From Marseille to Kunming: Noah’s Ark for biodiversity?

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The World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was held in Marseille from September 3 to 11. More than 9,000 delegates and 25,000 people gathered in a hybrid format to address the biodiversity crisis. The event drew significant public and political attention, creating momentum ahead of United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15). The first part of the COP 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will take place from October 11 to 15 in a virtual format, and the second part from April 25 to May 8, 2022, in Kunming (China). This article reminds some facts on biodiversity loss and identifies the takeaways of the IUCN’s Congress. 

 

A Congress under the spotlight and a stepping stone to Kunming

The hosting organization IUCN was founded in 1948 in Fontainebleau (France). It is the first global environmental union that brings together governments and the civil society to protect nature.

The IUCN World Conservation Congress is a scientific, political, and international event occurring every four years. It is aiming at preserving the environment and using nature-based solutions to address global challenges.

This year edition brought together in Marseille (France) 100 States, 150 governmental agencies as well as non-governmental actors, in particular 1,200 NGOs and 25 indigenous peoples' organizations.

New conservation goals and priorities for action have been set to advance the global conservation agenda. Unlike a Conference of the Parties (COP), where only States vote, at the IUCN Congress decisions are adopted jointly by states and non-state actors.

In total, IUCN Members adopted 148 resolutions, 39 by voting at the Congress in Marseille and 109 by electronic online voting prior to the event (see excerpts infra in the article).

On the sidelines of the Congress, countries made announcements, including the host country, France[1]. The country commits to achieve 30% of protected areas at national level by 2022[2], accelerate the fight against imported deforestation, and support an international treaty against plastic pollution. France also aims at integrating the financial risks of biodiversity loss into economic and financial analysis and scale-up biodiversity-friendly investments.

 

The advent of “Nature-positive approaches”

A notion was referred to throughout the Congress: “nature positive”. Similar to the “climate net-zero” target, the “nature positive” goal was introduced in 2020 by experts from NGOs and academia in order to halt and reverse the loss of nature by 2030 (compared to 2020 levels). The positive approach to nature encourages all actors to change their development models and make positive impact on nature.

In June 2021, the G7 leaders announced that "Our world must not only become net zero, but also nature positive, for the benefit of people and the planet", demonstrating an increased political will and vision to integrate biodiversity loss into global development strategies alongside climate and social goals.

At this IUCN Congress, members were urged to adopt nature positive policies and measures. Such call is written in the final outcome document, the Marseille Manifesto, and integrated in the motions (see details infra). The concept was discussed during the Congress.

 

Biodiversity is plummeting

The event was the occasion to highlight recent findings and studies documenting biodiversity erosion. The 2020 Living Planet Report published by the WWF for instance pinpoints that population sizes of mammal, bird, amphibian, reptile, and fish species monitored across the globe have declined by an average of 68% as of 2016, since 1970. Meanwhile, the Global Risks Report 2020 from the World Economic Forum ranks biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as one of the top five risks in terms of likelihood and impact in the coming 10 years (see figure 1 below).

 

Figure 1 - The Global Risks Landscape 2020

Source: WEF (2021), the Global Risk Report

Lessons drawn from Aichi Biodiversity Targets failure 

This Congress in Marseille was also the occasion to reflect on the Aichi Biodiversity Targets which timeframe ended in 2020 (nb: the Congress was meant to take place in 2020 but was postponed because of the pandemic). As a reminder, in 2010, the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) was held in Aichi, Japan. Around 200 nations agreed to address nature emergency and strived to at least halve the loss of natural habitats and expand nature reserves to 17% of the world's land area by 2020 (for comparison, 2011 level stood at less than 10%). At that time, 20 targets for Biodiversity, the so-called “Aichi biodiversity targets”, were set in order to cope with invasive species control, halt over-fishing and loss of genetic diversity in agriculture, and protect coral reefs.

Sadly, the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 Report (the last periodical assessment report) revealed that global attempts to implement the Aichi Biodiversity Targets have failed across the board between 2010 and 2020. This failure is partly due to a lack of implementation and awareness among policymakers. In addition, there was neither specific numbers on the necessary investments to achieve the targets, nor methods to mobilize capital flows towards nature conservation. Governments began to negotiate new targets just before the pandemic outbreak and the IUCN Congress was a warming-up session to discuss them ahead of the COP15.

