Why the little known Montreal meet is a vital stepping stone to success of the China COP.

By Lin Li Director, Global Policy & Advocacy, WWF International.

Nov 25 · 6 min read
© James Morgan / WWF-US

This week, between the 25–29 November, Montreal hosts the 23rd meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) in the lead up to the next Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Conference of Parties (COP)15.

That’s a lot of acronyms to swallow at once, but they are important ones — this meeting in Canada will see government officials from around the world get together to formally discuss the next decade’s goals and targets in a bid to address the current biodiversity crisis.

The reality is that nature is in the red and we can no longer wait for action. Nature is the lifeline for the 7.6 billion people inhabiting planet earth, providing the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. It underpins our well-being, and that of our societies and economies, and is critical to achieving a majority of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But, it is in crisis. According to WWF’s Living Planet Report, vertebrate species have declined by 60% on average since 1970, as a result of human activities.

The relationship between people and our planet is dangerously unbalanced. We are seeing increasing evidence of this through environmental changes such as loss of ecosystems, collapse of fisheries leading to poverty, extinction of species caused by deforestation — much of the impact is more subtle, but no less dangerous, and it is happening as we speak.

© Frederick J. Weyerhaeuser / WWF

In 2020 we have an unmissable opportunity to chart a new course: world leaders can deliver the change required to safeguard the future for people and all life on earth, through a set of critical decisions on nature, climate and development that has as a major moment at the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) COP15 in Kunming, China at the end of 2020, which this week’s SBSTTA meeting feeds into.

At this CBD COP15, we need to see a post-2020 global biodiversity framework agreed that will reverse the unprecedented and catastrophic loss of nature. This framework should ensure all countries and stakeholders, at the highest level, agree on where we need to be in 2030 (through agreed goals and targets), how we will get there (a robust implementation mechanism, stakeholder and sector engagement and actions) and with what resources (resource mobilization and redirection and alignment of financial flows towards a pathway to reverse biodiversity loss).

Parties must unite on a mission and apex target to not just halt nature loss, but bend the current curve and put nature on the path to recovery by 2030. Late action or lower ambition would dramatically fall short of what science tells us is needed, and will inevitably necessitate more dramatic and costly action in the not so distant future.

© Michel Gunther / WWF

In addition, the post-2020 global biodiversity framework to be agreed at CBD COP15 should be built on three goals, to be achieved by 2030, on conservation, sustainability and equity underpinned by targets that would encourage key transformative actions to address all the direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss.

Ensuring zero natural habitat loss and zero human induced extinctions of species by 2030 are both essential for goal one — conservation. This will require targets on effectively protecting at least 30 percent of land, inland waters and oceans. In addition, Indigenous People’s rights must be recognized and respected, and commitments need to be made to restore half of degraded ecosystems, halt the loss of intact places and stop species populations declines and overexploitation.

For the second goal related to sustainability, we need to halve the negative footprint of production and consumption — this is absolutely critical to address both direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss and ensure actions in key productive sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, forestry, infrastructure, and extractives. A final goal is equally important — ensuring that biodiversity benefits are secured and shared equitably.

This post-2020 global biodiversity framework must include these key goals and targets as well as clear commitments. Furthermore it must also allow for increasing of ambition and action over time. The current framework, the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, has not done enough to stem nature loss and therefore we need a much stronger implementation mechanism. We need to build on the lessons of failure, which is why an approach to implementation that encourages countries to nominate the actions they will undertake, while collectively holding each other accountable to reaching the ambitious conservation targets that will be set is so important. This needs to be core to the current negotiations and not become a mere afterthought.

© WWF-Brazil / Zig Koch

It should address financial flows, resource mobilization and mechanisms to engage and secure action by all key stakeholders and sectors to ensure that these goals will be achieved as critical milestones towards a thriving planet where we are living in harmony with nature by 2050. There is no time for delay — the longer we wait, the greater the damage (including to the gains that countries have made through economic development over the past decades) and the greater the loss and the more expensive the recovery will be. Without these actions, we will not reverse nature loss.

This ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework is a critical part of a New Deal for Nature and People that WWF is calling for next year — to integrate efforts to tackle climate change, biodiversity declines, threats to the environment as well as to sustainable development.

Therefore there is an urgent message from WWF for this year’s SBSTTA meeting — an important stepping stone to the CBD COP15 in China: commitment is required at the highest political level and by all actors and parts of society to deliver the transformative change that is required by 2020. If this meeting is to be successful it needs to set the right basis for an ambitious mission, goals and targets to be agreed in 2020.

© James Suter / Black Bean Productions / WWF-US

The CBD COP15 is a once in a decade meeting which will be a critical moment for environmental decision making as 196 parties come together. A plan and mission to reverse biodiversity loss is desperately needed so we hope that the meetings in Montreal this week will represent a further step toward action to help nature thrive.

Most importantly it must make sure that an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework with strong implementation and accountability mechanisms will be delivered at the CBD COP15 for the benefit of nature and people — after all we have a moral responsibility too. The world is watching to see how we come together to stabilize and help our planet to thrive for generations to come.


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Building a #future in which #humans live in harmony with #nature.

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