On the way to Kunming – about COP 15 and beyond…

I am looking forward to the opening of COP 15 next week, which will raise the awareness of and effort for the biodiversity agenda globally. I am also looking forward to continuing these important discussions and to the adoption of a new, ambitious,...

I am looking forward to the opening of COP 15 next week, which will raise the awareness of and effort for the biodiversity agenda globally. I am also looking forward to continuing these important discussions and to the adoption of a new, ambitious, global framework for biodiversity at part two of COP 15 in Kunming next spring.

Charlotta Sörqvist, Senior Adviser at the Ministry of the Environment of Sweden and Chair of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) of CBD.

COP 15 – the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is supposed to be one of the major global environmental events of 2021 and with China as the host country. Given the uncertainty of the current Covid-19 situation, COP 15 has been divided into 2 parts, 11-15 October 2021 and 25 April-8 May 2022, both in Kunming.

The logistical complexity and associated difficulties do not reduce the importance and the attention attached to COP 15. In close dialogue and cooperation with the Swedish CDB delegation at the Ministry of Environment in Stockholm, the Embassy of Sweden in Beijing will attend Part 1 of COP 15 in Kunming next week. Both back home in Sweden and here on the ground in Beijing we see an increased interest in policy issues as well as business engagement in biodiversity. At the same time, we also see that both the knowledge about COP 15 and the inspiration from some ongoing innovative initiatives will facilitate our understanding of and engagement in biodiversity both at COP 15 and beyond.

A snapshot of CBD and COP 15

  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted in 1993 with 3 main objectives: 1) Conservation of biodiversity, 2) The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity and 3) The fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
  • The Cartagena protocol, adopted in 2000 and entered into force in 2003, is an international agreement aiming to ensure safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health.
  • The Nagoya Protocol,entered in force 2014, is an international agreement which aims at sharing the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way.
  • The Aichi goals, adopted in 2010 with most of the 20 strategic goals to be reached by the end of 2020.

Having the above legal/negotiation progress in mind, the implementational and delivery challenges for biodiversity are urgent, real and comprehensive. For instance, according to the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 (GBO5) despite progress in some areas, only 6 of the 20 Aichi targets were partially achieved by 2020.[1]

Against this backdrop, how to step up the actions and resource mobilisation to ensure and strengthen the implementation will be at the heart of the ongoing COP 15 negotiations for the post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (See Figure below). In other words, reinforced implementation mechanisms are indispensable to any outcome of CBD COP 15 in Kunming this year and in 2022.

Figure: Highlights of the post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework under negotiation
Source: Modified version from the presentation for Beijing Missions by CBD Secretariat

Sweden’s engagement in CBD and beyond…

Sweden launched the government bill on “A Swedish strategy for biodiversity and ecosystem services[3] in 2013 to strengthen the implementation of several Swedish environmental quality objectives and the generational goal. The strategy has also contributed to achieving the targets in the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 as well as in the CBD.  

With domestic implementation experience as well as a strong commitment to the joint efforts for a global sustainability transformation, Sweden is an active and committed participant in the ongoing negotiations within the CBD for an ambitious and evidence-based global biodiversity framework. A strong focus, from a Swedish perspective, has been to significantly strengthen the implementation, monitoring and review mechanisms under the CBD, based on gap analyses and available scientific evidence. As the Chair of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) of CBD and Senior Adviser at the Ministry of the Environment of Sweden, Charlotta Sörqvist, together with her colleagues is playing an active and progressive role in this area. As another key focus, Sweden is actively working towards promoting synergies in the solutions to the climate crisis and the threat towards biodiversity, especially through nature-based solutions (NBS).

When it comes to resource mobilisation, the international public funding has a vital guiding and levering role. Sweden is the largest per capita donor to the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a key global financial mechanism for the CBD with its integrated approach to environmental and ecological challenges, such as biodiversity, climate, oceans, chemicals and waste, and land degradation. The Swedish Government has also made biodiversity a key priority in development cooperation.

