COP15: other issues addressed in the Kunming-Montreal agreement

The 195 Member States of the Convention on Biological Diversity have agreed on a number of key issues such as deep sea protection, restoration of degraded ecosystems, advocacy for the rights of indigenous people, the rights of nature, and funding for nature protection in developing countries.

Deep Sea Mining

This theme is addressed in an annex of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework[1]. Paragraph 16 of this annex on the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biological diversity:

“encourages Parties and invites other Governments to ensure that, before deep seabed mineral exploitation activities take 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 International Seabed Authority, in accordance with the best available science and the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities with their free, prior and informed consent, and the precautionary and ecosystem approaches, and consistent with United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other relevant international law”

This paragraph is testament to how important the topic of deep sea mining has become since the 2018 COP14, where it was virtually absent from discussions. The agreement reached in Montreal, however, is far from satisfactory.

Indeed, this “encouragement” is very different from proposing a clear and formal ban on deep sea mining, even when the risks for biodiversity are proven. It does, however, urge the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to put in place “appropriate rules, regulations and procedures” in case of proven risks, based on the precautionary principle and an ecosystemic approach. This paragraph should serve as a basis for the ISA to work towards an international agreement on this matter in coming months.

Restoration of degraded ecosystems

Target 2 of the Global Biodiversity Framework focuses on the restoration of degraded ecosystems. This issue is currently at the center of European debates, with the European Commission’s proposal for a regulation on nature restoration.

Where the European Commission proposed in June 2022 to restore 20% of degraded ecosystems, the Global Framework proposes to restore 30%. It is up to the Members of the European Parliament and the Member States of the EU Council to revise the European ambition upwards, in accordance with the Kunming-Montreal agreement.

A prerequisite for ecosystem restoration is the removal of activities that have led to their degradation. The IPBES has established that overfishing is the main threat to marine biodiversity. The vast majority of marine ecosystems have been damaged, particularly coastal ecosystems richer in biodiversity, as they are subject to extensive industrial fishing[2] and intensive use of dragging gear. [3] Restoring 30% of degraded ecosystems therefore requires first and foremost a ban on industrial fishing in the 30% of the ocean in need of restoration.

Advocacy for the rights of indigenous peoples

The rights of indigenous peoples and their participation in actions of conservation and protection are repeatedly recognized in the Global Framework established at COP15 (7 out of 23 targets make mention of it). The need to recognize the role and rights of indigenous peoples in actions, projects, and policies to conserve and restore biodiversity is summarized in Section C, paragraph 8 :

“Contribution and rights of indigenous peoples and local communities

The framework acknowledges the important roles and contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities as custodians of biodiversity and partners in the conservation, restoration and sustainable use. Its implementation must ensure their rights, knowledge, including traditional knowledge associated with biodiversity, innovations, worldviews, values and practices of indigenous peoples and local communities are respected, documented, 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.”

This recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples goes hand in hand with the recognition of a diverse range of value systems, particularly with regard to the rights of nature.

Rights of nature

The Global Framework emphasizes the rights of nature in several places. It recognizes a diverse range of value systems and emphasizes their importance in implementing the recommendations of this COP15:

“The framework recognizes and considers these diverse value systems and concepts, including, for those countries that recognize them, rights of nature and rights of Mother Earth, as being an integral part of its successful implementation.” (Section C-9)

In its target 19, the framework calls for the increase of national and international funding for biodiversity to at least $200 billion by 2030, including by promoting “Mother Earth centric actions.” It thus encourages Parties to fund projects that value Nature and Mother Earth on their own merits and not only on a market or anthropocentric basis. The framework defines “Mother Earth centric actions” as follows:

“Ecocentric and rights based approach enabling the implementation of actions towards harmonic and complementary relationships between peoples and nature, promoting the continuity of all living beings and their communities and ensuring the non-commodification of environmental functions of Mother Earth.”

