(c) Fiona Dobson, rspb

Today’s blog is written by Georgina Chandler, Senior International Policy Officer, and Fiona Dobson, International Policy Officer, to report on progress (or lack of) from a key meeting under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity which took place in Nairobi last week.  


Despite negotiations stretching late into the night at the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting last week in Nairobi, a massive gap remains between what we need to secure a nature-positive world, and the inconclusive and woefully inadequate text currently on the table. To turn the ship around, we need to rally around this once-in-a-decade opportunity to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. 


Progress during this last round of negotiations before the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP15 has been painfully slow again. Countries have been negotiating a new global biodiversity framework which will set a global plan of action to save nature this decade.

Negotiations in Nairobi on the new global biodiversity framework have ended, leaving us with mixed emotions. First, elation and relief that we finally received dates for COP15 (Montreal, December 5th – 17th), a moment we can galvanize public and political momentum towards.  Second, frustration and (personally) a lot of anger - the text and targets that we came to Nairobi with seems to have ballooned rather than shrunk with many discussions raking over old ground for the third time rather than building consensus for constructive and ambitious outcomes. 


Where was the urgency? 

There was a real sense that we lacked collective drive and urgency in the room and many negotiators and civil society observers felt the same. As a result, the text (the draft of the new framework that will be shared as a result of the meeting) is limp and lacklustre. We have a mountain to climb before we can say we are close to a successful outcome. To quote one of the delegates: “congratulations to the whole group for being in the same place as Geneva, (where the last set of meetings were heldmaybe even backwards”. There were some small wins (see below), but if this is the ceiling of ambition for COP15 we are heading towards the most concerning outcome – a mediocre one.  


Where were the champions? 

There is a gaping disconnect between the ambitious words that many leaders for nature have committed to over the past few years and the reality in the negotiating room. Clearly negotiators were not feeling the pressure to deliver results or even come to Nairobi with a mandate to negotiate. Where were the champions that many have worked so hard to secure? We certainly didn’t hear them.  


Where is the trust? 

There are many bridges that need to be built and mended. Key cross-cutting issues such as national sovereignty, resource mobilisation, sustainable use (to name a few) crept into nearly every paragraph and target of the framework, preventing meaningful progress and obscuring any hope of crisp, measurable, ambitious text in Nairobi. The root of this is potentially low trust that these issues, which are crucial for many Parties, won’t be honoured unless they are explicitly written into all the targets. The framework is also not being seen by many as the whole picture – each target is being looked at and negotiated in isolation and the interdependencies are being overlooked.  


Were there glimmers of progress? 

Thankfully it wasn’t all bad news. Despite the painfully slow pace, we did start to move in the right direction in some of the key targets: 

  • Goals for species recovery: the draft framework includes a goal to tackle species extinctions, reduce extinction risk, and increase species population abundance. A particular priority for us is to ensure that this goal is SMART (specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic and timebound). Despite lengthy and complex discussions, and disagreements over terminology, timescales, and numeric figures, several countries championed our asks, and the final text that emerged has all the key elements in it. The challenge now will be to ensure that the brackets around these key pieces are removed so that this goal remains strong, and we can hold countries accountable to it. 
  • The 2030 mission: This ‘mission’ will serve to guide the direction of the whole framework, as an outcome statement for what we want to see by 2030. Unfortunately, countries didn’t come to a consensus on one text, but encouragingly several of the options left on the table include reference to achieving a Nature Positive world, and halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030. Again, the challenge now will be to build stronger support for these options, across regions, to ensure that the 2030 mission really can act as the guiding light for the decade. 


The way forward? 

We are left with many questions and only 5 months to COP15. Yet, this is not the time to give up on the CBD. If anything, we should call out the outcome of Nairobi and channel our frustration into a concerted effort to genuinely turn the tide on biodiversity loss. There are clear things we need to do: 

  • Continue to raise the profile of the biodiversity crisis and the once-in-a-decade opportunity of COP15 at the highest political levels. With the dates now clear in calendars, moments such as the UN General Assembly can help us continue to build momentum towards the COP.  
  • Communicate to our members, supporters and the public what the opportunity is, and that failure is not an option. Call on the leaders for nature to demonstrate their commitment for an ambitious post-2020 framework and for the UK to play its part.  
  • Work with negotiators and countries to build a sense of unity, urgency, and purpose. Use this time to convene and find solutions to sticky issues such as financing. We need to come to COP15 with many of these problems ironed out or we will continue to go around in circles.   

We have a lot still to do – as is the theme for these negotiations – but this time we have the upcoming COP15 on the horizon to rally around and to use as a moment for public and political pressure. Something we need now more than ever to spur genuine action to save nature. 


Watch this space  

As the road to COP15 continues, we’ll continue to report on progress as we advocate for a strong global biodiversity framework that can deliver a Nature Positive world by 2030. 


Further reading:  

Check out this page on the BirdLife International website to learn more about our policy positions for the development of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework: