a zero draft of the GBF, unveiled in January 2020, to guide deliberations. While most delegates recognized that the zero draft constitutes a good basis for discussion, the second meeting of the WG demonstrated that much work lies ahead to ensure a comprehensive, ambitious, and implementable framework that has everyone on board.

The development of the framework is by no means easy, with delegates using adjectives such as “monumental” and “colossal” to describe the task and the difficulties it entails. For most of the biodiversity community, this was no surprise. The efforts to develop an all-encompassing framework that includes, in addition to addressing direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss and rapid species’ extinction, a plethora of considerations, such as ecosystem health, nature’s contributions to people, human health, socio-economic concerns, trade concerns, human rights’ considerations, new technologies, indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), gender issues, intergenerational concerns, education, among others, is by definition an extremely daunting task.

In preparation for the voyage to deliver a comprehensive framework, the CBD has embarked on an unprecedented effort to collect and pull together the necessary building blocks through a multifaceted process. This journey also involves diverse stop-overs to provide information and expertise. These include three scheduled meetings of the WG, intersessional meetings of the Convention’s subsidiary bodies that are expected to provide the necessary scientific and technical recommendations, and many consultation meetings and other events, organized by the Secretariat and its partners as well as parties. Midway through the journey, trends have emerged. While the second meeting of the WG showed progress in the development of the GBF, it simultaneously revealed some of the main obstacles to its successful completion

Navigating Treacherous Waters

The format of the meeting, dividing the work in four contact groups, allowed for significant progress in the GBF’s development. Contact groups facilitated in depth, target-by-target discussion, which enabled a better understanding of different positions.

Numerous proposals were tabled during the contact group discussions, including inspiring phrases aimed at raising the level of ambition of the zero draft, and repackaging it to what some referred to as “a guide to transformative change.” The unique, open, and inclusive character of the Convention proved an invaluable ally in that respect, allowing intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as other relevant bodies, to contribute with concrete proposals. Many of those proposals attracted parties’ support and were included in the meeting’s report for further consideration, with many delegates noting that they contained essential elements for an ambitious GBF. In the words of a seasoned delegate, contributions from specialized bodies on issues under their remit “are meaningful and absolutely essential as these bodies have the means and capacity to not only inform the framework’s development, but, most importantly, to significantly contribute in its successful implementation.”

Most participants noted the general spirit of cooperation and collegiality that prevailed during the deliberations, which many perceived as necessary to achieve consensus on some of the more controversial issues. Throughout the meeting, a sense of humor was also often present in the contact groups, assisting in overcoming occasional tense moments as well as the general feeling of unease caused by fear of the rapidly spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) that has sparked worldwide concern.

Information events held in parallel to the WG meeting, in addition to consultation meetings organized by the Secretariat and its partners, as well as parties, on specific topics under discussion proved helpful in informing the framework, providing insights and new ideas for consideration. Many delegates underscored that such events, “are very useful in our race against time to develop a comprehensive and ambitious framework that has everybody on board.”

Laistrygonians, Cyclops, and Angry Poseidon

While the WG’s achievements should not be underestimated thus far, most participants seem to agree that significant challenges lie ahead, noting that successfully addressing those challenges will “make or break” the GBF. Many agreed that while delegates offered useful suggestions and clarified positions, there was limited negotiation. While this has been a tactic envisaged by the WG rather than a failure, it left many participants wondering whether there is sufficient time to tackle the controversial items under discussion during the upcoming meetings of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), and, ultimately, the third WG meeting, prior to the final showdown in Kunming.

Despite the collegial spirit, tensions were not absent in Rome. Brief exchanges of views on whether the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is under the remit of the Convention revealed differences that may spill over into future discussions, including, but not limited to, resource mobilization targets. Initial discussions on baselines, against which progress will be measured, also revealed parties’ different understandings and aspirations. In depth deliberations and, hopefully, resolution of these issues will have to wait for the WG’s third meeting. On the one hand, this is understandable due to the need to further inform consultations with scheduled input from scientific bodies and technical expert groups. But on the other hand, as one delegate noted, “These are not easy matters to resolve, time is not on our side, and, as things stand, there is no guarantee we will be able to successfully tackle them.”

