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Managing natural resources scientifically can help improve global biodiversity governance. Here's how

By Izabella Teixeira, Janez Potočnik

Sep 28 2022 · 5 min read

Illuminem Voices
Biodiversity · Environmental Sustainability

The world is preparing for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)’s next Conference of the Parties (COP15), now scheduled for December in Montreal, Canada and hosted by China. We are already a fifth of the way through the crucial ‘decade of action’, and biodiversity loss continues to accelerate; the risk to nature of not having meaningful targets and implementation plans this year is enormous.

As negotiators come together to finalize the text for the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), it is crucial to manage natural resources scientifically in efforts to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. Natural resource use – our production and consumption patterns – drives over 90% of global biodiversity loss, yet sustainable consumption and production remain a blind spot in national biodiversity plans.

Including scientific natural resource management in global biodiversity governance

However, there are some encouraging signs: the business community is rallying in support of increased ambition on mandatory nature impact disclosure; this year’s G7 Climate and Environment Communiqué commits to including resource management and resource efficiency strategies in updated national climate and biodiversity plans; forward-looking finance ministries are seriously thinking about how their economic and fiscal policies can bend the curve of biodiversity loss.

We know from the failure to meet the Aichi Targets that strong implementation and clear reporting strategies will be critical for the success of the new framework. Negotiators and CBD leadership need to agree on robust and feasible plans for putting targets into practice. They also need to give clarity to parties and businesses on how to ensure progress, based on the best available science.

Immediate actions to include natural resource science in global biodiversity governance

Leading businesses are called upon to take action to assess their impacts and dependencies on nature, commit to specific time-bound targets, transform currently negative impacts into regenerative business models, and publicly disclose their nature-related performance.

Here are four immediate actions that show how natural resource management can help improve global biodiversity management.

1. Knowing your impact on global biodiversity

As a first step towards knowing your true impact, science and policy convenors need to work towards a standard method for assessing the impact of economic activity on biodiversity which could be utilised by governments and businesses alike. Businesses are already calling for this: when CBD negotiators met in March, businesses turned out in force to demand clarity on standards for biodiversity disclosure, and the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) is working to finalise a framework enabling businesses to report and act on nature-related risk.

2. Planning together

Nature is place-based and location-specific, so planning together is crucial for effective solutions. To make the data underpinning value chain transparency and resulting business impact disclosure as spatially explicit as possible, actors need to make progress on integrated spatial planning and its associated mapping techniques. Governance bodies and governments can work towards establishing internationally agreed science-based mapping standards and comprehensive, user-friendly tools. To work towards this, a support hub of ambitious countries and evidence partners could be established to aid capacity building, using the best scientific initiatives, such as Nature Map, and involving the expertise of UN science bodies.

3. Growing with nature

Production systems can bring benefits to nature: businesses can embrace the principle of growing with nature by advancing the implementation of nature-positive business models and nature-based solutions. In early 2022, UNEA 5.2 for the first time agreed to a clear definition of nature-based solutions. Governments need to make this possible by incentivizing nature-positive production and consumption. To this end, first-mover businesses, together with sponsoring governments and global governance bodies, could showcase the best possible methods for demonstrating nature positivity in production, as well as through nature-based solutions for climate. While progress has been made on a shared understanding of what nature-based solutions could deliver for the sustainable development goals, the global biodiversity governance community must ensure clarity on what ‘nature-positive’ actually means in practice, and use this to develop good biodiversity standards for production and natural climate solutions.

4. Valuing nature

To halt and reverse global biodiversity loss, we need to value nature: ensuring that governments and businesses comprehensively recognize nature’s value in economic decision-making means recognizing the many values of nature and biodiversity using economic, socio-cultural and biophysical indicators. One such option is through expanding the use of natural capital and ecosystem service valuation in decision-making. There are already mechanisms to do this, like using Inclusive Wealth or gross ecosystem product to measure economic success.

In the lead-up to CBD COP15, groups, like the High Ambition Coalition, and signatories to the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, could identify best practice, and establish capacity-building initiatives. These countries, with strong natural capital measurement capability, can engage in knowledge transfer with others. Building on existing progress, like the approval of the UN System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) as a global statistical standard, and the G7 Ministers’ recent commitment to ensure its implementation, global governance can work towards establishing a baseline standard for country natural capital accounting data.

A concrete way forward for a nature-positive economy

Together, all four principles, paired with business ambition and clarity from global governance, can guide immediate action. Public and private investors can join forces to de-risk and finance solutions for each stage of a specific value chain – connecting producers, processors, and consumers. Using comprehensive transparency tools, inclusive spatial planning, science-based indicators of nature positivity, and the best available natural capital valuation methods, investors can fund solutions turning around the most impactful practices along the value chain.

Implemented together, and with the needed clarity from governance bodies, the principles of knowing your impact, planning together, growing with nature and valuing nature can offer a concrete way forward for a nature-positive economy. With these actions, there are livelihoods to be created; economic opportunities to be realized; innovative food products to be developed; climate solutions to be implemented. However, it will be much more streamlined and effective if global governance provides clarity on methods, standards, and baseline expectations for businesses and governments alike.

This article was first published by the World Economic Forum. Illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the authors

Izabella Teixeira is Co-Chair of the International Resource Panel. She is an expert in environmental management, impact assessment and licensing. She is the former Environment Minister of Brazil and was named a Champion of the Earth in 2013.

Janez Potočnik is Co-Chair of the International Resource Panel. Among other roles, he is Partner at SYSTEMIQ and advisor to thought-leading institutions such as the European Forest Institute. Before, he was European Commissioner for the Environment.

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