Contemplated new targets to halt biodiversity loss

Countries are expected to launch and adopt a new 10-year program to halt the accelerating loss of biodiversity at the COP15, which will start next October.  

The first draft of the post-2020 framework, published in July 2021, builds on the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. It sets out "an ambitious plan to implement far-reaching action to transform society's relationship with biodiversity, ensuring that by 2050 the shared vision of 'living in harmony with nature' is realized". 21 targets for 2030 are to be set, with a forward vision to 2050.

 

Table 1: First Draft of Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework Summary

Key Targets for 2030

Potential Implications

Ensure that at least 30% of global land and sea areas are conserved through effective and fair management by 2030. Effective area-based conservation measures are also encouraged to integrate into the wider landscapes and seascapes (“30x30 Targets for Biodiversity”)

  • A more ambitious target than in COP10
  • To achieve this target, key biodiversity areas should be identified through science-based measures
  • Innovative conservation approaches can be developed by each country. China for instance launched the “Ecological Conservation Redlines”[3]
  • Impact measuring tools are needed, it will potentially represent an opportunity for ICT industry to contribute to the biodiversity conservation (read more on innovation part )

Prevent or reduce tQuam ob rem cave Catoni anteponas ne istum quidem ipsum, quem Apollo, ut ais, sapientissimum iudicavit huius enim facta, illius dicta laudantur. De me autem, ut iam cum utroque vestrum loquar, sic habetote.

  • Invasive alien species are recognized as one of the largest drivers of biodiversity loss and species extinction
  • Identification on priority species and sites, establish “flagship sites” and apply AI and other monitoring digital solutions for example

Reduce nutrients load/discharge by at least half by 2030, pesticides by at least two thirds, and eliminate discharge of plastic waste (against 2020 levels).

  • Requires to deploy sustainable agriculture and waste management practices consistent with climate change actions

Use ecosystem-based approaches to contribute to mitigation (at least 10 GtCO2e/year) and adaptation to climate change; and ensure that all mitigation and adaptation efforts avoid negative impacts on biodiversity

  • Develop nature-based solutions to generate co-benefits for the nature and humans. For instance, forests restoration can boost biodiversity and sequester carbon, while protecting humans by reducing landslides
  • Integrated approach to tackle biodiversity and climate challenges, continue the collaboration between climate and biodiversity experts

Redirect, repurpose, reform or eliminate incentives harmful for biodiversity in a just and equitable way, reducing them by at least $500 billion per year (OECD countries provide at least USD400 billion of subsidies harming nature)

  • Suspend or largely eliminate national subsidy schemes that negatively impact nature
  • To identify environmental harmful subsidies, OECD released a sectoral checklist, and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) proposed a roadmap for governments to assess the need for reform. However, the OECD checklist was built in 2003, an updated version is needed to fit in current environmental crisis landscape

Increase financial resources from all sources to at least US$ 200 billion per year, including new, additional, and effective financial resources, increasing by at least US$ 10 billion per year international financial flows to developing countries, leveraging private finance, and increasing domestic resource mobilization, taking into account national biodiversity finance planning.

  • Mobilize both public and private funding to biodiversity.
  • Innovation on impact assessment and measurement tools and financial products.
  • Taxonomy development incorporating biodiversity conservation as a major goal, establishing negative screening mechanism.
  • International financial support to vulnerable and developing countries.

Source: CDB, First Draft of Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, 2021 (available here) & Natixis GSH

 

IUCN World Conservation Congress’s outputs

Resolutions adopted

As stated earlier, total, IUCN Members adopted 148 resolutions during the Congress. Each IUCN member can submit a motion, which is then examined by a working group and then voted on. Motions, which include recommendations, become resolutions after approval. These resolutions are not binding, but as IUCN is a recognized and respected global authority, these recommendations are a reference for stimulating action on nature protection.

After their adoption, actors are expected to advocate or pursue resolutions implementation. The table below shows several one that were widely discussed during the Congress. Some provide granular targets (e.g. Motion 129Avoiding the point of no return in the Amazon protecting 80% by 2025), while others display gaps between their wording and the associated recommendations. The sample below illustrates the diversity of the topics addressed.

