What does the Global Biodiversity Framework and other 2022 UN Biodiversity Summit outcomes mean for the ocean and ocean research? (Part 1)

By Elisa Morgera & Lynne Shannon

The global biodiversity community adopted a new global framework to catalyze, enable and galvanize urgent and transformative action at all levels to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. In addition, the UN Biodiversity Conference of the Parties (COP 15, held on 7-19 December 2022 – Montreal, Canada)) also adopted new decisions on marine biodiversity, as well as on digital sequence information, the biodiversity-human health nexus, and on gender that are relevant for the ocean. This blog post reflects on the implications of these recent international decisions for the ocean, ocean-dependent human rights and ocean research with a focus on the GBF. Follow-up blog posts will discuss the relevance of the recent decisions on DSI, human health and gender from a marine biodiversity perspective.

Why do we need the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework?

After two years’ delay due to the global pandemic, the international community has adopted a new set of global targets and approaches to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, taking into account that none of the 2010 Aichi Biodiversity Targets have been fully achieved. The framework is meant to provide a global policy response to the findings of the 2019 Global Biodiversity Assessment, warning that the rate of global biodiversity degradation during the past 50 years is unprecedented in human history and ‘[m]ost of nature’s contributions to people are not fully replaceable and some are irreplaceable’. For instance, 66 % of the ocean area is experiencing increasing cumulative impacts (with over-fishing being a main contributor and marine plastic pollution having increased tenfold since 1980, affecting at least 267 species). As a result, current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems will undermine progress towards 80 % (35 out of 44) of targets assessed within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land (SDGs 1, 2, 3, 6, 11, 13, 14 and 15).

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework advances 4 four long-term (2050) goals, and 23 “action-oriented global targets” that require urgent uptake by 2030. It is too early to say whether the new framework is going to support transformative change, as much will depend on how it is going to be implemented at different levels, and how learning will be shared across these levels. Nevertheless, the integration of human rights into the GBF is certainly a key element to support transformation; the One Ocean Hub is exploring human rights with specific regard to transformative ocean governance.

Human rights considerations and targets in the GBF

The Global Biodiversity Framework has distilled a series of “considerations” that show significant progress in the science-policy understanding of the biodiversity-human rights nexus. These considerations include:

  • “Contribution and rights of indigenous peoples and local communitiesas custodians of biodiversity and as partners in its conservation, restoration and sustainable use’, with the clarification that the Framework’s implementation “must ensure that the rights, knowledge, including traditional knowledge associated with biodiversity, innovations, worldviews, values and practices of indigenous peoples and local communities are respected, and documented and preserved with their free, prior and informed consent, including through their full and effective participation in decision-making, in accordance with relevant national legislation, international instruments, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and human rights law. In this regard, nothing in this framework may be construed as diminishing or extinguishing the rights that indigenous peoples currently have or may acquire in the future.” These clarifications have been arising from within the CBD and international human rights bodies over time, and have been captured in Principle 15 of the 2018 Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment.
  • Different value systems (biodiversity, ecosystems, Mother Earth, and systems of life,  ecosystem goods and services, nature’s contributions to people, and nature’s gifts) as being an integral part of the GBF successful implementation;
  • Whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach, which resonate with the Hub’s efforts to advance integrated and inclusive T.

These are also key considerations for transformative ocean governance and transformative ocean science, and require respectful and innovative approaches (see here, here and here) ocean governance.

In addition, the Global Biodiversity Framework contains specific references to human rights:

  • Gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, and on reducing inequalities (on which a follow-up blog post will focus);
  • Intergenerational equity, which aims to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and to ensure meaningful participation of younger generations in decision-making processes at all levels. In this connection, it is a pity that the GBF did not make explicit reference to children’s human right to a healthy environment, considering the parallel development of the UN General Comment on this topic with specific reference to a healthy ocean, but the general references to human rights do of course comprise also children’s human rights as a key consideration for the GBF implementation;

It is also significant that a specific target has been devoted to human rights issues – T22 “Ensure the full, equitable, inclusive, effective and gender-responsive representation and participation in decision-making, and access to justice and information related to biodiversity by indigenous peoples and local communities, respecting their cultures and their rights over lands, territories, resources, and traditional knowledge, as well as by women and girls, children and youth, and persons with disabilities and ensure the full protection of environmental human rights defenders. This resonates with the Hub’s work with various UN partners on ocean defenders.

