In a dramatic conclusion to COP15, the UN Biodiversity Conference held in Montreal from December 7 – 19, a major global agreement for nature’s recovery was reached. Nearly 200 countries agreed and adopted a new ‘global biodiversity framework‘ (GBF) containing various goals and targets. The agreement requires all nations, including the UK, to dramatically up their game on protecting and restoring nature.

Overarching Aim ‘To live in harmony with nature by 2050

The overarching aim of the GBF is for people ‘to live in harmony with nature‘ by 2050. To achieve this, it set out a ‘mission‘ to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. Many viewed this as the most crucial part of the agreement alongside one key headline target, the pledge to protect 30% of the world’s land and seas for nature by 2030. Target 3 of the GBF, commonly referred to as ‘30×30‘, has been likened to the 1.5C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement. Target 3 calls on countries to ensure that ‘at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, and of coastal and marine areas‘ are conserved by 2030.

Human Rights and Indigenous Communities

During negotiations one of the major concerns was that any agreement to restore nature should protect human rights and particularly the rights of indigenous communities. The GBF includes various targets relating to human rights, such as target 21, on participation of Indigenous peoples, women and youth in decision making on biodiversity, and target 22 on gender equality. The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity welcomed the inclusion of ”Indigenous and traditional territories‘ as well as the recognition of their rights.


The GBF hopes to mobilise ‘at least $200bn per year’ by 2030 from ‘all sources‘, domestic, international, public and private. Of this, developed countries and others are expected to ‘substantially and progressively increase‘ their international finance flows for nature ‘to at least $20bn per year by 2025, and to at least $30bn per year by 2030.‘  These financial ‘flows‘ would be focused on supporting least-developed countries, small island developing states and economies in transition to achieve their national biodiversity plans. It remains to be seen of course whether the finance will actually materialise.

Subsidising Destruction

Governments spend at least $1.8tn(!) annually on subsidies that exacerbate biodiversity loss and climate change. The discussion around the reduction, redirection and elimination of these subsidies was a key concern at COP15. Target 18 sets out the aim to identify, by 2025 and then ‘eliminate, phase out or reform incentives, including subsidies‘ that are harmful for biodiversity. Subsidies should also be reduced by at least $500bn each year by 2030, ‘starting with the most harmful incentives‘.

Food and Agriculture

Almost 830 million people around the world suffer from hunger and 2.3 billion (nearly 30% of global population) from malnutrition. However, food systems account for 80% of deforestation and 29% of greenhouse gas emissions. The GBF addressed agricultural issues in a series of targets: target 7 seeks to reduce ‘the overall risks from pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals by at least half‘ by 2030, target 15 will ‘encourage‘ companies to monitor and report their ‘impacts on biodiversity‘ and target 16 aims to promote ‘sustainable consumption choices‘ through policies, education and information. Target 16 also sets a goal of ‘halving global food waste‘ and ‘reducing the global footprint of consumption‘ by 2030.


Whilst this agreement has been generally welcomed by all parties it should be remembered that countries are not legally obliged to implement the agreement and serious issues remain as to how the targets can be financed, particularly in developing countries. However, the GBF does provide an opportunity for humanity to live in harmony with nature by 2050. There is much to be done, including concerted action to reduce emissions to address climate change, but COP15 has delivered the hope of a better future for all who share this planet.

More details of the outcome of COP15 are available from: COP15: Key outcomes agreed at the UN biodiversity conference in Montreal.

Chris Myers
Diocesan Environment Group

Photo source: Julian Haber / UN BIODIVERSITY / Reuters