 

Table 2: Selection of Resolutions Adopted at IUCN Congress

Themes of the motion

Example

Accelerating climate change mitigation and adaptation

Motion 34: Integrated Solutions to the climate change and biodiversity crises. It aims to reinforce the role of ecosystem-based approaches in delivering climate change mitigation & adaptation.

Conserving freshwater to sustain life

Motion 15: Supporting the Lower Mekong Basin countries with the transboundary management of water resources, ecosystems and biodiversity. It advocates for increased sustainability use of water resources, ecosystems and biodiversity between Lower Mekong Basin countries.

Managing landscapes for nature and people

Motion 125: Strengthening the protection of primary and old-growth forests in Europe and facilitating their restoration where possible. It is proposed by WWF France and supported by the French government and consistent with EU Biodiversity Strategy.

Restoring ocean health

Motion 126: Acting for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in the ocean beyond national jurisdiction

Upholding rights, ensuring effective and equitable governance

Motion 2: Strengthened institutional inclusion concerning indigenous peoples. It calls to consider the development of mechanism for effective and comprehensive participation of indigenous communities in the decision-making

Leveraging economic and financial systems for sustainability

Motion 68: Biodiversity financing. It calls for assessment on the socio-economic dependencies and impacts on biodiversity and scale up the suite of policy instrument to incentivize the investments in nature

Advancing knowledge, learning, innovation and technology

Motion 84: Taking action to reduce light pollution. It recalls everyone’s responsibilities to ensure the protection of the nocturnal environment and reduce light pollution.

Source: IUCN, 2021 (available here) & Natixis GSH

 

Outcome document: Marseille Manifesto

At the end of the Congress, on Friday 10 September, the IUCN adopted the “Marseille Manifesto” that summarizes the main engagements and announcements made during the Congress (reflecting the “spirit” of the adopted motions). It calls for "urgent systemic reform" to jointly address the three crises we are currently experiencing: the Covid-19 pandemic, biodiversity loss and climate change.

 

Table 3: Excerpts of Marseille Manifesto

Major commitments

Implications

Respecting and harnessing the willpower of all citizens

Involvement of youth and indigenous communities in actions and decision-making

Promoting investments in nature

Provide public investment and encourage the private ones

Transitioning to a nature positive economy

Develop nature-based solutions and reform current paradigms to nature positive

Halting biodiversity loss by committing to a transformative, effective, and ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework

Mobilize attention ahead of COP15 and COP26, provide recommendations

Tackling climate and biodiversity emergency

Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is urgent. The Congress implores governments to implement nature-based solutions while significantly reducing fossil-fuel emissions.

Source: Marseille Manifesto (available here in English, and here in French)

[1] See all France’s announcements here (Elysée website) or here (website of the Ministry of Ecological Transition). A number of them are aligned with the commitments made by France at the One Planet Summit in January 2021 and the “Climate and Resilience” bill.

[2] The target of 30% of protected areas has already been reached for land territories. This same objective is expected to be reached at the beginning of 2022 for the maritime territory. France commits also to strongly protect 5% of its Mediterranean maritime areas by 2027.

[3] The ecological redlines were first initiated by China’s state council in 2011 and enshrined in the Environmental Protection Law of 2015. It was not until National development and reform Commission (NDRC), national macro planner, issued “Opinions on Delineation and Strict Management of Ecological Conservation Redlines” in 2017 that the policy became fully implemented nationwide. Compared with the traditional protected areas, the selection of redline areas is thoroughly science-based and with assessments of 3 core factors that generate co-benefits for nature and people: biodiversity, ecosystem services and disaster risk reduction.

Financing the journey towards nature conservation

Financial actors mobilization

Throughout the Congress, financing questions caught attention. Many financial institutions participated in the event. With more science-based evidence on environmental and biodiversity loss urgency, increasing numbers of financial institutions recognized the significant influence of biodiversity and ecosystem services on their business. On 21 September 2021, 78 financial institutions including Amundi, AXA IM, BNP Paribas AM, with USD10 trillion AuM, released a statement[4] on calling governments to tackle the crisis of biodiversity loss and move towards a nature-positive economy. The financial institutions delivered strong messages to the governments ahead of COP 15, advocating solid policies in line with the forthcoming Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and enable private financial institutions to contribute to reversing biodiversity loss.

