Last but not least: ending the year with another COP critical to nature
3 min read

Last but not least: ending the year with another COP critical to nature

While the United Nations’ climate change negotiations (COP27) came to an end last month, this December was all about another Conference of the Parties: namely, global biodiversity negotiations known as CBD COP15. This was the occasion for world leaders to come together and agree upon a Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) with targets for 2030 that should protect and restore a wide range of ecosystems, flora, and fauna. The resounding message from CBD COP15 has been that local governments will be central to the framework’s success, and must be included in decision making and implementation processes.

The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

The Post-2020 GBF will define pathways for the conservation of biodiversity, including expectations for financial contributions, tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming, as well as monitoring mechanisms. This includes, for example, a target that, by 2030, at least 30 percent of degraded terrestrial areas, inland water, and coastal and marine ecosystems should be restored and conserved. Overall, the framework should protect nature, curb the vast biodiversity loss we are facing, whilst strengthening the numerous benefits of nature for the next decade and beyond.

This is critical. After all, nature conservation, restoration, and sustainable use are not only important on their own, but also contribute to climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience. Nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches that protect biodiversity have well-documented benefits that link to many facets of sustainability, from multilevel action to nature-positive economies, and climate neutrality. The discussions at CBD COP15 also highlighted the need to safeguard human rights with respect to nature, and just access to nature’s benefits.

Cities’ leading roles

Cities and subnational governments are agents of change in these fields. They are hotbeds of innovation and transformation, and no city or region can afford to take nature for granted, nor make any decision that is not nature-positive. As such, cities hold the knowledge and incentives to shape the GBF and its implementation at the local and landscape levels.

Local governments are already leading on biodiversity action. In the run-up to CBD COP15, the Edinburgh Declaration laid out subnational aspirations and commitments to deliver action that is “for nature” through to 2030; and the Montreal Pledge, signed at COP15, details 15 pledges made by cities to protect biodiversity. Led by the City of Berlin and with ICLEI’s support, cities are now preparing the groundwork for the next major milestone in biodiversity action implementation, namely the Berlin Urban Nature Pact, which is unique in setting concrete, explicit, measurable and time-bound targets.

As Verena Klinger-Dering, Policy Officer at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, and Head of the German Delegation explained during CBD COP15: “The Berlin Pact reflects the true spirit of solidarity between local governments. The initiative supports the ambitious implementation of the GBF with smart targets and thoroughly considered implementation principles. The Pact will make a strong contribution to transformative change.”

Recognising this strong local leadership, CBD COP15 has been the first biodiversity Conference of the Parties with a dedicated Pavilion for cities and subnational governments. This Pavilion was furthermore associated with the 7th Summit for Subnational Governments and Cities, which is an official parallel event to CBD COP15 and is co-hosted by ICLEI.

Bringing local voices to the fore has achieved results. Indeed, one of the key targets laid-out in the GBF is to “increase the area of, access to, and benefits from green and blue spaces, for human health and well-being in urban areas and other densely populated areas”. The framework furthermore acknowledges explicitly that success requires participation of cities and local authorities, and updates the respective Engagement with Subnational Governments Action Plan.

Time for implementation

So, what’s next? Simply put: GBF implementation. ICLEI is on hand with a number of new initiatives to help cities and subnational regions lead this implementation process.

ICLEI and Regions4 invite cities and regions to use the CitiesWithNature as well as the RegionsWithNature platforms – both co-founded by ICLEI – to track their progress toward GBF and national biodiversity strategy implementation. Both are included in the aforementioned Action Plan.

ICLEI Europe hosted a session at CBD COP15 highlighting examples of city-led, effective, and inclusive biodiversity interventions and tools to inspire further action, featuring initiatives from ICLEI Members Montreal (Canada) and Campinas (Brazil). Local leaders are encouraged to regularly seek guidance and inspiration from peers, using tools like the NetworkNature databases on nature-based solution knowledge gaps, and on EU-funded projects.

In another session, ICLEI Europe outlined the need for nature-based solutions standards to support nature-positive urban economies. This mirrored discussions at CBD COP15 on the role of standards for monitoring impact and progress on biodiversity conservation. Insights will feed into a standardisation roadmap for nature-based solutions, currently being developed by the CLEVER Cities project.

In other words: what’s next is for cities and regions to take the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and work together to make sure it is implemented swiftly and effectively, to protect nature, biodiversity, and our own sustainable future by 2030 and beyond.

Join this work: to see how to get involved in ongoing consultations around the Berlin Urban Nature Pact and its commitments and measurable targets, click here.

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