From the pyramids to the Great Wall: the biodiversity convention at a crossroads

While biodiversity loss continues, the world has two years to negotiate the future global framework to succeed the current UN "strategic plan" for biodiversity (2011-2020). This framework should make it possible to renew the objectives of the international community and, above all, lay the foundations for a new functioning of international biodiversity governance. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the main arena where these discussions are taking place: its COP14, to be held from 17 to 29 November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, will see the launch of the process to develop the post-2020 framework, opening up two years of intense discussions up to COP15 at the end of 2020 in Beijing, where the new framework is to be adopted. An analysis by Yann Laurans and and Aleksandar Rankovic of IDDRI.

Renewing the global governance framework for biodiversity

As with global warming, the scientific evaluations evidence is accumulating that the biodiversity situation is getting worse. The "diseases" from which it suffers are well known, and for a long time The main causes of climate change: overexploitation of resources, pollution, land use change, species invasions, and climate change. The underlying causes of these diseases are largely due to production and consumption practices: overfishing, agricultural intensification, expansion of agricultural and urbanized areas, uncontrolled urban growth, etc. The underlying causes of these diseases are largely due to production and consumption practices: overfishing, agricultural intensification, expansion of agricultural and urbanized areas, uncontrolled urban growth, etc. For all that, the measures announced by the States have, for the time being, not been implemented, has not been sufficiently far-reaching to transform these modes of production, development and consumption. This is why the search for a new post-2020 multilateral framework is placed under the general invocation of a "...". transformational change ", terminology from the United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Implicitly, this means that the new framework should identify areas of activity where change is sought, and provide incentives to act on them.
In contrast to other negotiating arenas, in the CBD, the stakes of sectoral transformations are explicitly recognized and even regularly discussed (e.g. the issue of harmful subsidies, a politically sensitive subject). Nevertheless, the commitments made at the global level do not have sufficient effect at the national and sectoral levels. The CBD therefore faces a puzzle: how can we renew the way in which international discussions take place to achieve more transformative effects on the ground?

The Paris Climate Agreement: a useful reference?

This question, which is central to the implementation of multilateral environmental treaties, has also arisen for the climate, and the Paris Agreement and the decisions taken at COP 21 in 2015 provide an answer to it. The Paris Agreement is thus in all the minds of the actors interested in the CBD, and its transposition to biodiversity is the vanishing point, the main current reference point for discussions on the governance framework. However, such a transposition would not in itself be a panacea.
For both climate and biodiversity, governance by "top-down" objectives (top-down, or internationally agreed objectives that need to be translated into each national jurisdiction) did not meet expectations. For the climate, the Paris Agreement replaced it, in part, with a hybrid approach, where global targets effectively apply to all (e.g. keeping global warming well below 2°C, but also targets for future emissions peaks, and "carbon neutrality" to be achieved in the second half of the century), but where a so-called "bottom-up" approach (i.e. a "carbon neutral" approach to climate change) has been adopted.bottom-up) also allows each State to decide how it will/can contribute to the achievement of these global goals.
Ongoing discussions at the CBD suggest that the global biodiversity framework would also move towards a hybrid form, with a call for "voluntary contributions" by COP15. But only the "bottom-up" dimension of the Paris Agreement - which has yet to prove its effectiveness - seems to be retained. Yet the response found for the climate had at least four components [1] :
  1. a top-down logic with global goals that apply to everyone;
  2. a bottom-up logic with contributions determined at the national level (CDN) ;
  3. a set of decisions on how to measure progress and how ambitions should increase over time;
  4. and finally an "agenda for action", a mobilization of civil society itself, launched sufficiently in advance of COP21 to create a very strong political dynamic, and to take up, amplify and even, in some cases, relay government action.
In addition, the long-term goals on climate finance (as well as other issues, such as the global target for adaptation) played a key role in helping to reach an agreement.
In the case of climate, SSCs are only interesting to the extent that they are embedded in this overall architecture. In order for a system of national contributions to be useful to the global governance of biodiversity, imperative conditions, beyond the mere logic of the NSCs, must be met. bottom-upshould be put on the agenda and discussed as soon as possible. We note at least four discussions that need to be taken forward urgently:
  • Set global goals. What should be contributed to, i.e., what global targets, against which the contributions of states (or even non-state actors) could be judged to be sufficiently ambitious or not?  
  • Define what the commitments would cover. Since expected biodiversity outcomes cannot be measured by a single aggregated indicator (such as the level of greenhouse gas emissions for climate), how should the indicators covered by these commitments be specified? Could they be designed to focus instead on the activities involved in biodiversity loss and change?
  • Measure progress and review commitments. What would be the process of reviewing and collectively taking stock of these commitments, and to what extent would they promote incremental improvement rather than regression?
  • Create a multi-stakeholder dynamic. Where is today the dynamic of civil society engagement (businesses, cities and regions, NGOs) likely to amplify and relay national policies, knowing that the "biodiversity action agenda" is not yet formally discussed?
It is therefore the overall coherence of the new framework, its own logic of action, that needs to be clarified before further negotiations on a "bottom-up" system of voluntary commitments by States can begin. Otherwise, there would be a great risk of formal and artificial transposition from one framework to another, opening the way to further regression of the multilateral framework rather than progress.

