Nature loss is accelerating globally at an unprecedented rate. In the past 50 years, populations of species across the planet have dropped by 69% on average, with declines reaching as high as 94% in Latin America. Humans have significantly altered 75% of land area, 85% of wetland areas and nearly 90% of fish stocks are exploited or depleted. The scale and pace of this decline have led scientists to warn that humans are the cause of the largest extinction event since the dinosaurs. This raises significant risks for economies and society. Over half the world’s total GDP is dependent on nature, creating an inextricable economic link between nature and capital markets.
This is the backdrop for the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – referred to as COP15 – beginning this week in Montreal. The CBD is focused on supporting global action to protect and conserve nature. Originally scheduled for 2020, COP15 was delayed two years due to the pandemic, adding pressure and urgency for a global biodiversity framework. There is hope that the resulting decisions from COP15 will positively impact the future of life across the planet and accelerate our collective efforts to protect and restore nature.
What is the objective of COP15?
The primary objective of COP15 is to finalize and adopt the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). The purpose of the framework is to provide a global set of nature-related goals and targets to support the CBD’s vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050.
Negotiations took place in 2021 on the draft framework, which will be negotiated, finalized and, if agreed upon, adopted by participating nations. It includes 2050 goals, 2030 milestones, and action targets that align with calls from scientists and pledges from governments to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. Currently, these action targets focus on:
Protecting biodiversity (e.g., ensure at least 20 percent of degraded ecosystems are under restoration)
Benefit-sharing (e.g., increase the area of, access to, and benefits from green and blue spaces in densely populated areas)
Implementation (e.g., ensure equitable and effective participation in biodiversity decision-making)
Indigenous and local community leaders who attend CBD meetings have created the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB). The forum aims to ensure that Indigenous rights to knowledge and resources are respected, participants in the forum will receive capacity building and technical support for their work.
Implications for business
The final framework is expected to become the yardsticks against which countries and companies measure their success in restoring nature. COP15 will likely spark a wave of commitments from governments, businesses and industry groups to align with CBD’s vision of living in harmony with nature. These may include nature-positive goals and commitments to halt or reverse nature loss by 2030.
Assessing nature-related impacts
Impacts on nature are complex, localized and often interrelated, requiring a variety of indicators and targets. Measuring and setting nature-related targets is relatively new, and there are still limited resources and best practices to guide efforts. Fortunately, global frameworks are emerging on how to measure nature-related impacts. Reporting expectations will most likely centre around the Taskforce on Nature-related Disclosures (TNFD), which has released a set of draft recommendations and is expected to be finalized in September 2023.
We recommend taking the following initial steps to begin identifying and assessing your impact on nature:
Start the conversation internally: begin discussions with decision-makers, sustainability teams, executives and Board members about nature. Flag the growing importance of this topic, educate on key concepts and review your ESG strategy to see if/how nature is currently addressed
Inventory your existing nature-related practices: you may already have actions, processes and metrics in place related to nature impacts. Use TNFD as a framework to evaluate what you are already doing (e.g., measuring habitat removal) and to detect gaps (e.g., identification of nature-related risks)
Evaluate how your business interacts with nature: to understand nature-related impacts, dependencies, risks and opportunities, you must first understand how your organization interacts with nature. Consider where your operations are located and how those operations interact with nature (e.g., resource use, land change, pollution) and identify the dependencies, impacts, risks and opportunities (e.g., knowing you withdraw freshwater from a water-stressed region allows you evaluate dependencies, impacts, risks and opportunities related to that aspect of your business)
Measure impact and advance practice: once you understand your businesses relationship to nature you can advance to more complex activities such as nature-related scenario analysis, measuring impacts and setting targets. Targets are not well defined at this stage, but will be informed by global initiatives like the GBF and the Science Based Targets Network
If you are planning on attending and would like to connect at COP15, reach out to Geoff Fudurich who will be attending on behalf of Q+P as part of the Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI) delegation.
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