U.N. Action Needed to Secure New Agreement for Nature

Ambition, consensus, and biodiversity financing vital to success at December meeting

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U.N. Action Needed to Secure New Agreement for Nature
Climate change-driven events around the world continue to reinforce the value of nature-based solutions for adaptation, mitigation, and resilience.
Climate change-driven events around the world continue to reinforce the value of nature-based solutions for adaptation, mitigation, and resilience.
Karl Magnuson

Earth’s climate and nature are facing what the United Nations has called twin “crises” that will not be resolved without urgent action from policymakers around the world. The good news is that over the past four years, the United Nations has been negotiating the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, a plan to achieve a “world living in harmony with nature” by 2050. Now, following years of delays, nations are in the final few months of discussions before their expected adoption of the framework at the 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in Montreal from 7 to 19 December.

The current draft of the plan is built around 22 targets for urgent action, to be met by 2030, and four longer-term overarching goals, some through 2050. The framework text was most recently negotiated in June at a six-day meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. Many of the CBD’s 196 member countries attended the week-long meeting, but they made only limited progress. Instead of resolving their differences on the text, many negotiators recommended new language and rejected compromise, in the end fully agreeing on wording for only one target.

The Nairobi negotiations highlighted the areas that will require significant work over the next few months to achieve a successful framework, including the need to secure political consensus on the text, close the biodiversity financing gap, maintain political ambition nationally, and ensure countries follow through on their commitments.

In particular, CBD negotiators must address the estimated $700 billion annual financing gap between what’s needed to sufficiently protect global biodiversity and what’s available. This was a lesson learned when the CBD agreed on the Aichi targets in 2010—comprising 20 targets for protecting and conserving natural systems by 2020. Unfortunately, most of the targets have not been reached, in part because nations did not consider resource allocation and funding until after they adopted the targets, a mistake the global community cannot afford to repeat.

Fortunately, CBD delegates have a path forward to address the current challenge of resource mobilization for the 2030 targets. Non-governmental organizations, the philanthropic community, champion governments and local leaders and communities have brought several solutions to the table to benefit people and nature.

For example, the new Enduring Earth partnership aims to protect half a billion hectares by 2030, working with at least 20 nations and mobilizing nearly $4 billion in new funding to do so. And a new coalition, Connect to Protect, plans to invest more than $150 million in public and private financing over the next five years to support a transboundary marine conservation area that spans Colombian, Costa Rican, Ecuadoran and Panamanian waters, safeguarding an area larger than Spain in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Although there have been significant public and private commitments to invest in nature, success in Montreal is dependent on the collective action of governments.

Financing a new CBD agreement to secure a healthy planet will also be a key topic of discussion at the upcoming 77th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, from 13 to 27 September. There will be regional consultations on the draft text, intersessional work by an informal group of nations, and possibly an annotated and simplified global biodiversity framework for ministers to review prior to the nature summit in December.

As the steady drumbeat of climate and nature warnings shows, humankind must act swiftly to address the challenges before us or else face an increasingly challenging future. Negotiators at both the General Assembly and CBD meetings must recognize this urgency and work towards consensus and a framework that safeguards nature and people for generations to come.

Masha Kalinina coordinates The Pew Charitable Trusts’ cross-campaign efforts with the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

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