The significance of CBD COP 15: The adoption of a new Global Biodiversity Framework

We are fast approaching a critical moment for biodiversity, where the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will adopt a new deal for nature and people – the next Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) to replace the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011-2020) and its associated 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. The Post-2020 GBF will be adopted at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD, which will be the culmination of an ambitious participatory negotiation process.

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CBD COP 15, scheduled to take place in China, during the course of 2021, has been likened to a ‘Paris moment for nature,’ in reference to its potential to match the 2015 meeting in the French capital that resulted in the landmark global agreement to tackle climate change. The journey towards COP 15 is well underway and all stakeholders, including local and subnational governments, are demonstrating their commitment to raise ambition for the future of both people and planet.

The 2050 Vision for Biodiversity was adopted as part of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011-2020) by Decision X/2. The vision of this Strategic Plan is a world of “Living in harmony with nature” where “by 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.” This vision remains relevant and will continue to guide the objectives of the Convention even in the Post-2020 era.

In Decision 14/34 at the 14th COP in Sharm el Sheikh, the CBD Parties adopted a comprehensive and participatory process for the preparation of the Post-2020 GBF, which is specifically inclusive of local and subnational governments. As a result, ICLEI, its Members, and our partner networks, are working to coordinate the local and subnational government voice in shaping and influencing the Post-2020 GBF, given the increasing recognition of the critical role this constituency fulfils in contributing to the ambition, implementation and ultimate success of the global biodiversity agenda and associated Environmental Management Agreements.

The Action Agenda towards COP 15

The Sharm El- Sheikh to Kunming Action Agenda for Nature and People was launched at COP 14 to mobilize urgent action in the lead up to COP 15 in 2020; enhance the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011-2020) and the Aichi Biodiversity targets in the final two years of their validity; as well as support the development of a Post-2020 GBF.

The Action Agenda has three main objectives:

1) to raise public awareness about the urgent need to stem biodiversity loss and restore areas that may have suffered from human impact;

2) to benefit the health of all living species, including humanity, and rebalance our global ecological system;  to inspire and implement nature-based solutions to meet key global challenges; and

3) to catalyze cooperative initiatives in support of global biodiversity goals.

Why now? The Decade of Action

If we do not act now (in this decade), the scientific indications are that we will reach irreversible tipping points, far beyond the carrying capacity of our planet, which once reached will have irreparable damage to critical ecosystems that sustain life on earth. Click here to read more.

The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, approved at the 7th plenary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), found that 1 million species are at risk of extinction, further highlighting the urgency of the current biodiversity crisis.

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The report identifies key drivers, both direct and indirect, of ecological change. Many of these drivers intersect in and around cities, demonstrating that it is at the local and subnational scale where urgent action is needed to reverse the current trajectory.

Our future is increasingly a more urban one. As a result, urban expansion is inevitable, with the total area covered by the world’s cities set to triple in the next 40 years. The actions taken by local and subnational governments in the coming decade will, to a large extent, determine the sustainability of our collective urban future. Thus, it is critical to mobilize the local and subnational government constituency in support of the unique opportunity we are currently faced with: The development and adoption of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) at COP 15.

With 2020 also marking the year where the Aichi Biodiversity Targets were to be met, now is an important moment for retrospection in assessing the progress to date. While the final stock-taking is yet to be done, it is widely known that for most of the Targets, there has been limited progress, and, for some Targets, no overall progress. To find more about the predicted achievement of the Targets, click here. The Post-2020 GBF will set the new goals and targets that will guide implementation over the next decade.

The next decade is especially critical given that by 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are expected to be met and because biodiversity is key to achieving the SDGs. To find out more about the important role of biodiversity in achieving the SDGs, click here.

The UN CBD’s biodiversity agenda is also closely linked with the UNFCCC’s global climate agenda. There is growing recognition that these two agendas need to be achieved together, and the local and subnational government constituency will be key actors in achieving both of these agendas. To view the work of the LGMA Constituency in the UNFCCC, visit the dedicated webpage.

Local and subnational government advocacy for nature: mobilizing the global constituency in support of the Post-2020 GBF


ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is a global network of more than 1,750 local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development. Active in 100+ countries, we influence sustainability policy and drive local action for low emission, nature-based, equitable, resilient and circular development.

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Our Members and team of experts work together through peer exchange, partnerships and capacity building to create systemic change for urban sustainability. ICLEI’s Cities Biodiversity Center (CBC) is located in Cape Town, South Africa, and is embedded in the Africa Regional Office of ICLEI. We offer cities a broad portfolio of supportive services through our dedicated team of passionate, skilled and dynamic biodiversity and urban development experts.

Through our ICLEI CBC programmes and initiatives we seek local solutions and promote innovation to address the complex issues surrounding natural capital and the degradation of ecosystem services in a rapidly urbanizing world. The CBC recognizes the crucial role that cities and local governments play in the pursuit of a greener existence through efficiently integrating urban development and biodiversity management at the local level.

The Local and Subnational Government Advocacy Agenda

Through its dedicated Cities Biodiversity Center (CBC), ICLEI works with key partners such as the European Committee of Regions (CoR), Regions4 Sustainable Development (Regions4), the Advisory Committee of Subnational Governments for Biodiversity (ACSNG) coordinated by Regions4 and the Government of Quebec), the Group of Leading Subnational Governments to Aichi Biodiversity Targets (GoLS), the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework EU Support project and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) to advance the joint global advocacy agenda.

