A new global framework for Nature: how to make it thrive

By Jasmin Upton, 2020 Advocacy Coordinator, WWF-UK, and Clement Metivier, Policy Advisor, Biodiversity, WWF-UK

WWF
WWF
Sep 30 · 6 min read
Photograph of the Tambopata River from a drone. Peru. © Day’s Edge Productions / WWF-US

International talks on climate have largely overshadowed other meetings on environmental issues, such as on biodiversity. But things will change in 2020. Countries are indeed expected to adopt a new global framework for biodiversity, in order to protect and restore nature by 2030. To be successful, this framework will require robust implementation. Our proposal? An innovative mechanism to strengthen ambition and actions over time.

A quick reminder for any of you that have not watched or read the news lately: our world is facing a major and dangerous environmental crisis that affects our climate and our ecosystems*. This crisis is so pervasive that many scientists have signaled that we have entered a new geological era known as the Anthropocene, in which human activity has become the prevalent driver of change affecting our environment and the “Earth system” as a whole.

The science is clear: nature is now declining at an unprecedented rate in human history. If we continue with our business-as-usual habits of production and consumption, we face the breakdown of our natural ecosystems, the collapse of our food and water supplies, and the extinction of up to one million species within decades. We are facing a planetary emergency and need to react urgently not only to stop, but also reverse, the loss of nature. The picture may appear quite bleak at this point, but we still have a window of opportunity to act and mitigate the negative impacts that we have had on nature and on our planet. However, this window is closing fast.

In 2020, a series of critical decisions will be made on climate, nature, oceans and development. Political and economic decision-makers will have to provide strong commitments and translate those commitments into concrete actions. The challenge is massive, and we expect no less than a New Deal for Nature and People.

Among the critical decisions to be taken in 2020, countries are expected to adopt a new global framework for biodiversity. This framework, if everything goes well, will be agreed upon in China in October 2020 under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD).

The UN CBD came into force nearly 30 years ago, in 1993. It aims at protecting biodiversity — the abundance of life on Earth — while making sure that the services, resources, and benefits offered by nature are sustainably used and shared by countries.

In 2010, Parties to the UN CBD adopted a global strategy for biodiversity for the 2011–2020 period. This “Strategic Plan for Biodiversity” was structured around the principle of “Living in Harmony with Nature” and included a series of 20 targets to be met by 2020, entitled the Aichi Biodiversity targets. Sadly, recent reviews highlight that nearly all these targets will not be met by the 2020 deadline.

Countries have already started the difficult task of drafting this new framework for biodiversity to be adopted in 2020. In August, the UN CBD hosted country delegates and NGO representatives in Nairobi for the first open-ended working group on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. It was a great moment to kick off discussions on what should be included as part of the framework, on how it should be structured, and to agree on the next steps to be negotiated in the lead-up to October 2020.

The first meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework in Nairobi, August 2019. Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera

A big part of the future framework relies on adopting new goals and targets, to spur action against the decline of nature and put our ecosystems on the path to recovery in the next ten years. Robust goals and targets are great, and they could potentially guide transformative policies and contribute to tackling the biodiversity crisis. However, to be met, goals and targets must be carried out.

At WWF, we believe that the implementation part of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework is critical and should be given the attention it rightly deserves. Indeed, without sufficient implementation, the future framework would again suffer from the flaws that impeded the realisation of most of the Aichi targets.

What we need in 2020 is a comprehensive and balanced framework for biodiversity, a package that can both answer the question of where we need to be — in terms of vision, goals and targets — but also how to get there: the implementation.

To deliver on the vision, goals, and targets of this new biodiversity framework, we propose an implementation mechanism called the “pledge, review and ratchet” mechanism. This mechanism recognises that for the moment, plans and commitments to tackle the biodiversity crisis are not up to the challenge. They are indeed far from fulfilling the long-term vision of the UN CBD, which is “by 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people”. As a result, there is an implementation gap between current commitments and the long-term vision.

The “pledge, review and ratchet” mechanism should enable the gap to be closed. How? Thanks to a regular, cyclical process where the level of ambition of commitments and the concrete actions will be strengthened — or “ratcheted up”.

In the pledge phase of the mechanism, countries would put forward their national contributions. In most cases, this means their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs). Some might also submit additional biodiversity commitments. Obviously, it would be beneficial if countries start out with those plans after having adjusted them to the new biodiversity framework adopted next year at CBD COP15.

In the review phase of the mechanism, countries would monitor and communicate on how they implement their commitments. This phase could certainly build upon the existing national reporting process which requires countries to regularly update the UN CBD on their progress. Then, countries would collectively assess their progress and the potential implementation gap during a review called a “global stocktake”.

Once countries have collectively assessed how much progress they have made, and what remains to be done, they would have the opportunity to ratchet up their level of actions and ambition, which means strengthening their national commitments and the policy instruments and increase delivery towards the biodiversity targets.

This mechanism would repeat itself every four years. Each ratchet phase, which would include further pledges, would be followed by another stock take after two years and another ratchet after two years and so on, until the implementation gap is fully closed.

Stopping and reversing the ongoing loss of nature is a massive undertaking. We believe the “pledge, review, ratchet” mechanism could play a key role, to make the post-2020 global biodiversity framework an ambitious instrument that will effectively be implemented.

There is a sense of excitement in the air as we approach the “2020 Super Year”, a moment where, amongst other key decisions, countries must secure a bold and comprehensive global biodiversity framework. Will they seize the opportunity and bend the curve of biodiversity loss?

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References

*IPCC special Reports: IPCC (2018) Global Warming of 1.5C (https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/); IPCC (2019) Climate Change and Land (https://www.ipcc.ch/report/srccl/); IPCC (2019) The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (https://www.ipcc.ch/report/srocc/)

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