Nature and Biodiversity

COP15: What's next for historic deal to protect nature?

A landmark UN agreement to protect nature was agreed at COP15 in Montreal, December 2022.

A landmark UN agreement to protect nature was agreed at COP15 in Montreal, December 2022. Image: REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Katrin Eggenberger
Advisory Board Member, Pahl Peace Prize Foundation, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Culture of the Principality of Liechtenstein
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Climate and Nature

This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate

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  • A landmark UN agreement to protect nature was agreed at COP15 in Montreal, December 2022.
  • Involving Indigenous peoples and honouring financial commitments will be key to its success.
  • Biodiversity loss is one of the top five threats to the global economy, according to the World Economic Forum.

A historic agreement on nature conservation was reached at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15), in December 2022, in Montreal, Canada. Commitments under the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) guarantee the protection of at least 30% of nature on our planet by 2030.

The rights of Indigenous peoples and their contributions to the conservation of biodiversity are recognized and respected in the terms of the agreement, officially referred to as the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which aims to create economic prosperity for all, whilst ensuring that human life remains in balance and harmony with nature.

An important milestone to protect Earth

The GBF adopted at COP15 marks an important milestone in collaborative efforts to protect the Earth’s environment. By adopting this framework, participants provided a roadmap for the achievement of the CBD’s three main objectives: to conserve biological diversity; to calibrate sustainable consumption of the components of biological diversity; and to facilitate a fair and equitable distribution of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. In a significant breakthrough, participants committed to ensuring the protection of at least 30% of all land and oceans by 2030.

Urgent action needed to halt decline of nature

There has been a 68% decline in animal life on Earth since 1970. Research shows that biodiversity on Earth will suffer irreparable damage unless we find ways to preserve it; with 1 million species on Earth headed for extinction by 2050 if we remain on our current course.

Climate experts further warn that the entire world’s food supply is rendered insecure by loss of biodiversity. These, and other similar scientific projections on the loss of biodiversity, add a certain gravitas to the steps we take now to reverse damage to the environment, as they are literally essential for future human survival.

1 million species on Earth are headed for extinction by 2050 if we remain on our current course.

Katrin Eggenberger

With so many species at risk of extinction via the drop in biodiversity, all life on Earth is at serious risk. Scientists who studied the decline via the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are of the opinion that biodiversity is deteriorating at such a breathtaking rate that only the effective conservation of 30-50% of all global land and sea resources will be sufficient to ensure a sustainable life-supporting environment on Earth.

There has been a steady decline in the Earth's biodiversity since 1970. nature
There has been a steady decline in the Earth's biodiversity since 1970. Image: Visual Capitalist

Monica Medina, the US Special Envoy for Biodiversity and Water Resources, described the CBD’s adopted new framework as “a win for nature, biodiversity, and humanity” and added that “by conserving at least 30% of global lands, fresh water, and ocean by 2030 we are acting on what the science demands to address the precipitous decline in biodiversity worldwide.”

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Indigenous rights and financial commitments

The CBD strives to protect nature and its resources through a combination of conservation, restorative measures, and the transformation of industry; with an understanding that nature consists of more than plants, animals and biological ecosystems – it also comprises human needs like food, clean drinking water, shelter and a healthy environment.

Balancing the need for nature conservation with human‑centric considerations, the CBD seeks to achieve its aims through collaboration with Indigenous peoples, the original guardians of the land, and their historic contribution to nature conservation is explicitly recognized throughout.

Current financial commitments under the CBD guarantee funding of $30 billion from the developed world, and $5 billion from philanthropic organizations. This financial commitment of $35 billion is a prudent investment, especially when climate disaster's astronomic cost is dragged into the equation.

Hurricane Ian made landfall on the US coast on 28 September 2022. It brought winds in the region of 240kph, making it the fifth strongest hurricane in history and the second costliest climate disaster of its kind on record, with estimated insured losses of $50-65 billion. In this context, the financial commitment of $35 billion is forced into stark perspective. If the CBD’s conservation efforts can mitigate just a single climate disaster, it will likely more than compensate for the financial investment.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing about nature?

What are the benefits to the global economy?

The World Economic Forum considers loss of biodiversity one of the top five threats to the global economy. Destruction of natural bio-habitats leads to scarcity of clean water, loss of crop pollination, and a general decline in productivity, which means that protection of 30% of the bio-diverse nature on Earth will not only be good for the environment but will also benefit the economy.

The Waldron report, published by Cambridge University professor Anthony Waldron, in collaboration with 100 top economists, convincingly illustrates how the world economy would benefit from the protection of 30% of all land and sea by 2030. The report provides statistical confirmation that the benefits of achieving the 30% protection target will outweigh the costs by a ratio of at least 5:1, and it offers new evidence that effective nature conservation drives increased economic growth, delivers crucial non-monetary benefits, and contributes to a more resilient global economy in the final analysis.

Cost and benefit analysis of 30% nature protection. Source: Waldron report.
Cost and benefit analysis of 30% nature protection. Image: Waldron Report

Climate crisis requires continuous evaluation

As the climate heads for a temperature rise greater than 1.5°C by the end of the 21st century it is appropriate to ask the question: are our current efforts sufficient to prevent catastrophic climate change from destroying our planet? This is not to take away from the historic or dynamic nature of the COP15 agreement – which is a real game-changer and a perfectly valid reason for optimism – but simply a reminder that continuous evaluation of real progress is required.

This is not an exercise. We are way beyond the point of theory in our battle against extreme weather. The progressively more destructive nature of climate disasters serves as an urgent warning to all concerned that we need real, workable solutions if we are to leave our children any inhabitable planet at all.

The GBF demands accelerated financial contributions from all parties involved to realize its conservationist goals for 2030 and beyond. The good news is that there has been an encouraging response to this escalating need. The US, during COP15, committed its largest-ever pledge to the Global Environment Facility and increased its spending on biodiversity foreign assistance by 20%, with other developed countries expected to follow suit.

The COP15 agreement for nature lays a good foundation for the preservation of biodiversity on Earth, but much remains to be done. Commitments under the CBD need to be expanded, to ensure realistic financial resources for the protection of biodiversity on Earth.

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