According to Rachel Bustamante, an analyst for the Earth Law Center who co-led the Rights of Nature delegation at COP15,

“Rights of Nature in this international treaty will help encourage a proactive and caring approach to conservation, where society considers the interests and needs of biodiversity beyond the benefits that humans receive. This has certainly been lacking by the majority of decision makers but is fundamental in many Indigenous peoples’ understandings and governance systems. The fact that the treaty now encourages us to learn from and work with differing value systems demonstrates leaders are willing to utilize new tools to prevent further biodiversity loss.”

Financing mechanisms for developing countries

Target 19(a) of the Global Framework addresses the financial means available to states to implement ambitious public policies for nature protection. This target obliges states to

“Substantially and progressively increase the level of financial resources from all sources, in an effective, timely and easily accessible manner, including domestic, international, public and private resources, in accordance with Article 20 of the Convention, to implement national biodiversity strategies and action plans, by 2030 mobilizing at least 200 billion United States dollars per year, including by:

(a) Increasing total biodiversity related international financial resources from developed countries, including official development assistance, and from countries that voluntarily assume obligations of developed country Parties, to developing countries, in particular the least developed countries and small island developing States, as well as countries with economies in transition, to at least US$ 20 billion per year by 2025, and to at least US$ 30 billion per year by 2030;”

The target of $30 billion per year by 2030 is far below the demand of developing countries, which were aiming for the creation of a new “Global Biodiversity Fund” of $100 billion per year. France and the European Union had rendered the creation of a new “Global Biodiversity Fund” off bounds. Throughout the COP15, they refused to build a compromise to change the “Global Environment Facility” currently in force, causing the departure of several developing countries delegations during a negotiating session. The Kunming-Montreal agreement eventually overcame this disagreement, with the reform of the “Global Environment Facility” and additional financial resources. However, the amounts are well below the global needs, and are testament to the unwillingness of developed countries to commit themselves to a resolute international cooperation for the protection of biodiversity.

Harmful subsidies

Target 18 of the Global Biodiversity Framework aims to “eliminate, phase out or reform” harmful subsidies for biodiversity by 2030 at a cost of $500 billion (US) per year:

Identify by 2025, and eliminate, phase out or reform incentives, including subsidies, harmful for biodiversity, in a proportionate, just, fair, effective and equitable way, while substantially and progressively reducing them by at least 500 billion United States dollars per year by 2030, starting with the most harmful incentives, and scale up positive incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.”

The elimination of industrial fishing subsidies that are harmful for biodiversity and the jobs of artisanal fishers would be a first step to honor this COP15 commitment. Target 18 echoes the World Trade Organization (WTO) multilateral agreement of 12 June 2022, which prohibits, among other things, subsidies to fisheries targeting overexploited fish stocks. The COP15 commitment must lead to a more binding multilateral agreement than the one adopted by the WTO, in order to definitively prohibit subsidies that encourage the overexploitation of stocks. These subsidies currently cover all capital costs (construction, modernization, replacement of engines, etc.) and variable costs such as gas oil for industrial fishing fleets. It is worth remembering that without such public aid, industrial fishing enterprises would not be profitable, unlike the majority of artisanal fishing enterprises (vessels of less than 12 meters, not using towed gears)[4].

To learn more about the limits of the WTO agreement, read BLOOM’s analysis.



[1] CBD/COP/15/L.15 Conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity
[2] Industrial fishing can thus operate in 99.9% of Metropolitan France’s waters.
[3] The majority of the coastal strip is subject to intensive trawling. The area trawled annually could correspond to half of the continental shelves, or about 150 times the surface deforested annually. See Watling et Norse (1998) Disturbance of the Seabed by Mobile Fishing Gear: A Comparison to Forest Clearcutting. In Metropolitan France, industrial fishing has spent almost half of its time within so-called “protected” marine areas. See BLOOM (2022) La pêche industrielle à l’assaut des aires marines dites “protégées”.
[4] Carvalho et Guillen (2021) Economic Impact of Eliminating the Fuel Tax Exemption in the EU Fishing Fleet


Picture : UN Biodiversity

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