Both the science and the reality tell us that, international public financing, or public finance alone will be far from enough to meet the total financial needs. In this context, the Swedish research funding agencies and research communities have already taken a proactive role to address the challenges of system transformation and financing gaps. For instance, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra) has just published a background report on Aligning Markets with Biodiversity and is on the way to launch a new call for proposals on Biodiversity and the financial System. A new research program on Biodiversity and the Sea is also planned.  

Biodiversity and China – the ongoing development of knowledge-building and actions

COP 15 in Kunming, is undoubtedly, an “all eyes on China” moment. But beyond the role as the host country and the incoming presidency of CBD, some important and inspiring development in China is already on the way, which will contribute to mainstream biodiversity protection, preservation and benefit sharing not only in China, but also globally. We have heard a lot about China’s work on the delineation of ecological redlines for securing protected areas. According to some expert, China’s methodology of ecological redline delineation is highly developed – it combines assessments of biodiversity value, ecosystem services value, and disaster risk prevention value.[4]

Here, we would like to highlight two other important aspects of China’s progress with and contribution to biodiversity. Firstly, China has developed significant research infrastructure, capacity and excellence in biodiversity-related fields.  For instance:

  • The China-BON project by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment since 2011, the Sino-BON project by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) from 2013 and the Big Earth Data Science Engineering Project by CAS from 2018 have laid a comprehensive and solid foundation for the development of biodiversity change monitoring and big biodiversity data science (See Figure below). 
Figure: Illustration of Sino-BON and biodiversity change monitoring
Source: The global significance of biodiversity science in China: an overview[5]
  • China is one of the biodiversity richest countries in the world but, at the same time, one of the countries with the most threatened biodiversity. A large volume of research on biodiversity has been carried out in China and the quality and impact of China’s basic research in the biodiversity related fields have also improved significantly.
Figure: An overview of distribution of biodiversity related research and studies in China
 Source: Biodiversity conservation in China: A review of recent studies and practices[6]

Secondly, China has taken some essential and innovative steps towards valuing biodiversity and ecosystem services into the economic and financial systems and practices, for instance:

  • Shenzhen and Zhejiang are the first city and the first province in China to use gross ecological product (GEP) accounting to value the final ecosystem and services. 
  • A Guide for China’s Banks to Identify and Manage Biodiversity Risks was lunched by one of China’s environmental Think-Do organization, Greenovation Hub, where concrete guidance was given to China’s policy banks and commercial banks in three areas: 1) Incorporate biodiversity risks into existing Environmental and Social Management Systems (ESMS) 2) implement a mitigation hierarchy and 3) carry out multi-party cooperation and communication.

Although these practices are still in an early development stage, they do send clear policy and market signals for a structural and long-term transformation towards mainstreaming biodiversity protection and ecosystem valuation. 

A few thoughts on the way to Kunming…          

While part 1 of COP 15, due to the COVID-19 situation, will be a highly constrained event with limited on-site participation, it will, nevertheless, be an important start of COP 15, featuring political aspiration and commitment from state leaders and ministers all over the world, including our Minister for Environment and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister, Per Bolund. Hopefully, it will also prepare a common ground towards the next step of the process at COP 15, through which high ambitions will be more and more aligned with solid implementation and innovative approaches to transformation. 

We will tell more and share more, when we are back from Kunming…

Nannan Lundin, Matilde Eng, Linnea Yang and Jessica Zhang

PS: We would like to take this opportunity to thank Charlotta Sörqvist and her CBD-team at the Ministry of the Environment, for the great support and cooperation for our Embassy’s participation in Part 1 of COP 15 in Kunming. We all look forward to seeing you next year in Kunming and Beijing! 

[1] Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 (cbd.int)

[2] GBO5, World Bank and various research reports.

[3] CBD Strategy and Action Plan – Sweden (English version)

[4] What should we expect from the first phase of COP15? Definitely watch it! – CCICED

[5] For more detail, see global significance of biodiversity science in China: an overview | National Science Review | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

[6] For more details, see Biodiversity conservation in China: A review of recent studies and practices – ScienceDirect

* The theme photos are taken by Zheng Yun, Zhang Xiaoping, Binghai, Wang Jinlei, selected from the”Beauty China, I’m the actor” photography exhibition on biodiversity 2021 by Ministry of Ecology and Environment of China.