During the Congress, Mirova Natural Capital, an affiliate of Natixis Investment Managers, shared its two-pronged approach to secure additional financing for the nature at the Congress: i) reduce projects risk level to raise the confidence of investors; ii) nurture more innovative funding by supporting small demonstration projects via instruments like the Nature+ Accelerator Fund.

To implement resolutions and achieve the new goals to be set at COP15, natural capital or biodiversity finance is key. More capital flows need to be channeled towards biodiversity conservation.

Financing needs

As of 2019, current spending on biodiversity conservation is between USD124 and USD143 billion per year (including protected area construction, natural disaster-resilience building, and sustainable agriculture), against a total estimated need of around USD800 billion per year[5] (see the figure below for a rough breakdown). With the aim of closing the financing gap for nature, some financial actors shared their innovative practices to realign financial flows towards nature-positive pathway at IUCN’s Congress.

 

Figure 2: Global Biodiversity conservation funding needs to “reserve biodiversity decline by 2030”

Source: Paulsen Institute, 2020, available here

Biodiversity focused methodologies and certifications

During the Congress, several initiatives, methodologies and tools were discussed (see table 4 below). Caisse des Dépôts presented its Global Biodiversity Score, a measuring tool. It calculates the biodiversity footprint of a company or a financial based on two steps:

  • the first step consists in making the link between the company's economic activity and the pressures affecting biodiversity, i.e. quantitatively analyzing the contribution of the company's economic activity to these pressures;
  • the second step consists in analyzing the impact of these pressures on biodiversity. With this innovative measuring tool, financial actors are provided with guidance to factor biodiversity damages into their decision-making.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) shared their practices in this field during the Congress. The GEF cooperates with national governments and international agencies to create enabling conditions to mobilize private investments. In 2021, the GEF collaborated with the World Bank, launched ever first Conservation-related Bond to track rhino numbers in Africa and especially to test investor appetite for a conservation-related investment[6].

The GEF also helps convert nature-negative financial flows to nature-positive ones by urging corporates, investors, and financial industry to measure and disclose their dependencies and impacts on nature under the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD). Participants also discussed, financing the nature needs robust monitoring, reporting, and verification mechanisms. They are some of the many barriers to scale up the investments, especially for private sector.

In parallel, two new certification programs unveiled by IUCN aimed to enhance the credibility of natural conservation activities. The newly unveiled nature-based certification scheme initiative will work similarly to a green bond certification, business entities can choose to comply with IUCN Global Standard for Nature-based Solution, after verification, they are able to obtain a certification from IUCN and use the logo.

Similarly, sites including national parks and other conserved areas can apply to join the IUCN Green List and comply with its standard. An IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas certification will be granted if the site/project demonstrates high social and environmental performance. The two certifications could be a suitable candidate for use of proceeds sustainable financing instruments or a sustainability-linked one.

 

Table 4: Summary of coalitions on nature and biodiversity

Initiatives

Initiatives

Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation (CPIC)

 

The Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation (CPIC) is a group of leading civil society organizations, private and public sector financial institutions and academia working to deliver a material increase in private, return-seeking investment in conservation.

Natural Capital Coalition

 

It is a collaboration between leading organizations (including UNEP, World Bank, etc.) in research, science, academia, business, advisory, membership, accountancy, reporting, standard setting, finance, investment, policy, government, conservation and civil society. Aiming at, including the value of natural capital, social capital and human capital in businesses, financial institutions and governments’ decision-making by 2030.

The Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN)

 

BIOFIN was initiated by UNEP in response to the urgent global need to divert more finance from all possible sources towards global and national biodiversity goals. It developed a platform to share biodiversity Finance Solutions

Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD)

The TNFD is a global initiative, which aims to give financial institutions and companies a complete picture of their environmental risks. In 2023, the TNFD will deliver a framework for organizations to report and act on evolving nature-related risks, in order to support a shift in global financial flows away from nature-negative outcomes and toward nature-positive outcomes.

Finance for Biodiversity Pledge

 

A group of 26 global financial institutions launched the Finance for Biodiversity Pledge calling on global leaders and committing to protect and restore biodiversity through their finance activities and investments in the run-up to the COP 15 in 2021. It was launched during the Nature for Life Hub on 25 September 2020 and the Biodiversity Summit of the United Nations General Assembly on 30 September 2020. There are 56 signatories up to now, including, SCOR, Mirova, Amundi, etc.

