Centre for Sustainable Area Management (CeSAM)
Report from COP15

It’s a Deal!

On December 19th, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was adopted at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal. A landmark deal for conservation and management of nature and protection of biodiversity worldwide, this framework sets ambitious goals for how humanity should move forward to achieve the Convention of Biodiversity’s Vision “Living in Harmony with Nature” by 2020. Below, Vigdis Vandvik shares her experiences and insights from attending the COP.

Ipbes at COP15
Vigdis Vandvik

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While the conference, and the resulting framework, is a major diplomatic event, science also played a large part in developing, adopting, and preparing for the implementation of the framework. The GBF has been supported by the Intergovernmental Panel of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) with the Panel’s landmark Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services from 2019 being especially crucial in setting the stage for the agreement.

CeSAM director Vigdis Vandvik was present as an observer in Montreal as part of the IPBES team. She is a Coordinating Lead Author on the Panel’s Thematic Assessment on Invasive Alien Species and their Control, to be published next year, and was there to present the work with this report and also to observe the process and understand how policy-makers relate to the knowledge-base presented in the IPBES assessments.

  • What is perhaps most striking, says Vigdis, is what they don’t discuss in the negotiation rooms. Basically, no one questions the facts. Everyone accepts that nature is under threat; that humanity urgently depends on a healthy, thriving nature; and we need a fundamental shift in our economies and political systems to stop the destruction and start safeguarding biodiversity and rebuilding ecosystems.The negotiators and documents often refer to the IPBES assessments for specifics on these aspects. And when negotiators trust in science to deliver the facts, they can focus their discussions on what is their responsibility and in their power - putting together a framework for how progress can be achieved.

 The GBF consists of four overarching goals and 23 specific targets. The goals describe what the framework aims to achieve - maintaining a healthy, thriving, nature that is sustainably used and managed, generating benefits for all of humankind, and achieving all this in a way that is fair and adequately resourced. The specific targets specify what is to be achieved, by when, and how.

While the package is now celebrated as a success, it was not a given, and the process was rather nerve-wrecking. Coming into the final two weeks of negotiations with over 1800 square brackets (disagreements over text) was not the best starting point. The final package is a compromise - some parties might have wanted more ambitious goals, others better guarantees for benefit sharing and resource mobilization.

Science will also play a crucial role in implementation. For example, the GBF monitoring framework will require the development, implementation, and reporting on a number of quantitative indicators that will be critical to assess trends in biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as to monitor progress in the nation’s progress and delivery on their commitments.