The potential for further tensions in the near future is difficult to ignore. An information event, focusing on the results of the first global dialogue on digital sequence information (DSI) held in Pretoria, South Africa, in November 2019, revealed what many participants described as remarkable progress on a highly controversial and complex issue. In spite of this, a seasoned participant cautioned that progress in informal settings does not always translate into advancements in formal negotiations, reminding delegates that the global dialogue was held under Chatham House rules, leading to more open and frank discussions, but, at the same time, to limited accountability. Most delegates and participants engaged in the discussions agreed that the formal process to address DSI, with the relevant Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) meeting in March 2020 to inform the third meeting of the WG in July, simply does not allow sufficient time for a comprehensive analysis. They noted that, as things stand, considerable compromises may well be needed in Kunming to meaningfully include DSI in the GBF.

In addition to the projected input by the DSI AHTEG, substantive contributions are expected by SBSTTA 24 and SBI 3. SBSTTA 24 is expected to tackle scientific and technical questions, including baselines as well as numeric and percentage references in the GBF, while SBI 3 will provide implementation-related recommendations including resource mobilization. While these inputs are of paramount importance for successful negotiations, some participants expressed concerns on whether the subsidiary bodies will be able to “walk the talk.” They pointed to past criticism on the modus operandi of these bodies, noting they are often absorbed in political considerations, which, if repeated in the forthcoming sessions, may jeopardize the timely agreement on important elements of the GBF.

Always keep Ithaka in your mind. Arriving there is what you are destined for

The development of the GBF offers a unique window of opportunity for the biodiversity community. While everyone at the second meeting of the WG agreed on the urgency to address biodiversity loss and reverse the cycle of destruction, the real question is how to raise ambition and make biodiversity-related concerns more visible in the public sphere.

Delegates and observers alike stressed throughout the week and during their closing statements the importance of linking the GBF with other relevant conventions, bodies, and processes, including those outside the environmental realm. Mainstreaming biodiversity concerns throughout all productive sectors has been a central element for the CBD since the meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Cancún, Mexico, in 2016. Mainstreaming has been no easy task so far and, in the words of an observer, “vested interests in different sectors are not to be underestimated. Important elements of the framework, such as the elimination of subsidies harmful to biodiversity, will require the coordination and cooperation of different ministries, with delegates often underscoring the significance of a “whole-of-government” approach. Involving relevant ministries, including on agriculture and health, will be necessary for a realistic chance to achieve goals and targets outside the direct realm of parties’ environmental ministries.

In addition to a “whole-of-government” approach, delegates highlighted the need for a “whole-of-society” approach, saying that the biodiversity community cannot address, on its own, broader concerns. In that respect, participants stressed the importance of directly involving UN conventions, organizations, and bodies in the WG’s deliberations. These bodies offered useful insights on targets related to their respective mandates, significantly contributing to the framework. Even more importantly, as both delegates and representatives of the aforementioned entities stressed, directly engaging these conventions and bodies in the targets’ formulation allows for a sense of ownership, which is necessary for uptake and joint implementation.

Equally important, bodies outside the environmental realm, including but not limited to the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, were active in the discussions, offering useful insights on targets relevant to their work. An information session on the role of the financial and business sectors in implementing the GBF offered additional ideas on entry points for actively engaging the private sector, including a proposal for the creation of a multi-stakeholder advisory group on biodiversity, business, and finance. As a seasoned delegate noted, “Involving the private sector is a necessary condition for a comprehensive framework and can also go a long way in assisting implementation.”

Expressing cautious optimism for the upcoming GBF negotiations, one participant emphasized, “We need to abandon our trenches and be ready for compromises.” Archetypal dichotomies are still present in the deliberations, yet all sides agree on the need to be clear and succinct in future meetings, if they are to arrive at targets that are meaningful, easy to communicate, and ambitious. Nobody can accurately predict at this point in time whether this journey to Ithaka will be successful. The next eight months and the upcoming meetings will be decisive in that respect. Neither the time nor the complexity of the issues are allies in this effort. Yet, as they left Rome, delegates seemed to agree that two things are certain: the stakes are as high as they can get, and the world is watching.

Upcoming Meetings

CBD thematic consultation on capacity-building: The report of this thematic consultation will be made available to SBI 3 and the third meeting of the post-2020 Working Group. date: 1-2 March 2020  location: Rome, Italy www: https://www.cbd.int/meetings/POST2020-WS-2020-02

Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Digital Sequence Information: This expert group will make recommendations on how to address digital sequence information on genetic resources in the context of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. dates: 17-20 March 2020 location: Montreal, Canada www: https://www.cbd.int/meetings/DSI-AHTEG-2020-01

BBNJ IGC-4: This session will continue to negotiate a new agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea related to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, in particular, marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits, marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments and capacity building, and the transfer of marine technology. dates: 23 March - 3 April 2020  location: UN Headquarters, New York www: https://www.un.org/bbnj  