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ICLEI serves as the focal point to the three United Nations Rio Conventions, including the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), on behalf of the Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments. The primary goal of the local and subnational government advocacy work in the CBD process, facilitated through the Cities Biodiversity Center, is to ensure that the voice of local and subnational governments is heard loudly throughout the consultation and negotiation process leading up to, and at COP 15; and that local and subnational governments are meaningfully recognized as key implementers of the global biodiversity agenda over the coming decade, under the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

Why are local and subnational governments critical to biodiversity?

Local and subnational governments are at the forefront of global ecological change and have the unique opportunity to effectively navigate uncertainty, embrace innovations and new technology, and respond effectively to changing conditions. While the growth of cities is one of the primary drivers of biodiversity loss, local and subnational governments are also engines of innovation and solutions, and are accordingly recognized in the global mission to protect, restore and enhance biodiversity.

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Nature crosses administrative boundaries seamlessly, thus highlighting how critical it is for higher levels of subnational governments to be involved in landscape-scale approaches. Hence, city-region collaboration is essential to ensure healthy and restored ecosystems which provide essential goods and services to all.

Biodiversity underpins ecosystem functioning by providing many essential services that our very lives depend on. Globally, biodiversity is diminishing at unprecedented rates, with current consumption and production patterns overshooting Earth’s carrying capacity and threatening our collective future on Earth. Local and subnational governments are the closest levels of government to the people, where nature’s benefits to humanity are most tangible. It is also at these levels of government where drivers of biodiversity loss can be most effectively addressed, since cities and regions are hubs of innovation where multiple systems are integrated and managed.

It is at the local level – in and around our cities – where decisions and actions on nature and people are made, and where the impacts of these decisions are most directly felt. Cities and regions have the power to address the drivers of urban biodiversity loss and to conserve and restore nature so that urban populations thrive. Local and subnational governments have the power to plan for and control the ways in which our cities change and grow. It is at this scale where urban development, infrastructure, and land use decisions are made, and where the impacts of urbanization on biodiversity are negotiated. Mobilizing the local and subnational government constituency is thus our best chance at addressing the global biodiversity crisis. It is only through collective action at the local level that we can realize positive global impact to secure our collective future and ensure sustainable outcomes for both nature and people in the coming decade.

Furthermore, the growing demand for and consumption of ecosystem goods and services is concentrated in and around cities. By protecting, conserving, and restoring nature in and around urban areas, local and subnational governments contribute to achieving both national and international biodiversity targets. If the global biodiversity targets are to be achieved in the coming decade, the collective actions of local and subnational governments are going to be increasingly important. Now is a unique moment, during the drafting of the Post-2020 GBF, to ensure that these critical contributions are recognized, supported, and enabled by the Parties to the CBD; and that the critical role of this constituency is recognized as central to achieving the ambitious vision, goals and targets of the CBD and integrated in the Post-2020 GBF.

Now, our constituency is calling for their role to be mainstreamed across the GBF action targets, and for a stepped-up, dedicated Decision to build on the Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities, and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity (2011-2020). For more on the history of key COP Decisions and the Plan of Action, see below.

Key COP Decisions to date and the call for a stepped-up, dedicated Decision

COP 10 in Nagoya, Japan, was a landmark victory for local and subnational governments. Not only was the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, including the associated 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, for the (2011-2020) period adopted by the Parties in Decision X/22, but the Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities, and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity (2011-2020) was also adopted and endorsed by the CBD Parties in Decision X/22.

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The adoption of this Plan of Action was a pivotal moment in highlighting the critical role of local and subnational governments in implementing the global biodiversity agenda, since it provides suggestions to Parties on how to mobilize and coordinate local actions on biodiversity, to bring national strategies and plans into the local context. Since then, there has been a significant increase in momentum on this advocacy, with at least one official Decision dedicated to local and subnational governments emerging from each COP. This is further testimony to CBD Parties’ and the SCBD’s recognition of the vital role that cities and regions play in contributing to the CBD objectives.

COP 14, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, in 2018, surpassed this proud tradition with an unprecedented number of Decisions – seven in total – that relate to local and subnational governments. Decision 14/34, called for a comprehensive and participatory process for the preparation of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). This Decisions urges local and subnational governments to actively engage and contribute to the process of developing a robust Post-2020 GBF in order to foster strong ownership of the framework to be agreed, and strong support for its immediate implementation.

Additionally, the Subnational Coalition for Biodiversity Action was launched at COP 14, with the objective of gathering a group of leading provinces, states and regions of the world in support of CBD Parties in the preparation of the Post-2020 GBF. We welcome other actors, networks and initiatives to join this growing community of leading local and subnational actors under the auspices of the Global Partnership on Cities and Biodiversity, co-chaired by the SCBD, ICLEI and Regions4.

The period since COP 14 has seen unprecedented advocacy, mobilization and coordination of local and subnational action and contributions to the Action Agenda for Nature and People on the journey to COP 15 in China in 2020, and the associated consultation and negotiation process on the Post-2020 GBF. The adoption of the Post-2020 GBF at COP 15 has the aspiration of being the “Paris moment for nature,” and the collective local and subnational government constituency is calling for a stepped-up, dedicated Decision and a renewed Plan of Action that is more ambitious than ever before.

At this important moment, with COP 15 fast approaching, a review of Decision X/22, the Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity (2011 – 2020) has been undertaken, highlighting achievements at the global, national and all subnational levels, identifying gaps and strengths, and putting forward recommendations on principles for inclusion in a dedicated, stepped-up Decision and renewed Plan of Action. This Plan of Action review document will be presented at SBI-3 in Montreal in August 2020; and the 3rd meeting of the OEWG (Date TBC).