The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will take place from 7 to 19 December in Montreal, Canada. This COP is expected to adopt the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, a roadmap to guide action to halt biodiversity loss by 2030 and achieve recovery by 2050. This pivotal moment for our planet’s biodiversity is an unmissable opportunity to maintain and restore the health of our global ocean, and ensure it continues to regulate the climate system.
The ocean community is calling for action through the “No Paris Without Montreal” declaration supported by 85 organisations of non-state actors – NGOs, foundations, scientific institutes, IOs, UN entities, companies and financial institutions, under the coordination of the Ocean & Climate Platform. Built around 12 key recommendations, this declaration calls on Parties to the CBD to establish an ambitious policy framework to “right the ship for the ocean and its biodiversity” thus building bridges between the biodiversity and climate regimes, in support of the Paris Agreement and enabling the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On the negotiating table, the adoption of the “30 by 30” objective – aiming at protecting at least 30% globally of land and the ocean by 2030 – will be absolutely crucial to achieve these goals.
There is no future without a healthy ocean
From our coasts to the abyssal depths, the ocean is the largest living space on Earth. At the crossroads of all major challenges facing humanity today, the ocean connects, sustains, and supports us all. The functionality of ocean ecosystems must be maintained and restored to continue providing its many services and benefits to nature and people. Indeed, a healthy and biodiverse ocean regulates the climate, buffers our shorelines, provides abundant and nutritious food, ensures wellbeing, preserves cultural heritage, and supports the livelihoods of billions of people.
In light of this, the “No Paris without Montreal” declaration calls for “ensuring that all drivers of marine and coastal biodiversity loss, both in land and at sea, are properly addressed in the framework”; as well as for “taking action to conserve, restore and sustainably use critical marine and coastal ecosystems”. To do so, it is crucial to “minimise anthropogenic pressures on ecosystems and species impacted by climate change and ocean acidification, and reduce coastal pollution and excess nutrients that harm ecosystem function”. It is time to right the ship for the ocean and its biodiversity. At COP15, world leaders must step up ambition and action to deliver a comprehensive policy framework under the CBD, including ambitious targets for the effective protection of marine life.
Protecting at least 30% of the ocean by 2030: a priority to ensure the integrity of the ocean and the many vital services it provides to nature and people
In its Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report (2022), the IPCC states that less than 8% of the ocean surface is covered by a protection regime, with current levels of protection and management being insufficient to limit further damage from human activities. To maintain the integrity of the ocean and its ecosystems, and protect the people who rely on them, the ocean community is calling for the protection of at least 30% globally of the ocean in national waters and areas beyond national jurisdictions (as set out by the Convention’s Article 4). While the objective of protecting 10% of the ocean by 2020 under the Aichi Targets was political, the so-called “30×30” target is scientific. Indeed, a growing body of evidence indicates that 30% protection is likely at the borderline of sufficiency to “ensure essential ecosystem services” (IPCC, 2022), and will require strong protection and good management. The “30×30” is a necessary step, not an end point.
Halting and ultimately reversing marine biodiversity loss cannot be achieved through conservation and restoration alone. This conservation objective must go-hand-in-hand with strong measures to address the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss and sustainably manage the remaining 70% of the ocean. Indigenous peoples, local communities and other traditional resource users, who are the closest to the resources, must have a central role in the sustainable use and management of the ocean.
Extending the mandate of the Action Agenda for Nature and People to drive action and financial flows
Non-state actors are agents of change and drivers for increased ambition. The Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action (MP-GCA), a dedicated space for non-state actors under the Climate Convention, has been instrumental in anchoring the ocean in international climate negotiations and strategies. Conversely, there is no robust equivalent, yet, under the Biodiversity Convention since the Action Agenda for Nature and People (AANP) remains a voluntary commitment platform. Extending its mandate could be a game-changer in the way ocean actors mobilise and influence decision-makers to drive concrete action and financial flows for the ocean, its ecosystems and resources. Therefore, the “No Paris Without Montreal” declaration calls for the extension of the Action Agenda’s mandate “as a key vehicle to implement the post-2020 global biodiversity framework”, recognising the importance and potential of the whole-of-society approach to accelerate action. All the work already undertaken under the MP-GCA could help operationalise its biodiversity counterpart and set the path for a holistic and coordinated approach. The two action agendas could create new forms of collaboration to achieve common goals and jointly address the climate and biodiversity crises.
The post-2020 framework is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to turn the tide and successfully restore the health of our global ocean. It must be the cornerstone of ambitious and holistic international governance for the protection of the world’s biodiversity. This can only be achieved through increased political will, supported by non-state actors and adequate financial support, and driven by science. Thirty years after the adoption of the Rio conventions on biodiversity, climate and desertification, and in a context of multiple crises, the spotlight is now on COP15, in Montreal, and the expectations are high. Now more than ever, it is time to reclaim the relevance of multilateralism, and make use of both diplomatic powers and non-state actor mobilisation to ensure success.
Photo by IISD/ENB Mike Muzurakis