What are the implications for ocean science?

There are two targets under the GBF that have been of immediate interest and discussion in the context of the ocean:

  • to effectively conserve 30% of terrestrial, inland water, coastal, and marine areas through protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures by 2030 (this has increased compared to the 2010 Aichi Targets, which aimed for 17% for terrestrial and inland water, and 10% for coastal and marine areas by 2020)
  •  to ensure that at least 30% of degraded terrestrial, inland water, coastal, and marine ecosystems are under effective restoration by 2030 (this has increased compared to the 2010 Aichi Targets, which aimed for 15% by 2020).

In the lead up to the UN Biodiversity COP, Hub researcher Lynne Shannon was part of a coalition of scientists (Leadley et al. 2022 PlosOne) that had advocated for specific objectives, quantitative guidelines and clear definitions, concluding that “calculations showing that net gains of 5% in the global area of natural terrestrial ecosystems by 2030, and 15% by 2050 can be met through greatly reduced rates of loss of natural ecosystems starting now and no losses after 2030, coupled with the initiation of restoration.” They had warned that “Business-as-usual scenarios that continue current rates of loss and restoration result in increasing net loss of natural ecosystem area in 2030 and 2050.” They had also explained that “The feasibility of net gains in ecosystem integrity is more difficult to evaluate than for the area of natural ecosystems, but several lines of evidence suggest that a 5% net increase in the integrity of natural terrestrial ecosystems by 2030 is near the upper limit of what is feasible.” The notion of “integrity” refers to composition, structure and ecosystem function. The notion of net gains, however, do not appear in the GBF as adopted in December 2022.

In reflecting on the GBC, Lynne singled out the following additional targets as crucial for the ocean and ocean research:

  • Target 5 “Ensure that the use, harvesting and trade of wild species is sustainable, safe and legal, preventing overexploitation, minimizing impacts on non-target species and ecosystems, and reducing the risk of pathogen spill-over, applying the ecosystem approach, while respecting and protecting customary sustainable use by indigenous peoples and local communities.”
  • Target 8 “Minimize the impact of climate change and ocean acidification on biodiversity and increase its resilience through mitigation, adaptation, and disaster risk reduction actions, including through nature-based solution and/or ecosystem-based approaches, while minimizing negative and fostering positive impacts of climate action on biodiversity.”
  • Target 16 “Ensure that people are encouraged and enabled to make sustainable consumption choices… and by 2030, reduce the global footprint of consumption in an equitable manner, including through halving global food waste, significantly reducing overconsumption and substantially reducing waste generation, in order for all people to live well in harmony with Mother Earth.”

Other targets are also clearly linked to ongoing ocean research under the One Ocean Hub:

  • Target 1 is also relevant for marine spatial planning: “Ensure that all areas are under participatory, integrated and biodiversity-inclusive spatial planning and/or effective management processes addressing land- and sea-use change, to bring the loss of areas of high biodiversity importance, including ecosystems of high ecological integrity, close to zero by 2030, while respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.”
  • Target 7 is crucial for land-based sources of marine pollution, and the ongoing negotiations of the plastics treaty, which have significant impacts also on ocean-dependent human rights to health and children’s rights. – “Reduce pollution risks and the negative impact of pollution from all sources by 2030, to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, considering cumulative effects, including: (a) by reducing excess nutrients lost to the environment by at least half, including through more efficient nutrient cycling and use;…and (c) by preventing, reducing, and working towards eliminating plastic pollution.”
  • Target 10 is central to supporting human well-being – “ensure that areas under aquaculture, and fisheries are managed sustainably, in particular through the sustainable use of biodiversity, including through a substantial increase of the application of biodiversity friendly practices, contributing to the resilience and long-term efficiency and productivity of these production systems, and to food security, conserving and restoring biodiversity and maintaining nature’s contributions to people, including ecosystem functions and services.”
Next steps for marine biodiversity and ocean research

