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After a two-year delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, COP15 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity is finally taking place this month in Montreal, Canada. And not a moment too soon. Nature—on which our societies, economies, climate and well-being depend—is in crisis. Global wildlife populations have fallen by 69% on average since 1970; one million species are now at risk of extinction; and irreplaceable ecosystems like the Amazon have transitioned from carbon sink to carbon source. We also know that without bold and urgent action on nature and biodiversity we can neither stabilise the climate, nor secure an equitable and resilient world.
Many companies are increasingly aware of the nature-related threats they face, and understand that their bottom line depends on the planet's health.
With the stakes being this high, COP15 offers an unmissable opportunity to agree bold commitments to reverse our natural world’s decline. This means adopting a strong post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (the Framework), with governments setting ambitious policies that require companies and finance institutions to protect, restore and sustainably manage nature.
Leading businesses are ready for this. Many companies are increasingly aware of the nature-related threats they face, and understand that their bottom line depends on the planet's health. With biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse considered to be in the top three most severe risks facing humanity in the next decade, the need to better understand and mitigate the physical, regulatory, reputational and market risks stemming from nature loss is quickly rising up the corporate agenda.
Also on the Forum Network: Bigger Biodiversity Benefits for your Buck: How economic instruments can help safeguard nature by Katia Karousakis & Edward Perry, Programme Lead & Analyst, Biodiversity, Land Use and Ecosystems, OECD
This is why more than 1,100 businesses with USD 4.7 trillion in revenues signed Business for Nature’s call to action, Nature Is Everyone’s Business, urging governments to adopt policies to reverse nature loss in this decade.
Business for Nature has three key asks of policymakers ahead of COP15.
- Adopt mandatory requirements for all large business and financial institutions to assess and disclose their impacts and dependencies on nature, as part of Target 15 of the Framework.
We can only manage what we measure. It is a fundamental risk to businesses and financial institutions not to be aware of their impacts and dependencies on nature. But experience shows that voluntary action is not enough, and progressive companies recognise this. In October 2022, more than 330 business and finance institutions with combined revenues of more than USD 1.5 trillion urged heads of state to “Make it Mandatory” for companies to assess and disclose their impacts on nature, thereby incentivising them to reduce damaging activities in their operations and throughout their value chains.
Mandatory assessment and disclosure are needed to create urgency and provide clarity for businesses and finance institutions to adapt and transform their strategies. They will ensure fair competition, transparency and accountability, while unlocking commercial opportunities estimated at USD 10.1 trillion per year, as consumers, regulators and investors shift their preferences towards products and business models that safeguard nature. If mandatory disclosure is adopted under Target 15, countries will define the form this would take at national level.
- Raise the ambition on reducing environmentally harmful subsidies, as part of Target 18 of the Framework.
Earlier this year, research co-authored by Business for Nature and the B-Team found that at least USD 1.8 trillion per year is spent on subsidies that harm the environment—the equivalent to 2% of global GDP. While a target on subsidies has been discussed as part of negotiations, significant progress on finding a way forward is needed in Montreal. Business for Nature is pushing for the inclusion of a numeric target to reduce harmful subsidies by at least USD 500 billion, and for an agreement on the need for full subsidy reform. We urgently need to shift towards financing our survival and away from subsidising the destruction of the ecosystems we depend on.
- Adopt a clear and urgent mission to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
Corporate leaders need—and expect—governments to set the direction for positive business action on nature. As was the case for the Paris Agreement on climate change, we need an ambitious, clear and enforceable international agreement on nature. This goal needs to be stated upfront in the Framework to provide a clear rallying call for all stakeholders, including business and finance.
These are big asks, but the good news is that there is an unprecedented level of engagement with COP15. Hundreds of businesses and financial institutions are planning to attend to show their support to ensure the voice of progressive and ambitious business is heard in the negotiations. By doing so, they send a strong signal to governments that the time for action is now. This should provide country negotiators with the confidence and courage to make ambitious commitments in Montreal.
Outside of the COP process, work is well underway to support companies in taking nature positive action. Leading organisations—such as the Science-Based Target Network, the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures and the Capitals Coalition through its Natural Capital Protocol—are working on methodologies and tools to help and encourage businesses ahead of mandatory requirements. Using some of these resources, Business for Nature has compiled these high-level actions on nature to provide an overview of how companies and finance institutions can Assess, Commit, Transform and Disclose now to help reverse nature loss.
But guidance and voluntary frameworks can only go so far. At COP15, the world needs to take a big and urgent step forward on its nature-positive journey, with governments setting the direction, rules and finish line for game-changing business action. Only then will we be able to achieve the transformative change needed to deliver an equitable, nature-positive and net-zero future for all.