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What to expect from COP15?

Updated: May 18

By Cécile Klinguer

[email protected]

The second part of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) will be held from April 25 to May 8 in Kunming, China. Due to COVID-19, this important conference has been split into two parts. The first one took place in October 2021 in a virtual format.

The objective of this conference is the adoption of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (post-2020 GBF), which should provide a strategic overview and global roadmap for the protection, restoration and sustainable management of biodiversity by 2030.

The first part of COP15 resulted in the Kunming Declaration, in which the signatories affirmed their goal to “put biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030 at the latest”. However, this declaration is only a theoretical commitment for countries to set their ambition. The real targets, means of implementation, legal obligations and all other specifics, i.e. the actual content of the post-2020 GBF, will be negotiated during the second part of COP15.

The Global Biodiversity Framework and the theory of change

The post-2020 GBF aims to establish an action plan for the next 10 years, defining the targets and roles of governments, businesses and individuals in protecting biodiversity. It is based on the theory of change, a methodology for planning, implementing and assessing social change, which has been adapted to the specific context of nature conservation and protection.

The theory of change aims to :

  • implement transformative actions to reduce threats to biodiversity
  • ensure that nature is used in a sustainable and fair manner, and to meet people’s needs
  • monitor progress through transparent and quantitative measures
  • ensure that all stakeholders are involved, i.e. in addition to governments: NGOs, indigenous peoples and local communities, women’s groups, youth, as well as business and financial actors
This theory of change of the post-2020 GBF has been proposed in the first draft of the framework.

The Global Biodiversity Framework targets

It is already expected that some key targets will be agreed in the post-2020 GBF, to be achieved by 2030.

Protect the ecosystems

In 2019, only 15% of land and 7% of sea areas were protected globally. The post-2020 GBF target is to protect 30% of the planet by 2030 (the 30×30 target). However, this target needs to be further discussed and negotiated, as some key questions remain unanswered.

For example:

What does it mean to protect “30% of the planet”?

  • 30% of the total surface of the planet?
  • 30% of the land and 30% of the sea?
  • 30% of the territory of each country?

What about the ecological quality of protected areas?

  • How to deal with the risk of countries protecting areas of minor ecological importance just to meet the target?
  • How can the ecological quality of an area be assessed?
  • What about the indigenous people living in these areas?

These questions need to be addressed at COP15 – Part 2 in Kunming before an agreement can be found between nations.

Implement actions

Ecosystem approaches are defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as actions that use biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of a comprehensive adaptation strategy to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. These measures are favoured by some biodiversity experts as they can help tackle both climate change and biodiversity erosion with climate-targeted funds (as they are currently more substantial than those for biodiversity conservation). For example, mangroves in coastal areas serve as carbon sinks that contribute to the fight against climate change. At the same time, mangrove restoration allows local communities to benefit from the ecological services they provide – flood and storm protection, fish nurseries, etc.

However, some NGOs and developing country governments are concerned that these ecosystem-based measures might contribute to “carbon colonialism“, i.e. that developed countries use these measures to avoid their emission reduction targets by mainly storing carbon on indigenous territories in developing countries and expropriating local residents.

The post-2020 GBF will need to address this issue to define how, by whom, where and when ecosystem approaches can be implemented.

Increase financial resources for nature

The first version of the post-2020 GBF foresees that an additional $700 billion per year at the global level would be needed for biodiversity protection and restoration.

Negotiations are now expected to determine more precisely the financial contribution of each nation. For now, some nations have already committed:

  • China will create a $230 million fund for biodiversity
  • Japan will add $17 million to its existing fund
  • The UK has pledged an additional $274,000 to the CBD’s voluntary trust fund
  • France has pledged to redirect 30% of its current climate funding to biodiversity

The question of how to finance biodiversity protection is, of course, of crucial importance. The second part of COP15 raises great expectations and hopes, as this issue is, for the time being, virtually unresolved (the required $700 billion is far from being reached).

What the EU aims at

The European Union has committed to negotiate for stronger targets during the meeting in Kunming. Firstly, its interpretation of the 30×30 target is that 30% of land and 30% of sea shall be protected by 2030. In addition, the EU wants to ensure that the remaining 70% will be used in a sustainable way, to the benefit of local communities. In particular, the issue of genetic resources must be addressed. Since 1992, each country has been the owner of the genetic resources on its territory, which means that :

  • each country can decide on access to these resources and their use by other nations
  • the benefits of research or innovation based on these resources must be shared with the territory from which the genetic material was retrieved

However, with increasing digitalisation and globalisation, this regulation is becoming increasingly difficult to enforce. Genetic information is now freely available on the internet, and many (developed) countries argue that the data should indeed be shared. However, countries with a rich pool of genetic material but no information tools or innovation centres demand to be included in the sharing of the benefits that their resources lead to (usually vaccines and medicines). A working group has been set up, led by Norway and South Africa, to discuss this issue and ensure that this equitable sharing mechanism is implemented over the next decade.


COP15 in Kunming in April is a crucial meeting for biodiversity, on which nature conservation for the next decade depends. Ambitious targets could be adopted, but they need to be backed up by a strong commitment from countries and a clear framework for action for all stakeholders. High hopes rest on the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, especially considering that the previous targets, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets set in 2010, have not been met…

If you are looking for advice on how to assess and manage the impact of your activities on biodiversity, reach out to Cécile Klinguer ([email protected]), Consultant in Environmental Intelligence at Greenfish.

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