Lessons from Paris: global biodiversity framework must engage business, grow finance

Decisions taken this year will set the course for nature, climate and development for a decade. We consider some key lessons from the UNFCCC climate change journey so far, and how they might help strengthen the global biodiversity framework being finalised in October.

Ebony Holland's picture Paul Steele's picture
Insight by 
Ebony Holland
Paul Steele
Ebony Holland is a senior researcher in IIED's Natural Resources and Climate Change groups, and Paul Steele is IIED's chief economist
11 May 2021
The 2021 'super year' for climate, nature and people
A series of blogs and interviews raising awareness and action on the interlinkages between climate, nature and people throughout 2021's key global milestones
Cattle drinking water from a lake

Biodiversity loss, climate change and rising inequality are the major crises we need to address in this 'super year' (Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Biodiversity loss is a major and escalating challenge. It’s not just scientists and ecologists that are worried – businesspeople and economists are too. In 2021, the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked biodiversity loss as a global ‘existential threat’, alongside weapons of mass destruction and state collapse.

Another WEF report (PDF) found that US$44 trillion of economic value generation – over half the world’s total GDP – is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services. These same services (which include food, clean water, flood protection and climate regulation) are also critical for our survival.

And biodiversity loss is not the only crisis we face. The Leaders' Pledge for Nature, signed by more than 80 governments and 70 non-state organisations, names multiple, interlinked threats, including climate change, rising inequality and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The stakes in this 'super year' for climate and nature could not be higher.

A major chance for change

The 15th Convention of Parties (COP15) for the Convention on Biological Diversity will meet this October in Kunming, China. There, 196 countries will finalise the post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF) and reset the foundations for collective action on biodiversity over the coming decade.

The need to land a strong framework cannot be overstated, not least because none of the 2011-20 biodiversity targets were met.

Learning from climate contemporaries

The climate change agenda is ahead of biodiversity in many ways. So, in a new IIED briefing paper we consider what negotiators at Kunming might learn from the 2015 Paris Agreement to help them to achieve a strong and workable global framework for biodiversity.

Two lessons are prominent: scaling up biodiversity finance and engaging business.

Lesson 1: close the financing gap

We must urgently scale up public finance for biodiversity conservation. The 2019 spend on biodiversity was between $124 billion and $143 billion per year, against a total estimated annual need of between $722 billion and $967 billion.

A 2020 report by the Panel of Experts on Resource Mobilisation (PDF) outlined the importance of closing the biodiversity financing gap at ‘both ends’: by scaling up pro-biodiversity finance and scaling back finance that is harmful.

So how can the new global biodiversity framework help us bridge the gap? Lessons from the Paris Agreement, including drawing on the broad climate finance architecture, suggest three practical steps:

  1. Developed countries to commit to strong biodiversity finance targets in the GBF, similar to the $100bn per year climate finance goal agreed in Paris
  2. Governments need to eliminate, reform and re-purpose biodiversity-damaging subsidies, comparable to countries seeking to reduce fossil fuel subsidies to meet climate mitigation goals, and
  3. Governments must mainstream biodiversity across all types of public financing, mirroring efforts to align finance to the Paris Agreement.

Placing the three steps above at the core of resource mobilisation discussions in Kunming will go a long way to addressing both ends of the financing gap.

Lesson 2: get down to business

Stronger engagement from business is critical, both to help reverse their contribution to the drivers of biodiversity loss and to deliver increased investment, resources, skills, technology and innovation towards tackling the problems.

While business has been slow to engage, leaders are now showing greater willingness to lean in. For example, a growing number of businesses support the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, and more than 1,200 businesses have committed to taking action through the Business for Nature initiative.

Business engagement with climate change and the UNFCCC process has helped tip the scales towards stronger climate action and placed pressure on governments to commit to more ambitious climate targets. We propose two approaches that could deliver similarly powerful business engagement and outcomes for biodiversity:

  1. Business embeds biodiversity into risk management processes and publishes transparent disclosures of biodiversity risks and impacts across its full supply chain, similar to climate risk disclosure efforts aligned to the Paris Agreement, and
  2. Business commits to being 'Kumming-compliant' and mainstreams the goals of the GBF across policies, programmes and operations, parallel to efforts by some businesses to align with the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals

Commitments to biodiversity risk disclosure and mainstreaming are likely to be well received by governments and civil society, just as Paris-aligned commitments have been. Again, early movers will be considered the leaders.

Governments must support efforts from business by providing national-level data, endorsing consistent approaches to disclosure and mainstreaming, and considering potential regulatory processes to enable even stronger action.

Aligning climate and biodiversity pathways

Alongside further exploration of the lessons described above, there is much more thinking that should be drawn from the climate change journey to inform the new global biodiversity framework. We can’t afford not to learn from our climate-focused colleagues: a flawed GBF means another lost decade.

For example, we must replicate commitments towards transparency and accountability, as well as match the climate agenda’s recognition that the representation of women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, local communities and social movements is instrumental to driving strong action.

Taking lessons from the climate change journey could create a step-change in how we tackle biodiversity; it could also help to better align climate and biodiversity frameworks to deliver coherently on their goals.

Landing a strong GBF this year is critical. If there were ever a year to go big – to drive stronger ambition for biodiversity, strengthen synergies with climate action and deliver for marginalised people – this is it.