Blog | 19 Dec, 2023

Here’s to the GBF’s first trip around the sun

As we bid farewell to 2023, we find ourselves marking the first anniversary of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). Amidst the achievements since its adoption, it seems clear that the year ahead will need accelerated action towards implementation. Let's embark on 2024 with New Year's Resolutions, ensuring that the promises of the GBF translate into tangible, transformative action toward a more sustainable future.  

A year ago, in the wee hours of December 19, 2022, the world witnessed a pivotal moment for our living planet: the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) by 196 Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) gathered in snow-covered Montreal for the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15). Widely hailed as a historic agreement, this long-awaited global plan marked a major step towards the long-term vision of living in harmony with nature. The framework outlines a visionary pathway and includes key targets to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. Notable among these, are the ambitious target of protecting 30% of the planet recognising Indigenous and traditional territories (the so-called 30X30 target), the scaling-up of conservation action for species and ecosystems, the commitment to minimize the impact of climate change and ocean acidification through Nature-based Solutions among other actions, and a compelling call for large-scale restoration of what has already been depleted. Furthermore, the framework underscores the need for a substantial increase in biodiversity finance, setting a goal of at least US$200 billion per year from all sources by 2030. 

As we wrap-up 2023, just a few days after the conclusion of the largest ever climate change gathering in Dubai (COP28), and while we are still deciding what the decision text “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems...” really means, we want to mark the first anniversary of the GBF. This is an opportune moment to reflect on the events that unfolded in the year since COP15, to celebrate progress and acknowledge shortcomings, and mostly, this is the time to set New Year’s Resolutions to correct course and get going.  

Celebrate progress  

The adoption of the GBF and the few years preceding it, succeeded in putting biodiversity – the variety of all living things - in the spotlight. The urgent need of addressing nature’s loss for our own sake finally captured (some) headlines and has seen the global community riding that wave of momentum this year.

2023 has seen numerous encouraging signals from other multilateral environmental processes relevant for biodiversity, including the High Seas Treaty, which was formally adopted in June after almost two decades of negotiations and is expected to contribute significantly to achieving key targets of the GBF, including the protection of 30% of the ocean. Progress was also made in the negotiations of two critical instruments addressing pollution: the Plastics Treaty and the science-policy panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste. And even amidst all the chaos of climate negotiations, Dubai’s COP28 underscored the importance of nature in the formal outcomes of the Global Stocktake, emphasizing the need to address the climate and biodiversity crises together. 

The adoption of the GBF has also spurred the creation of a myriad of focused initiatives to support its implementation. At the regional level, the first ever Amazon Summit took place in August, during which eight South American nations agreed on joint actions to protect Amazonia, the world’s largest tropical rainforest. On the other side of the Atlantic, the EU nature restoration law and the EU deforestation regulation, both agreed in 2023, are also noteworthy developments. In the meantime, the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) developed a set of recommendations designed to allow for comparable corporate reporting on impacts and dependencies on nature worldwide, to improve transparency and accountability and to be aligned with the global policy goals in the GBF. 

At IUCN, we have also surfed this wave, launching the Podong Initiative, joining the NBSAP Accelerator Partnership and the NBSAP Forum, and offering conservation tools and knowledge to support Parties and other actors in the implementation of the GBF.  

One of the big-ticket items at COP15 - funding for the GBF – got off to a good start with the establishment of the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund. The 7th Assembly of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) ratified and launched in August this funding mechanism designed to directly bolster the implementation of the GBF, aiming to mobilize and disburse new and additional resources from public, private, and philanthropic sources. Importantly, as much as 20 percent of its resources will support Indigenous-led initiatives to protect and conserve biodiversity and priority will be given to Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries, which will receive more than a third of the fund’s resources. With the contribution of four countries the Fund is now operational. 

New Year’s Resolutions 

Despite promising developments, much remains to be done and we cannot rest on our laurels. Along with the decision to adopt the GBF, governments also adopted other five ‘supporting’ but equally important decisions related to the monitoring framework, planning, reporting and review, resource mobilization, digital sequence information on genetic resources, and capacity-building and technical and scientific cooperation. These decisions are akin to building blocks over which the GBF is cemented, and countries will need to press ahead in 2024 to make sure these blocks are piled-up effectively – even if wobbly at first. Implementation cannot wait.  

The theme for the International Day for Biodiversity 2023 was “From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity”. But rather than the tagline to celebrate one day, this theme should be our mantra for the next 6 years, to make a concerted and sustained effort every day of the 2191 days we have left until 2030. All of us.  

So, for 2024, let us commit to: 

  • Let the GBF be a guiding star. Halting the loss of biodiversity will not end wars but might prevent them; will not stop pandemics but might avoid them, and will help us mitigate and adapt to climate change. Let all our actions be geared towards this common goal of halting and reversing biodiversity loss.  

  • Prioritise and be efficient. There are limited resources and capacities, so let us make the most of what we have and invest time and resources efficiently – making progress in the allotted time in the upcoming negotiations and identifying actions that provide the most benefits in the long run (e.g. Nature-based Solutions, or NbS). 

  • Keep the pace. Use every opportunity to remind us, and everyone else, of why conserving the natural world is a matter of survival. With a packed policy calendar – which includes IUCN’s Regional Conservation Fora in preparation for the World Conservation Congress – there will be many occasions in 2024 to do so. But swift action on the GBF is mostly needed domestically, starting with updating the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs). To date, only 5 (developed) countries have submitted their updated NBSAPs, which means that 191 Parties to the CBD will have to do so in the next 10 months before COP16.  

  • Communicate better. Conveying in simple terms what science is telling us about nature’s demise is not easy nor is it to produce the ultimate elevator pitch that makes the case for conserving biodiversity – and which brings everyone on board. Granted, science can be complicated but we must find ways of communicating why planetary collapse is likely if we do not act, quickly. However, let us not forget to sprinkle in a little optimism and celebrate successes too.  

  • Open spaces for dialogue. CBD meetings in Nairobi and Geneva this year left exposed, once more, profound differences between countries. Important divisions exist on issues related to finance (who pays for what and how much?); ambition (what is ambitious and what is feasible?); responsibility (is this a question of common but differentiated responsibilities?); and accountability (how do we ensure compliance with commitments made?). What is certain is that there is a need to create more spaces for dialogue to overcome differences, listen to one another and find compromises. 

  • Be inclusive. Indigenous peoples and local communities, subnational governments, the private sector, NGOs, women and youth are also concerned and bring their own perspective, experiences, and knowledge. They must be enabled to contribute and be accountable for their actions too. 

2030 is just around the corner, so let’s make sure these New Year Resolutions are not only good wishes in a blog but become a reality.

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