COP 15, the UN Biodiversity Conference, has now concluded and in this blog, Lesley Wilson, the biodiversity and natural capital policy lead at IEMA, discusses the outcomes of the event.

On Sunday evening the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework was published after days of sometimes challenging negotiations by 196 member countries to the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity). Though some targets were not as strong as might have been thought when looking at drafts leading up to the conference, COP 15 has produced a positive direction and pathway to reduce impacts on, and restore biodiversity.

The conference agreed to commit to effectively restore 30% of land, water, coastal and marine ecosystems by 2030 and enable 30% of land, water, coastal and marine areas to be effectively conserved and managed. Alongside this sits the agreement to halt the extinction of threatened species by 2050 and increase the abundance of native species by ‘tenfold’.

The Framework includes an overall pledge to reduce pollution, including targets to half excess nutrients by 50% and reduce risks to biodiversity from all chemical and pesticides by 50%, and work towards the elimination of plastic pollution.

Target 15 – the target for business – had possibly the most ambitious outcome from the conference: to ensure that large and transnational businesses report on impacts and dependencies and reduce negative impacts and increase positive impacts on biodiversity.

Did the conference achieve a Paris Agreement moment? Biodiversity still doesn’t have the equivalent of a 'net zero’ target, with the term ‘nature positive’ being left out of the final text. However, there was a strong sense of momentum at the meeting in Montreal. This included business and finance engaging positively and seeming to recognise not just stakeholder demand for action but also the threat of stranded assets. That the outcome of COP 15 appeared on major UK news outlets is hugely significant, reflecting public interest for action.

So what next? This is an opportunity for member countries and businesses to lead on biodiversity and nature improvement and for those already with protections in place to go beyond the Kunming-Montreal Agreement. The Framework allows governments to set their own ‘step-wise’ targets to 2030 and 2050 to facilitate progress and we already see this happening in the UK through the Environment Act and recent targets set in England and targets starting to form in the new Biodiversity Strategy in Scotland.

The update of the 25-Year Environment Plan offers a way to wrap UK biodiversity policy around the Framework. Effective measurement and monitoring to ensure relevant outcomes is essential. This is also an opportunity for the UK government and businesses to take advantage of a growing green economy.

IEMA's Deputy CEO and Director of Policy and External Affairs, Martin Baxter said:

“We welcome the COP15 agreement aimed at reversing nature’s decline. Given the urgent need to translate ambition into action, Governments around the world will need to rapidly develop and implement the necessary measures if the 2030 targets are to be achieved.”

You can read more about COP 15 from IEMA member Damien Plant in his blog and in our COP 15 explainer.

Photo of Lesley
Lesley Wilson

Policy and Engagement Lead

Lesley is Policy and Engagement Lead at IEMA with a focus on biodiversity and natural capital. Lesley also supports IEMA’s role as Secretariat to the UK Business and Biodiversity Forum, working with businesses to raise the profile of, mainstream, and share good practice in, biodiversity. Lesley joined IEMA in December 2021 after 11 years delivering projects, programmes and solutions for business in the field of environmental sustainability for the British Standards Institution (BSI), including ground breaking standards in biodiversity net gain and natural capital. Lesley has a qualification in business management (MBA) and climate change management, and mentors environmental students at the University of Westminster.


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