Three top priorities for biodiversity ahead of COP16

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From 21 October to 1 November, Colombia will host the COP16  and expectations are high. The landmark agreement at COP15, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, led to four bold goals for 2050 and 23 targets to be achieved by 2030. 

Countries are expected to take appropriate action and report back in the form of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) at the upcoming meeting in Cali.


Colombia’s stated aim is to be inclusive and to especially elevate local and Indigenous knowledge, which is very much in line with the Biodiversity Plan (or Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework) agreed in 2022. The plan stresses that the stewardship by Indigenous peoples and local communities over their traditional territories is part of the answer to how the world will be able to achieve conservation at the agreed scale: 30% of the world’s lands, waters and seas by 2030.

“This is an important moment for global biodiversity. At SEI, we welcome Colombia’s approach with inclusivity at its heart. We are watching closely to understand how best our research can support global action and transformative change,” comments Jonathan Green, senior researcher and lead on strategic biodiversity engagement at SEI.

Implementation is the focus of the meeting, and absolutely essential to achieve the Biodiversity Plan. The COP16 will focus on supporting countries so that their NBSAPs align with the Biodiversity Plan, mobilizing and bolstering the means of implementation – primarily funding – and finding a way to govern access and benefit-sharing (ABS), particularly to Digital Sequence Information and genetic material, a key sticking point in the past.

However, for implementation to work, both governments and private sector actors must understand how to find potential solutions or develop viable pathways for transformations, and biodiversity has presented challenges that remain less clear or understood than, say, climate change.

SEI’s research aims to fill critical knowledge gaps and help decision-makers get a better understanding of both the current situation and the policy options that exist. Here are three areas of particular importance from SEI researchers’ perspectives:

1. Address the impacts of consumption and monitor supply chains.

The leading cause of biodiversity loss is habitat loss, for which agricultural production is a key driver. Several targets of the Biodiversity Plan seek to address this, including Target 16, Enable Sustainable Consumption Choices to Reduce Waste and Overconsumption.

With globalized trade in agricultural commodities, decisions made in far-off parts of the world can have profound consequences for species and ecosystems. SEI research is at the forefront of providing transparency for global commodity supply chains to understand so-called embedded losses of forest and biodiversity. With this knowledge, companies and countries can devise policies that better protect species and ecosystems, and consumers can make better choices with their purchases.

At COP15, the Global Environmental Impacts of Consumption Indicator (GEIC) was included as a component indicator to track progress on the Biodiversity Framework’s Target 16. Its uptake can be followed through the online exploratory dashboard Commodity Footprints. Developed by SEI together with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and with support from DefraTrase and the GCRF Trade Hub, the indicator builds on experiences from the Trase initiative, which generates data and insights to track and monitor deforestation in supply chains.

2. Protect biodiversity to boost the resilience of coastal communities.

Both research and policy discussions are often very land-focused, and we need a better understanding of the biodiversity crisis facing the ocean, where climate change, pollution and overfishing are among the main drivers. Most pollution comes from land, and changes to coastal ecosystems can have dire consequences.

SEI works with coastal and island nations to enhance their resilience and develop financing mechanisms so that ecosystem restoration and nature-based solutions can be more widely used. One example is SEI’s new Resilient Coasts – Caribbean Sea project, which will build local capacity through “living labs” to restore coastal ecosystems and find ways to make such activities commercially viable.

At the end of this month, SEI researcher Karina Barquet will participate in the fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4). “Coastal and island states have an increasingly important role to play as advocates for and custodians of marine areas, including by safeguarding local and Indigenous knowledge,” Barquet said. Small island developing states are custodians of marine areas that are 28 times greater than their land mass, and a deep understanding of marine and terrestrial ecosystems is often embedded in their traditional cultures.

3. Unlock the potential of the bioeconomy for development.

“Bioeconomy is emerging as an alternative to the unsustainable economic models that have caused biodiversity loss in tropical countries. COP16 presents a great opportunity to rethink, build and accelerate the transition to new economic models based on the sustainable use of biodiversity. This is of particular importance for Latin American, Southeast Asian and African countries where biodiversity is the most important asset and is at risk of disappearing,” said Mónica Trujillo, a research fellow and project manager of the Governing the Bioeconomy Pathways initiative at SEI.

SEI’s research has contributed to a better understanding of what a modern bioeconomy can do – from efficient resource use to “climate-smart” and sustainable production systems for food, feed, fuels and other products. A successful transition to a modern bioeconomy must combine traditional knowledge, science, technology and innovation. New business models are needed, where micro-, small- and medium-sized community enterprises form part of value chains, Trujillo commented. Furthermore, agriculture must apply best practices associated with biodiversity and sustainable resource management.

Countries can use this concept in their national biodiversity plans. Bioeconomy aspects are especially important for Target 5, Ensure Sustainable, Safe and Legal Harvesting and Trade of Wild Species; Target 9, Manage Wild Species Sustainably to Benefit People; Target 14, Integrate Biodiversity in Decision-Making at Every Level; and Target 15, Businesses Assess, Disclose and Reduce Biodiversity-Related Risks and Negative Impacts.

“We need to better coordinate and connect the actions of governments, businesses, academia, research centres and social organizations to give biodiversity and nature the necessary attention,” Trujillo said.

Topics and subtopics
Land : ForestsFood and agricultureEcosystems / Economy : Bioeconomy


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