Source: Natixis GSH

 

Technological innovations to drive natural capital finance

It is critical for actors to be able to identify, measure, and quantify their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity. This data can be then used as a valuable decision-making tool.

Several technological innovations are trying to quantify the impact of activities or portfolios on biodiversity, monitor the global state of biodiversity or even set conservation objectives:

  • Tech4nature is a partnership between IUCN and the Chinese company Huawei. Its purpose is to innovate through technologies to better support and monitor nature conservation. Currently, there are five flagship demonstration sites with innovative digital solutions, such as AI and smart devices. Tech4nature supports for instance the cost-effective monitoring of threatened coral reefs in real-time with underwater cameras and transmit data automatically.
  • Planetary computer from Microsoft: a computation platform launched in 2020 by Microsoft. It provides access to trillions of data points on biodiversity, with intuitive APIs that allows users to answer global questions about that data, and applications built with its partners to conduct conservation planning and ecosystem monitoring.
  • Exploring Natural Capital Opportunities, Risks and Exposure (ENCORE): The tool is developed by Natural Capital Alliance (NCFA) and UNEP. It aims at helping financial institutions assess how their businesses depend on nature and what the potential risks are. It will largely help financial sectors to position their risks exposure on nature.

 

***

 

Thanks to events like the IUCN Congress, the One Planet Summit, the COP 15, or IPBES’ reports, the international community is increasingly aware of the drivers and consequences of biodiversity losses and start to take actions.

Over the past two weeks, public was actively taking part in the discussion on biodiversity crisis with new resolutions adopted from IUCN World Conservation Congress. The event successfully drew some attention ahead of COP 15. The major outcome document, the "Marseille Manifesto” reaffirmed that human society has reached a tipping point and it is our window opportunities to respond to biodiversity emergencies in the next decade. Similar to 11 years ago at COP10, orphaned ambitious targets setting would only lead to failure. Effective implementation and corresponding supporting measures remain the most important success factors. Interestingly, there is a lot of innovation around methodologies or instruments, including on financing/investing instruments. From an optimistic side, our knowledge, technology and data on biodiversity is more advanced and the financial sector expressed willingness to be part of the battle against biodiversity loss. However, this knowledge application in decision-making is still limited and current financing remain insufficient. These made the journey to Kunming and the rest of the way full of promises and uncertainties. If coordination is necessary, every actor can act in its remit (see the table below for an overview of the actions per level of action).

 

Table 5: Actions at different levels to halt biodiversity loss

Level of action

At
citizen level

At company level

At financial institution level

At State level

At supranational level

At international level

Example

Reduce and avoid waste, consume more responsibly (organic, seasonal and local products)

 

Integrate biodiversity issues into the company’s strategy and analyze the impact of activities on biodiversity

Incorporate criteria for biodiversity in ESG policies & engaging with companies to reduce their negative impacts and increase positive impacts on biodiversity

 

Assess positive and negative impacts of financing activities and investments

Stop public subsidies/incentives harmful to biodiversity (=financing activities that destroy biodiversity like mining and oil exploitation, intensive agriculture, overfishing, deforestation...)

Set a strategy to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems

Define a global framework for biodiversity conservation

Illustration

See the “Agir “Platform for a full list of initiatives here.

See Club B4B+ actions

See TNFD & Finance for Biodiversity Pledge

initiatives

See BIOFIN’s examples on “Supportive and harmful subsidies” here.

See the EU Biodiversity strategy

See the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

Source: Natixis GSH

[4] Ceres and Financing for Biodiversity Foundation, September 2020, Financial Institutions Statement ahead of the Convention on Biological Diversity COP15, available here.

[5] Paulson Institute, September 2020, Closing the Global Biodiversity Financing Gap

[6] There are KPIs in the instrument, about the improvement of the terrestrial protected areas for conservation, and increase the black rhino population by a 5% average annual growth rate. Investors forego all annual coupon payments, which will be used to finance conservation initiatives. They can be compensated by GEF with a conservation success payment if the specified targets are met.

 

To go further:

 

  • Tackling Biodiversity & Climate Crises Together and Their Combined Social Impacts – available here
  • Marseille Manifesto – available here