October 12, 2021
From October 11 to 15, 2021, the most significant global biodiversity summit in over a decade convenes in Kunming, China. The Kunming conference marks the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and aspires to do for biodiversity what the Paris Agreement did for climate change—namely, producing a landmark multinational accord to address one of the most pressing ecological and economic issues of our time.
COP15 is anticipated to finalize a Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, outlining what countries need to do going forward, individually and collectively, to align humanity’s trajectory with CBD’s overall vision of “living in harmony with nature” by 2050. The world has continued veering off-course to date, failing to meet any of the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets[i] which CBD set in 2010.
However, optimists will observe that the goals proposed in the draft Post-2020 Framework[ii] are more outcome-oriented than CBD’s previous goals, buttressed by targeted, time-bound measures to address the drivers of biodiversity loss. The draft goals are as ambitious as they are potentially far-reaching, including proposals to conserve 30% of the world’s oceans and land by 2030, reduce pollution from pesticides, plastic waste, and nutrient excess by 50% by 2030, support integration of biodiversity-related information into business reporting, and promote the sustainable harvest of wild species.
Addressing biodiversity loss is by no means viewed solely as a responsibility of nation-states and governments. Corporations are increasingly under pressure from investors, the communities in which they operate, and other stakeholders to address biodiversity loss and account for their biodiversity impacts. In this alert, we discuss the significance of global action on biodiversity, and also provide a landscape overview of the modern regulatory developments (with our initial focus on Europe and the United States) and voluntary disclosure frameworks, reporting standards, initiatives, and performance assessment tools that are reshaping how the business community views, discloses, and addresses biodiversity risk.
- The Import of COP15 and Biodiversity
Biodiversity – Why it is so important – A quick recap: Encompassing the variety of life, ecosystems, and species on Earth and the natural patterns they form,[iii] biodiversity is critical to the quality and function of the ecosystem services that society derives from nature. The World Economic Forum estimated that more than half the world’s GDP (around US$44 trillion) is moderately or highly dependent on these services, and accordingly found that biodiversity loss is among the existential threats facing society today, in terms of both impact and likelihood.[iv]
Scientists have warned that human activity is currently driving…