After two weeks of intense and often fractious negotiations at COP15 in Montréal on the coattails of COP27 in Egypt, a new Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) finally emerged. As with any global negotiation, the final agreement isn’t perfect, but constitutes a massive moment for nature, providing much-needed momentum to drive action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
Considered the nature-equivalent of the Paris Climate Accords, the Kunming-Montréal Agreement is a key milestone in establishing that biodiversity loss can no longer be seen as a secondary, less-important challenge to the climate crisis – they need to be tackled jointly. Biodiversity loss represents the third greatest risk to the global economy according to the World Economic Forum. Yet while half of businesses are taking action to reduce their carbon footprint, just 5% have carried out a science-based assessment to understand their impact on nature.
So where does the much-awaited, four-times-postponed COP15 leave us? To avoid the shortcomings of the previous agreement (the failure of governments to meet pre-2020 targets), negotiators took a different approach this time around, including provisions to ensure targets are measurable and mechanisms to monitor nations’ progress. While debate about the level of ambition and its feasibility plays out, this monumental agreement, with its 23 targets, illustrates that awareness of planetary boundaries has finally arrived on the global stage and sends a critical market signal to the business community.
Quantis and Boston Consulting Group colleagues were on the ground at COP15 and we’ve gathered the key business takeaways.
COP15 – what are the key outcomes?
- The flagship 30×30 target of protecting 30% of land and of seas by 2030 made it into the historic, final agreement, alongside restoring 30% of degraded ecosystems.
- Within the Global Environment Facility (GEF), additional support was announced to finance $30 billion of annual aid for biodiversity by 2030.
- There was strong wording on reducing the footprint of production and consumption, with a particular focus on food systems (i.e. halving food waste) and reducing the use of pesticides by 50%.
- Large, transnational companies and financial institutions will be required to monitor, assess and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity through their operations, supply and value chains, and portfolios.
- The role of Indigenous Peoples in conservation has officially been recognized.
What are the COP15 business takeaways?
+ Businesses showed up for nature, but the need for accountability is growing
Business had a striking presence at COP15 (+30x more than the previous COP14!), with the majority of the 1,000-plus businesses estimated in attendance new to the discussions around biodiversity. Kering and L’Occitane made headlines with the joint launch of the Climate Fund for Nature. Negotiators were taken aback by the passion with which many argued for the need to make reporting requirements around nature mandatory.
Target number 15 will have key implications for finance and business, as it requires governments to encourage and enable businesses (large, multinationals in particular), and financial institutions to assess and monitor their risks and dependencies on biodiversity and disclose them, as well as provide information to consumers to promote sustainable consumption.
Changes of the like are already happening, with the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) moving to add nature into its disclosure standards, and final versions due from both the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) and Science Based Target Network (SBTN) next year.
The wide support for nature disclosures is a positive outcome, but it’s critical to aim even higher – with businesses putting forth short-, medium- and long-term action plans in place, outlining how the impacts will be addressed, and reporting on progress.
+ “Nature Positive” remains a rallying call, but still lacks a science-based definition
Businesses want a North Star, and a clear direction of travel for addressing nature loss. The idea that Nature Positive can help put the avoidance and restoration of nature loss at the heart of every business decision remains strong.
But the next step is to move beyond buzzwords and base Nature Positive around solid metrics backed by clear targets, which close the door to misuse and greenwash. Business has an opportunity to assign meaning to the term, ensuring it becomes an ambitious and science-based end goal.
+ Several COP15 targets will impact the fast-moving consumer goods sectors
Agriculture is the leading driver of land-use change and degradation of natural ecosystems and several targets in the GBF set out to tackle this. Several targets have the potential to require significant action from both the food & beverage and fashion & sporting goods sectors, including restoring 30% of degraded ecosystems by 2030, ensuring that 30% of the Earth’s surface is under protection by 2030, and several others. Noteworthy targets also address pollution (reducing pollution levels, as well as risk from pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals), the sustainable management of agricultural ecosystems, and sustainable consumption and waste.
The cosmetics & personal care sector will be impacted by the targets related to agriculture, pollution as well as a target requiring governments to ensure that the use, harvesting and trade of wild species is “sustainable, safe and legal” – an overlapping challenge facing the fashion industry. Lastly, a target requiring “fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources” will also be relevant for companies in the personal care sector with ingredients that originate from biological sources.
+ Deep transformation is needed to meet the needs of the planet
While clear action plans are being put in place for climate, it’s urgent that companies integrate biodiversity into the equation. Without protecting nature, there is no Paris Climate Agreement. As a first step, companies can start understanding their impacts, dependencies and risks related to biodiversity, and develop plans and initiatives that are grounded in science to reduce impacts using the SBTN and TNFD frameworks. Biodiversity must be considered an equally important priority when it comes to addressing the planetary crisis. It affects everything from jobs to GDP, health and food security to climate change and beyond.
Collaboration remains key to catalyzing nature-supportive solutions. Entire sectors need to meet the challenge, otherwise, trade-offs become inevitable. This will require fundamental shifts in modes of consumption and production. And while some businesses are already piloting new business models and bringing circularity to their operations, the time to scale these is now.
Building on the momentum of COP15 in the coming months will be critical. The inclusion of 30×30 in a new Global Biodiversity Framework is progress but the science says that to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem services, we need to go beyond 30, protecting 44% of land.
As governments move to enshrine the protection of nature in law, change is now inevitable. But time is also running out. By taking action for nature today, businesses can ensure long-term resilience and contribute to tackling the planetary crisis as a whole.