As a result of the GBF adoption, a strategic review and analysis of pre-existing CBD work programmes on marine and coastal biodiversity (CBD, IPBES, World Ocean Assessments) is now called for, to ensure full support for the implementation of the GBC. Equally, it is important to reflect how the call by COP 15 to acknowledge the critical importance of marine and coastal biodiversity in the implementation of the GBF, including through enhancing the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity, can influence policy, action and research in other sectors. In that connection, the postponement of more international guidance on mainstreaming biodiversity in other sectors provides a focus for reflection for the next biennium. Concrete ideas on the ocean-land interface and impacts on marine biodiversity, as well as the ocean-climate nexus, are much needed for a holistic approach to sustainable ocean management.

In terms of next steps, governments are to support national dialogues with indigenous peoples and local communities, and stakeholders, including women and youth, on the GBP implementation, and the CBD Secretariat will organize international dialogues on the GBP implementation, so it would be crucial to share relevant insights from marine biodiversity and related knowledge systems and human rights considerations. In that connection, the CBD Secretariat is to identify views from Parties on how IPBES could, within its defined functions of producing further assessments, building capacity, strengthening knowledge and supporting policy, contribute to the review and monitoring process of the GBF. The Hub’s recent submission to IPBES about proposed new assessments are relevant here. In addition, governments are encouraged to carry out national or subnational biodiversity assessments, with the full engagement of indigenous peoples and local communities, women, youth, civil society, academia and business, adapting the IPBES process to the local contexts (Decisions 15/3 & 15/19).

The recent global decisions specifically focused on marine biodiversity put into the spotlight specific issues that require further research:

  • the identification and recognition of other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) and for the establishment and management of marine protected areas and OECMs  in marine and coastal areas;
  • the implementation of marine spatial planning, including through capacity-building, technical assistance, technology transfer and partnership activities… with Indigenous and local peoples in accordance with the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (UNDRIP) and international human rights law, and other relevant stakeholders, including women and youth;
  • the need to ensure that, before deep-seabed mineral exploitation takes place, the impacts on the marine environment and biodiversity are sufficiently researched and the risks understood, the technologies and operational practices do not cause harmful effects to the marine environment and biodiversity, and appropriate rules, regulations and procedures are put in place by the ISA, in accordance with the best available science and Indigenous and local knowledge with  FPIC and the precautionary and ecosystem approaches;
  • the need to take appropriate measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate the potential significant adverse impacts of anthropogenic underwater noise on marine and coastal biodiversity;
  • enhanced cooperation with global/regional organizations, indigenous peoples and local communities as rights holders in accordance with UNDRIP and international human rights law, women and youth, on marine biodiversity in support of SDGs and  UN Ocean Science Decade.
  • enhanced cooperation with global/regional organizations with respect to climate change and marine biodiversity, including UNFCCC & IOC-UNESCO,   in the UN Decade of Ocean Science, taking into account, Glasgow Climate Pact – which was a turning point for the ocean-climate nexus and related human rights;
  • the need to develop cooperation modalities on the implementation of a new instrument on marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ; see here, here and here)
  • the need to take into account EBSAs in the BBNJ instrument implementation and at the ISA.
  • the need to translate global actions, called upon in the light of implications for the ocean of the triple planetary crisis (biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution), into national and regionally-meaningful actions, and vice versa.

In ongoing Hub research and partnerships, we will be focusing on these issues also from the perspective of small-scale fishers’ human rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants, the forthcoming UN General Comment on children’s human rights, women’s human rights, and everyone’s human right to a healthy environment as part of a path towards transformative ocean research and governance.