28 July 2020
Re-imagining the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework in the COVID-19 Era
Photo by Ryk Porras on Unsplash
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Recovery offers an opportunity for communities to integrate biodiversity into policies to strengthen resilience and human development.

This policy brief provides an overview of the deliberations on the post-2020 framework, outlines expectations for the Biodiversity Summit, and points to a series of challenges and opportunities for biodiversity governance arising from the extraordinary circumstances linked to the pandemic.

The High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) concluded its 2020 virtual meeting amidst the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on livelihoods worldwide. Speakers at the HLPF echoed calls we have heard since the start of the pandemic: to recognize the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the poor and disadvantaged and to address inequalities and build a greener economy. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and partners have emphasized that nature-based solutions can and should have a central role to play in these global recovery efforts. Recovery offers an opportunity for communities to integrate biodiversity into policies to strengthen resilience and human development.

On the road to the 2020 UN Biodiversity Conference (the 15th meeting of the CBD Conference of the Parties and associated meetings of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing) – now rescheduled for May 2021 – deliberations on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework continue in the form of online consultations and webinars. The UN Biodiversity Conference will be preceded by the Biodiversity Summit, scheduled to be held during the general debate of the UN General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York.

This policy brief provides an overview of the deliberations on the post-2020 framework, on the basis of webinars and updates provided by the Co-Chairs of the Working Group Francis Ogwal (Uganda) and Basile van Havre (Canada). It then outlines expectations for the Biodiversity Summit. It finally points to a series of challenges and opportunities for biodiversity governance arising from the extraordinary circumstances linked to the pandemic.

Deliberations on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

The second meeting of the Working Group for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, held in February 2020 in Rome, Italy, was the last opportunity for participants to meet face-to-face. Since then, amidst global restrictions on international travel and large physical gatherings, all negotiating sessions have been postponed and rescheduled. With the UN Biodiversity Conference currently scheduled for May 2021, the 24th session of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA-24)  and the third session of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI-3) are now planned to take place in November 2020. In addition, a thematic workshop on sustainable use of biodiversity for the post-2020 framework will be held virtually. The dates for the third meeting of the Working Group are yet to be determined.

During the second meeting of the Working Group, participants addressed the zero draft of the post-2020 framework, which had been prepared on the basis of the Working Group’s first meeting and a series of additional consultation meetings. The introduction to the zero draft recognizes that urgent policy action globally, regionally, and nationally is required to transform economic, social, and financial models so the trends that have exacerbated biodiversity loss will stabilize by 2030 and allow for the recovery of natural ecosystems, with net improvements by 2050 to achieve the Convention’s vision of “living in harmony with nature by 2050.”

The zero draft applies a “theory of change” approach, which requires transformative actions to put in place tools and solutions for implementation, mainstreaming of biodiversity into productive sectors and, eventually, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Such transformative actions should be supported by enabling conditions and adequate means of implementation, including financial resources, capacity, and technology. This approach also assumes that progress is monitored in a transparent and accountable manner with adequate stocktaking exercises. It further acknowledges the need for appropriate recognition of women’s empowerment and the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in implementation. Its implementation would require partnership with many organizations at the global, national, and local levels, and a rights-based approach.

The draft includes five long-term goals for 2050, related to: ecosystem integrity and resilience; species conservation; genetic diversity; nature’s benefits to people contributing to improved nutrition, access to water, resilience to natural disasters, and achieving the targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change; and fair and equitable benefit-sharing from the use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge. Its 2030 Mission is to take urgent action across society to put biodiversity on a path to recovery for the benefit of planet and people. The draft includes 20 action-oriented targets for 2030, organized in clusters on: reducing threats to biodiversity; meeting people’s needs through sustainable use and benefit-sharing; and tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming.

In preparation for SBSTTA-24 deliberations on the post-2020 framework, the Co-Chairs hosted a round of webinars to accommodate different time zones, in close collaboration with SBSTTA Chair Hesiquio Benitez (Mexico) and the CBD Secretariat. A similar round of webinars is expected to be held in conjunction with the SBI-3 agenda.

In their detailed presentation, the Co-Chairs provided an overview of the post-2020 process and their expectations for SBSTTA-24 deliberations on the post-2020 framework. Draft 1.0 will be circulated in time to be addressed at the third meeting of the Working Group, to reflect outcomes from the first two meetings, as well as deliberations at the Working Group on Article 8(j) (traditional knowledge), SBSTTA-23 and 24, SBI-3, and other consultations of relevance. Participation in the webinars was very broad, and revealed stakeholders’ expectations to align all CBD processes and aim for integrated discussions on issues of relevance to the post-2020 framework. At the same time, the Co-Chairs clarified that, while SBSTTA will play a critical role in the post-2020 process, the actual negotiations will take place in the Working Group. SBSTTA will focus on a scientific and technical review, with attention to the goals and targets, indicators, available baseline, and linkages to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SBI will address implementation support mechanisms and enabling conditions, as well as issues related to responsibility and transparency, and outreach and awareness.

On the Road to the Biodiversity Summit

Organized on the margins of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, the Biodiversity Summit aims to generate political will and promote recognition of the urgent need to halt biodiversity loss at the highest political level. It will provide an opportunity for decision makers and stakeholders to give momentum to the development and adoption of the post-2020 framework at the UN Biodiversity Conference and demonstrate ambition to accelerate action on biodiversity for sustainable development, regarding both the goals and targets of the post-2020 framework and the means for implementation and review mechanisms. 

This Summit, which will take place on 30 September 2020 in a virtual format, will be held on the basis of General Assembly Resolution 74/269 under the overall theme “Urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development.” It is expected to consist of a plenary segment for general discussion and two leaders’ dialogues. The dialogues will focus on: addressing biodiversity loss and mainstreaming biodiversity for sustainable development; and harnessing science, technology and innovation, capacity-building, access and benefit-sharing, financing and partnerships for biodiversity.

Biodiversity Governance Post COVID-19

As the international community considers how to adapt to the new reality, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has stated that, “We simply cannot return to where we were before COVID-19 struck, with societies unnecessarily vulnerable to crisis. … Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and other global challenges. The recovery must lead to a different economy. Our roadmap remains the 2030 agenda and sustainable development goals.”

At the same time, scientists have become more vocal on the role of biodiversity in building resilience, and protecting against the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases, with research even indicating a strong link between biodiversity loss and economic inequality. While the linkages between biodiversity and health are on the SBSTTA agenda and will certainly attract significant attention at the Biodiversity Conference, CBD Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, with colleagues from WWF and the World Health Organization, have recently highlighted that, “our destructive behaviour towards nature is endangering our own health – a stark reality we’ve been collectively ignoring for decades … Rebalancing our relationship with nature will require concerted effort and determination.”

For the time being however, acts of international solidarity have been rare. On the contrary, responses to the pandemic have often indicated nationalism, while emergency measures in the name of public health have given rise to serious human rights concerns. Whether the international community will take both the pandemic and the SDGs seriously, and engage in finding multilateral solutions via international collaboration rather than competition, remains to be seen.

Elsa Tsioumani, Ph.D., SDG Knowledge Hub Thematic Expert on Biodiversity, authored this policy brief.


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