Second Consultation Workshop of Biodiversity-Related Conventions on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF): This workshop referred to as Bern II is a follow-up to the first workshop held in Bern, Switzerland, in June 2019, and will bring together secretariats and regional members of their governing bodies to enable dedicated consultations to achieve more concrete results in their contributions to the GBF. dates: 25-27 March 2020 location: Bern, Switzerland www: https://www.unenvironment.org/events/workshop/bern-2-consultation-workshop-biodiversity-related-conventions-post-2020-global

Thematic Consultation on the Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity for the GBF: This meeting is aimed at gathering experts from parties to the CBD to have a participatory and inclusive dialogue on various aspects of the sustainable use of biological diversity, potential concrete elements, and their place in the GBF. dates: 30 March-1 April 2020  location: Bern, Switzerland www: https://www.cbd.int/meetings/POST2020-WS-2020-04

Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Risk Assessment: This meeting will consider risk assessment and management under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. dates: 31 March - 3 April 2020  location: Montreal, Canada www: https://www.cbd.int/meetings/CP-RARM-AHTEG-2020-01

Workshop of Subnational, Regional and Local Governments on the GBF: This meeting will be held to discuss the contributions of subnational, regional and local governments to the development of the GBF. dates: 1-3 April 2020  location: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK  www: https://www.rbge.org.uk/science-and-conservation/workshop-for-sub-national-regional-and-local-governments-on-their-role-in-the-cbd-post-2020-framework

IPBES-IPCC Workshop on Biodiversity and Climate Change: This joint workshop will bring together 50 experts to explore the interlinkages between biodiversity and climate change and will be led by a scientific steering committee. The workshop will result in a report in advance of CBD COP 15 and UNFCCC COP 26, to inform the respective Convention processes. This workshop is being co-sponsored by IPBES and IPCC and hosted by the UK with additional support from Norway.  dates: 12-14 May 2020  location: London, UK  www: https://ipbes.net/node/36567

CBD SBSTTA 24: The 24th meeting of the SBSTTA will focus on scientific and technical matters in preparation for CBD COP 15 and the GBF. dates: 18-23 May 2020 location: Montreal, Canada www: https://www.cbd.int/meetings/SBSTTA-24

Third meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation: The third meeting of the SBI will focus on implementation in preparation for CBD COP 15. dates: 25-30 May 2020 location: Montreal, Canada www: https://www.cbd.int/meetings/SBI-03  

IUCN World Conservation Congress: The IUCN World Conservation Congress will bring together leaders and decision-makers from government, civil society, indigenous peoples, business, and academia, with the goal of conserving the environment and harnessing the solutions nature offers to global challenges. dates: 11-19 June 2020 location: Marseille, France  www: https://www.iucncongress2020.org

CITES AC/PC: Convening under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the thirty-first meeting of the CITES Animals Committee (AC31) and twenty-fifth meeting of the CITES Plants Committee (PC25) will hold separate sessions as well as a joint session. dates: 13-23 July 2020  location: Geneva, Switzerland  www: https://www.cites.org/sites/default/files/notif/E-Notif%202019-056.pdf

Third meeting of the CBD Working Group on the GBF: This meeting will develop a text of the GBF for consideration at CBD COP 15. dates: 27-31 July 2020 (tentative) location: Cali, Colombia www: https://www.cbd.int/conferences/post2020

Leader’s Biodiversity Summit: This meeting to be held on the margins of the opening of the UN General Assembly will provide political direction and build high-level support for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.  date: 20 September 2020 (to be confirmed)  location: UN Headquarters New York www: https://www.unenvironment.org/events/un-day/un-general-assembly-75-leaders-biodiversity-summit

CITES SC73: The seventy-third meeting of the CITES Standing Committee (SC73) will convene to provide policy guidance to the Secretariat concerning the implementation of the Convention and the management of the Secretariat’s budget. dates: 5-9 October 2020  location: Geneva, Switzerland  www: https://www.cites.org/sites/default/files/notif/E-Notif%202019-056.pdf

CBD COP 15, COP/MOP 10 to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and COP/MOP 4 to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing: The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the tenth Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP/MOP 10), and the fourth Meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (COP/MOP 4) are expected to address a series of issues related to implementation of the Convention and its Protocols, and adopt a post-2020 global biodiversity framework.  dates: 15-28 October 2020  location: Kunming, China  www: https://www.cbd.int/meetings/

For additional meetings, see http://sdg.iisd.org

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