The first draft of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

Introduction

At the third meeting in August-September of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework under the umbrella of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) , the first draft of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was presented. This draft thus constitutes the first attempt to combine all relevant issues for the successful halt of biodiversity loss and to achieve the CBD’s vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050. It builds on the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and has been under development for two years. The Strategic Plan stood out especially because of the so-called Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which were set to halt biodiversity loss by 2020. The 20 Aichi Targets were subdivided into five strategic goals:

  • Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
  • Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use 
  • Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity 
  • Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services 
  • Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building

Unfortunately, neither these goals nor the 20 targets themselves have been achieved. As a consequence, a new instrument is warranted to halt the loss of biodiversity.

In this post, I briefly summarise the post-2020 GBF in order to make it better understandable. In another post, I will deal with the role of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC) as stakeholders in biodiversity conservation in the post-2020 GBF. It must be borne in mind though that this is not the final version of the GBF, but rather deals with a first draft. The final version will be determined at the second, in-person part COP15 of the CBD in Kunming, China, in April-May 2022.

The purpose and set-up of the post-2020 GBF

As mentioned above, the ultimate purpose of the post-2020 GBF is to reach a living in harmony with nature by 2050. The GBF is a very comprehensive document which aims to include all elements of society, including indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLC), business, civil society and, of course, national governments. Rather than approaching biodiversity conservation in a top-down manner, the GBF’s transformative action-approach is to be achieved primarily on the national level with additional support from subnational, regional and global levels.

Since the GBF was adopted under the aegis of the CBD, it is not surprising that one of its main purposes is to implement and realise the goals of the CBD and its protocols. Moreover, however, the document also clearly states that the GBF should also serve as a tool also for other multilateral biodiversity agreements, processes and instruments. It is therefore not a stand-alone framework, but rather a global blueprint for the (potentially) successful implementation of the Biodiversity Convention.

The entire post-2020 GBF is built around a theory of change. This means that it is aspired that all elements of Government and society need to internalise the value of nature and the cost of inaction and that economic, social and financial models are adjusted in such a way that by 2030 the drivers of biodiversity loss have been tackled in so far as the situation stabilises and, then, by 2050 have allowed the natural systems to recover fully. In order to do so, transformative actions are taken to:

  • put in place tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming
  • reduce the threats to biodiversity, and
  • ensure that biodiversity is used sustainably in order to meet people’s needs and that these actions are supported by enabling conditions, and adequate means of implementation, including financial resources, capacity and technology.

Importantly, the theory of change is explicitly taking into account gender equality, women’s empowerment, youth, gender-responsive approaches and the full and effective participation of IPLCs. It is to take a rights-based approach and aims to fully take into account the principle of intergenerational equity.

Theory of change of the framework, taken from CBD/WG2020/3/3, p. 4.

The main bulk of the work thus rests on governments and societies during the years up until 2030. Whether such a transformative change in such a short period of time is in fact realistic remains to be seen. After all, the current status of the COVID-19 epidemic causes significantly more direct problems for many citizens than long-term concerns for the environment.

21 goals until 2030

The post-2020 GBF presents 21 concrete action targets for the decade up to 2021 and it is emphasised that the actions need to be implemented immediately in order to be completed by 2030. These targets are subdivided into three sections:

  • Targets 1-8 run under the header ‘Reducing threats to biodiversity’ and contain targets such conservation through protected areas (the 30×30 goal), the sustainable, legal, and safe harvesting and trade of wildlife, or the reduction or eradication of invasive species.
  • Targets 9-13 run under the header ‘Meeting people’s needs through sustainable use and benefit-sharing’. These contain targets such as ensuring benefits for people through the sustainable management of terrestrial, freshwater and marine species, maintaining and enhancing the contribution of the environment in preventing hazards and extreme events, or access to genetic resources including benefit-sharing.
  • Targets 14-12 run under the header ‘Tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming’. Here, biodiversity values are to be integrated into all levels of government and economy, all businesses are to assess and report on their impacts on biodiversity, finances for developing countries are to be increased to at least 100 billion USD, or IPLCs are to be integrated into the decision-making process respecting their traditional rights over lands, territories and resources.

The targets are indeed ambitious while being kept rather vague. As such, it would remain rather difficult to imagine how especially developing countries would be able to implement them and how small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) would be able to deal with costs that would inevitably arise when strengthening biodiversity values. After all, a cleaner production means higher costs – either in production or in mitigation. To this end, the post-2020 GBF contains another section that provides for ‘Implementation support mechanisms’.

Implementation support mechanisms

Since implementation of the post-2020 GBF is costly, politically sensitive and inherently complex due to the need to re-structure and adjust existing social and economic systems, the drafters of the GBF have included ‘Implementation support mechanisms’, subdivided into ‘Enabling condition’, ‘Responsibility and transparency’ and ‘Outreach, awareness and uptake’. With my brief points above, it is, in my view, especially the section ‘Enabling conditions’ which is of utter relevance. Yet, here, the GBF in essence echoes its own purpose by noting that it “requires integrative governance and whole-of-governance approaches”, a “participatory and whole-of-society approach that engages actors beyond national Governments”, “integration with relevant multilateral environmental agreements” and “ensuring greater gender equality and empowerment of women” (page 8).

Quite obviously, the ‘enabling conditions’ cannot be understood as an actual tool box for the effective implementation of the post-2020 GBF. Instead, they are to be understood as preconditions to make this happen, but the question of how countries, businesses and others are to go about making these goals a reality remains in the dark.

In the subsection ‘Responsibility and transparency’ the GBF stresses the importance of planning, monitoring, reporting and review by the parties to the convention in order to allow for timely course corrections and to provide concrete input for the “next” global biodiversity framework. Whether this means the current one or the framework post-2050 remains unclear. This said, parties to the convention should therefore establish national targets, action plans and strategies report on these and evaluate them while linking them with global targets.

Lastly, the section ‘Outreach, awareness and uptake’ underlines the importance of the integration of biodiversity values into all sectors of society. Very broadly, therefore, three points are raised:

  • Increasing understanding, awareness and appreciation of the values of biodiversity, including the associated knowledge, values and approaches used by indigenous peoples and local communities;
  • Raising awareness of all actors of the existence of the goals and targets of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and progress made towards their achievement;
  • Promoting or developing platforms and partnerships, including with media and civil society, to share information on successes, lessons learned and experiences in acting for biodiversity.

The framework thus ends with seemingly some guidance as to how to implement the 21 goals until 2030 and then how to proceed from there. Upon closer look, however, it remains utterly vague and consequently significantly more detailed work is necessary to implement the GBF – if it is being accepted in the present form.

Conclusion

The post-2020 GBF is a very ambitious document which places biodiversity conservation and restoration at the very heart of all sectors of society. The 21 goals that lead to the second phase post-2030 are multifaceted and diverse, reflecting on the way biodiversity values can inform multiple modes of action. However, the wording of the framework is broad at best. For instance, looking at Target 16, it is unclear what a ‘responsible choice’ in regard to reduction of waste and taking into account cultural preferences.

The document furthermore provides only very little guidance as to the way the goals are to be implemented. While it provides for ‘Implementation support mechanisms’ these are more than blurry and essentially reflect the broad wording of the paragraphs before. In order to find concrete steps and provide guidance for businesses, organisations and governments, the work of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of the CBD becomes ever more important. Otherwise, operationalising the post-2020 GBF will become a futile task.

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