Press release: 19 December 2022

COP15: Final agreement shies away from real change to global economy to save biodiversity – ClientEarth

ClientEarth lawyers react to the final agreement:

  • Final agreement ’noteworthy’ – but not Paris moment for nature
  • Significant wins for Indigenous Peoples’ rights, nature restoration and 30x30
  • World leaders shied away from transforming our global economy to protect nature
  • Implementation mechanism – misses the mark, but enough to put agreement to work
  • Success of agreement relies on individual countries’ ambition

In the early hours of Monday, world leaders at COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the ‘Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework’ (GBF), an agreement that aimed to set a global strategy for conserving and sustainably drawing on the world’s biological diversity.

Environmental lawyers at ClientEarth have said that the final agreement is a start – but that there is a serious mismatch between its ambition and the scale of the crisis.

ClientEarth environmental lawyer Ioannis Agapakis said: “The final agreement is a noteworthy moment – especially given the difficulties of the negotiations and the broader socio-political tensions that surrounded the COP. But it is in no way the ‘Paris moment’ for nature we were promised – despite what civil society, NGOs and business have been calling for.

“World leaders seem to be planning around multi-decade horizons, when we only have eight years.

“Without functioning ecosystems, we cannot live on this planet – but in many cases, the GBF allows for the exploitation and destruction of nature to continue unhindered. It fails to prompt the vital transformation of sectors that are driving biodiversity’s rapid decline, or to establish the tools that would bring nature to the heart of decision-making.

“Worryingly, there are several targets where ambition is even lower than in the previous framework, particularly those related to the ‘sustainable use of biodiversity’ and the ‘ecological impact of consumption’. Backtracking on these targets shows that global leaders have failed to understand the true importance of biodiversity by shying away from transforming the global economic system and mitigating its impact on nature.

“But viewed more positively, world leaders were able to get an agreement over the line, and it contains some real cornerstones, such as recognising Indigenous Peoples’ rights throughout, a strong target for restoring nature, and the commitment to protect 30% of coastal and marine areas, as well as 30% of the world’s land. An unexpected agreement was also reached on the hot topic of digital sequencing of information.

“Though it’s not the most solid foundation from which to protect biodiversity, it nonetheless draws a line in the sand and a starting point from which to build on.”

Implementation mechanism

“The final implementation mechanism is a significant improvement on the Aichi Targets set ten years ago, with most of the key elements we wanted to see included. It sets two new global reviews: one of ambition and one of progress, as well as a notable improvement in terms of monitoring and reporting.

“However, the language around enhancing action at national level in response to the global review of progress is weak and vague in places, appearing in the form of “recommendations” and “encouragements”, rather than as intrinsic tools of the Framework. This leaves the door open for countries to remain on the side-lines and not take appropriate and effective action to progressively improve their efforts.

“The Framework also doesn’t include any mechanism to review individual countries’ progress towards implementation, which jeopardises the agreement’s success.”

Legal value and importance

ClientEarth head of wildlife and habitats Agata Szafraniuk added: “The challenge is that the GBF is not legally binding, so it cannot be used on its own to hold countries accountable if they fail to meet the Framework’s goals and targets. However, similarly to climate cases that use multiple legal angles to protect our environment, the GBF could be used alongside other legal instruments as extra-legal context and leverage to ensure Parties stay on track. Litigators will be eyeing the agreement with interest.

“Country leaders need to build on the political momentum generated by COP15 by transforming their national biodiversity strategies into strong legal or policy instruments, which outline actions for all sectors of government and even trigger the legal amendments and reforms needed to protect and conserve biodiversity.

“If the Framework isn’t integrated into all relevant sectors at national level, then actually delivering its goals and targets will be near to impossible. These two weeks at COP will just have been a talking shop. And it will be over to civil society to chase authorities at all levels into action.”

Ioannis Agapakis is a Greek-qualified lawyer.

Agata Szafraniuk is a Polish-qualified lawyer.


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About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.