COP15 of Convention on Biodiversity – Explained, pointwise

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The 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) concluded recently in Montreal, Canada. The meeting was originally scheduled to be held in 2020 but was repeatedly postponed due to COVID-19 Pandemic. The first part of the COP15 was held in hybrid mode (part online, part in-person meetings) in Kunming, China in 2021. However, due to restrictions in China due to COVID-19 led to the shift of venue to Montreal. At the end of the Conference, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was adopted.

What is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)?

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was the outcome of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED))along with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD).

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) came into force in December 1993. India became a party to the convention in February 1994. With 196 Parties, the CBD has near universal participation among countries.

The Convention seeks to address all threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including threats from climate change, through: (a) Scientific assessments; (b) Development of tools, incentives and processes; (c) Transfer of technologies and good practices; (d) Full and active involvement of relevant stakeholders including indigenous peoples and local communities, youth, women, NGOs, sub-national actors and the business community.

Objectives: Three main objectives of the Convention are: (a) Conservation of biological diversity; (b) Sustainable use of resources; (c) Fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of these resources and associated traditional knowledge.

Protocols Under the Convention: There are two protocols under the Convention (CBD): (a) The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety seeks to protect biodiversity from genetically modified organisms by ensuring their safe handling, transport and use; (b) The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing deals with the commercial utilisation of biological and genetic resources.

Structure: The CBD’s governing body is the Conference of the Parties (COP). It includes all nations that have ratified the treaty and it meets every two years to review progress, set priorities and commit to work plans. The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) is based in Montreal, Canada. Its main function is to assist governments in the implementation of the CBD and its programmes of work, to organise meetings, draft documents, and coordinate with other international organizations and collect and spread information. The Executive Secretary is the head of the Secretariat.

What are the outcomes of COP15?

Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF): (a) It contains 4 goals and 23 targets that need to be achieved by 2030. This will replace the failed 2010 Aichi Biodiversity Targets; (b) 2050 Vision: The vision of the framework is a world of living in harmony with nature where ‘By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all’; (c) 2030 Mission: To take urgent action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss to put nature on a path to recovery for the benefit of people and planet by conserving and sustainably using biodiversity, and ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources, while providing the necessary means of implementation.

Subsidies: The COP15 agreed on reducing harmful subsidies, such as subsidies for fossil fuel production, agriculture, forestry and fisheries etc by at least US$ 500 billion per year.

Pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals: The COP15 has reached a consensus on reducing the overall risk from pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals by at least half by 2030.

30×30 Target: The Conference agreed to a commitment to protect at least 30% of the world’s lands, oceans and coastal areas by 2030. A related commitment is to ensure that restoration activities would be started on at least 30% of degraded land or marine ecosystems by 2030.

Financial Package: The GBF hopes to see at least US$ 200 billion raised per year from all sources (domestic, international, public and private), towards implementation of the national action plans. In terms of international funding, developing countries should get at least US$ 20 billion a year by 2025 and at least US$ 30 billion by 2030 through contributions from developed countries. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has been asked to establish in 2023, and until 2030, a Special Trust Fund to support the implementation of the GBF.

The delegates at COP15 have agreed to establish within the GBF a multilateral fund for the equitable sharing of benefits between providers and users of digital sequence information on genetic resources (DSI), to be finalised at COP16 in Türkiye in 2024.

Reducing Food Wastage: A commitment has been made to reduce global food wastage by half.

Reduction in Extinction: Another goal is to ensure a ten-fold reduction in extinction rate of species.

Targets of Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) COP15 of CBD

Source: Hindustan Times

What are the challenges to protecting Biodiversity?

Population growth and increasing demand for biological resources: Rapid rise in population and the expanding demand from biological resources has led to over-exploitation of natural resources. Rapid deforestation especially in the Amazons (and other evergreen forest regions) is responsible for large-scale extinction of species.

Habitat Degradation: The major threats to biodiversity that result from human activity are habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, habitat degradation, overexploitation of species for human use, introduction of exotic species, and increased spread of diseases. Most threatened species face at least two or more of these threats, speeding their way to extinction and hindering efforts to protect them.

Climate Change: Climate change is disturbing the fragile ecological balance leading to extinction of species e.g., a study has found that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its corals since 1995 due to warmer seas driven by climate change.

Exotic Species: Introduction of exotic species (deliberate or inadvertent) leads to poses a threat to native species. According to the CBDInvasive alien species have contributed to nearly 40% of all animal extinctions since the 17th century for which the cause is known.

Government Policies: Government policies, in pursuit of development and without adequate safeguards, have contributed to loss of biodiversity e.g., the major reasons for deforestation in Amazons is due to exploitative policies of the Brazilian Government.

Reasons for Loss of Biodiversity COP15 UPSC

Source: WWF

What are the major concern of new global biodiversity framework?

First, The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warns that the agreement’s goal of reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 could be undermined if weak language in critical areas such as the protection of intact ecosystems and tackling unsustainable production and consumption is not addressed at the national level.

Second, It lacks a mandatory ratcheting mechanism that undertakes periodic review and upgradation of targets. Ratchet mechanism is part of the Paris Agreement wherein NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) are reviewed and updated after 5 years.

Third, the Aichi Targets remain unfulfilled. In the absence of proper implementation mechanisms, the targets agreed under COP15 many end up the same way.

What should be done going ahead?

First, Protection and sustainable use of biodiversity requires the participation of all stakeholders and ministries responsible for such areas as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, tourism, trade and finance.

Second, There is need to mainstream the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources across all sectors of the national economy, the society and the policy-making framework.

ThirdIntegrated management of natural resources, based on the ecosystem approach, is the most effective way to promote the conservation of biodiversity.

Fourth, It is essential that the all countries, especially developing countries, take necessary steps to establish good governance, including rule of law and improvement in the economic and social management capacity. This can check unregulated exploitation of biological resources.

Fifth, The private sector must recognise that profit and protection go hand-in-hand. The Food and Agriculture industry should shift towards sustainable production and natural means of pollination, pest control and fertilisation; the timber, chemicals, building and construction industries should account for impacts of their activities on nature in their business plans; and biotech and pharmaceutical industries should equitably share benefits fairly and equitably.

Sixth, International financial institutions and multilateral development banks should align their portfolios with the conservation, and sustainable use of biodiversity.


The outcomes of COP15 are promising and provide hope that the rapid loss of biodiversity can be reversed. Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) is expected to act as the new guiding force for the conservation efforts in the coming decade. However, the focus now has to be on implementation and achievement of targets or else GBF will also end up like rest of the global agreements and protocols that promised a lot but delivered a little.

Syllabus: GS III, Conservation.

Source: The Times of India, Down to Earth, Indian Express, The Hindu

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