A key governance issue, a tight schedule

The next two years will therefore be crucial for the future of international biodiversity governance, and COP14 will be the starting point for these negotiations. Between now and COP15, at the end of 2020, these discussions should be organised in three phases:
  • a first, which will start in 2019, will involve a number of consultations (regional, thematic, international, etc.) to work on a first draft of the post-2020 framework. This phase is expected to last until late summer 2019;
  • then, a consensus-building phase will run until late spring 2020, when a first version of the "final" draft of the post-2020 framework will be put up for negotiation at an intermediate meeting [2] of the CBD;
  • the third phase, up to the end of 2020 and COP15 in Beijing, will be a phase of high-level mobilisation and, it is to be hoped, of fine-tuning the last outstanding points before the Parties meet in Beijing.
The publication of the IPBES Global Biodiversity Status Assessment in spring 2019 and the CBD's Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 in spring 2020 should, along the way, continue to sound the alarm on biodiversity decline and insufficient progress. It would be useful if these reports could also be used to support the definition of targets and the nature of commitments, in the service of the dynamics of clarifying national contributions or those of non-governmental actors. The IUCN World Conservation Congresswhich will be held in June 2020 in Marseille, will also be an important milestone and mobilization point on the road to Beijing.
Given the state of the discussions and the number of questions that remain open, the road from Sharm el-Sheikh to Beijing will be long, but time is short. COP14 will therefore be crucial in framing the discussions as much as possible and in defining the contours of the discussions. There is very little negotiating time available: let us recall that, for the climate, six years separated the impasse of COP15 in Copenhagen and COP21 in Paris. It will therefore be essential to identify the precise points to be included in the Beijing decision, and the points of progress to be discussed afterwards, in order to keep the mechanics of the post-2020 framework alive. This is also how COP21 worked, and in this case it is a useful lesson from the Paris Agreement.
Yann Laurans, Director of the Biodiversity and Ecosystems Programme, IDDRI
Aleksandar Rankovic, Researcher Biodiversity and science-society interactions Iddri
The original of this article can be found on the IDDRI blog
[2] Third meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementationor SBI-3
To go further :
- Parallel session workshop at COP14 - Biodiversity Governance in the Post-2020 Framework, 26 November 2018 What are the lessons to be learned from the Paris Climate Accord for the CBD negotiations?
- Parallel session workshop to COP 14 - Convention on Biological Diversity, 25 November 2018 - COP14: Rethinking biodiversity governance: ingredients for the post-2020 global plan for biodiversity

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