Going Global: is nature (actually) at the heart of the UK's international plans?

(c) Rosie Dutton (rspb-images.com)

Today's blog is written by RSPB Senior International Policy Officer Georgina Chandler and reflects on the whether the Government is on track to deliver on its international commitments.

Our planet and the life on it is precious, yet we are deep in a climate and nature crisis. Four months on from a pivotal global agreement at CBD COP15 to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2030, is the Government delivering on the promises it made on the international stage to address this crisis?  

There have been two critical tests in the last few weeks that might give us an indication of whether we are on the right track. First, the release of the long-anticipated UK 2030 Strategic Framework for International Climate and Nature alongside a package of domestic commitments on energy and achieving net zero (see blog here). Second, from a global leadership perspective, the G7 ministers (including the UK) of climate, energy, and environment met in Japan and agreed a key set of the priorities and actions. What do these tell us about ambition for nature and climate? 

The 2030 Strategic Framework for International Climate and Nature  

This is a direction and priority setting framework that is important because it sets out  the Government’s direction of travel and priorities to 2030. The framework sits across three government departments (FCDO, DESNZ, and DEFRA) and is therefore a genuine step forward in setting out the challenges and solutions to the biodiversity and climate crisis in an integrated way.  While tackling issues in a joined-up way should be a given, it is unfortunately not an approach that is often front and centre of national and global decision making.  

The strategic framework identifies six global challenges to overcome this decade and describes how the UK will play its part in meeting those challenges.   It is good to see key solutions reflected in the strategy in particular the benefits of investing in nature-based solutions (NBS). NbS can be a key tool in tackling the nature and climate crisis in an integrated way, however they must be accompanied by rapid rollout and decarbonisation of the wider economy (which is acknowledged in the framework).  

Other strong elements of the strategy include; a commitment to tackle global supply chains that are driving deforestation and our responsibility to reduce our global footprint, to use the financial sector to drive progress, including increasing the flow of finance into nature and climate solutions. These are all key tools where rapid progress can be made now.  

The UK was a strong champion of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KM-GBF, agreed at CBD COP15 in December 2022) and has committed multiple times to ambitious implementation and it's great to see this reflected in the strategy. The framework references the need for cooperation and finance and sends a strong message that the UK will be at the forefront of leading to close the biodiversity finance gap - although the proof will as always be in the delivery which is critical to the success of the KM-GBF over the next 18 months.  

Whilst we know this is supposed to be a high-level strategy and there will be supporting plans that go into a next layer of detail, opportunities have been missed.  For example on nature-based solutions the case is made for investing in them, but we are left without any detail on how and where funding will be channelled. The framework also lacks an up-front acknowledgement that climate mitigation measures can have negative impacts on nature, with a commitment to tackle the trade-offs e.g. for renewable energy.  

We hope to see these issues resolved at the earliest opportunity to ensure delivery is really integrated and the UK government can claim to be delivering on its promises.

Figure 1. Overview of the 2020 Strategic Framework (taken from the published report)  

The G7 Environment and Climate, Energy, and Environment Ministers Meeting 

It was heartening that when Environment ministers met and agreed on a package of outcomes they committed to the “swift and full implementation of the (Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity) Framework” and to submit their national strategies and action plans (that will set out how each country will implement the global goals and targets) “in 2023 or sufficiently in advance of CBD-COP16" (the end of next year).     

The wording on funding left a little to be desired, while we welcome the commitment that the G7 will “substantially increase” international and national funding for nature by 2025, the communique failed to reiterate the scale of need already agreed in the KM-GBF. We wanted to see a specific and tangible recommitment to increase international biodiversity finance to at least $20 billion by 2025 rather than just a significant amount”, which is vague considering countries have already agreed to ambitious targets under the CBD! 

What is needed now – key tests for the delivery of our international biodiversity commitments 

While some progress on international ambition has been made there are crucial opportunities coming up to embed solutions.  

We now need to see the importance of the KM-GBF and a re-commitment closing the biodiversity finance gap including the commitment to $20 billion reflected in the G7 leaders' outcomes this May.  The UK has a critical role to play in championing these messages.  

The important next step for signatories the KM-GBF will require governments to translate the global goal and targets into national delivery plans. We would like to see the UK (and the four countries) be an ambitious first mover in presenting its updated National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) underpinned by concrete rapid implementation. To fully integrate climate and nature, delivery of these NBSAPs needs to be dovetailed with delivery of national climate plans under the Paris Agreement – Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs. Only when our national delivery matches our international ambition  will the UK be able to hold its head high and claim to be a world leader on halting and reversing the loss of biodiversity.  

See our “World Richer in Nature” report for our ambitious plan to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.