Finally, after years of negotiations and a tumultuous couple of weeks at CBD COP15, there is good news from Montreal – a new ‘Pact for Nature’ – and an opportunity for Travel & Tourism to establish itself as a ’Force of Good’.
The historic plan for nature was finalised in the early hours of this morning (19th December) to cheers from delegates and impassioned speeches by world leaders. It was presented as the “last chance” to put nature on a path to recovery. Having experienced the last week myself, with up-to-the-wire negotiations, the news of a positive outcome is a huge relief.
“Nature is our ship. We must ensure it stays afloat,” said EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius.
The Global Biodiversity Framework, the agreed plan for nature, sets out ambitious yet achievable plans to increase protected areas to 30% of the planet, safeguarding vital ecosystems from rainforests to wetlands, and to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. It includes four goals and 23 targets ranging from the sustainable use of natural resources and the reduction of pollution to the restoration of destroyed habitats.
“It is truly a moment that will mark history as Paris did for climate,” hailed Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s Minister for the Environment and Climate Change.
However, we cannot afford to be complacent. We are still experiencing the sharpest decline in biodiversity and habitat loss in human history. It is acknowledged that this new pact for nature cannot be delivered unless the whole of society is involved. In the last week of negotiations, businesses, in particular Travel & Tourism, were recognised as a key driver of positive change, with the ability to deliver short-term goals where government efforts often fail.
Last week I had the pleasure of working on behalf of the World Travel & Tourism Council, the voice of our industry’s private sector, and together with the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHA), to promote ’Nature Positive Tourism’. In a momentous announcement at COP15, these Travel & Tourism heavyweights acknowledged the importance of nature and the sector’s ability, as a global industry that operates at all levels of society, to become a ’Guardian of Nature’. They were united in their commitment to not only assist in the delivery of the Global Biodiversity Framework but, through the formation of a Nature Positive Tourism Alliance, to drive forward capacity-building action for businesses, the value chain, and global destinations.
Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, said: “Travel and nature are intrinsically linked. Wildlife tourism creates over $340BN USD each year and supports more than 21 million jobs around the world. Today’s collaboration between WTTC, UNWTO and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, spearheading the sector’s vision to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030, shows our commitment to preserve the planet for future generations.”
Zoritsa Urosevic, Executive Director at UNWTO and Special Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, said: “As part of the broad Alliance of stakeholders for ‘Nature Positive Travel & Tourism’, UNWTO shows its commitment to the Global Biodiversity Framework of COP15 – making tourism the Guardian of Nature. New governance and business models, enhanced capacity to monitor positive change and scaling up green jobs are all part of the solution as we move ahead together.”
Glenn Mandziuk, CEO of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHA) said: “As an industry that relies on our natural world for everything from our buildings to attracting guests to outstanding locations across the globe, we recognise the immense importance of protecting our beautiful planet. Collaboration across sectors and across borders is essential to halt and reverse biodiversity loss… and make Nature Positive Tourism a reality.”
Dreams certainly became reality for ANIMONDIAL: not only by participating in a biodiversity COP but, off the back of our co-authored “Nature Positive Travel & Tourism” report with WTTC, by facilitating the establishment of the Nature Positive Tourism Alliance and gaining government support for the initiative.
Our efforts at COP15 efforts culminated in a statement to the High Level Segment of proceedings, when UNWTO said: “Together, the Alliance will support and inspire governments, business, and society to implement the Global Biodiversity Framework … help transform humanity’s relationship with the natural world, and through investment in global destinations, help support national biodiversity strategies and efforts to achieve the 30×30 Targets, and so allow these destinations to become true ’Guardians of Nature’.”
Actions will, of course, be more important than words, and the ability of the Nature Positive Tourism Alliance to deliver on the Global Biodiversity Framework will be the testament to its success. Work begins in January 2023 with the development of an implementation plan and by defining key outputs, but until then we can all celebrate that COP15 could not have had a better outcome for Travel & Tourism.
Global Biodiversity Framework main commitments:
- Integrate biodiversity safeguards into policies, regulations, spatial and urban planning, and development processes, poverty eradication strategies, and environmental assessments, across all sectors;
- Ensure that the use, harvesting and trade of wild species is sustainable, safe and legal, preventing overexploitation;
- Minimise the impact of climate change on biodiversity through Nature-based Solutions, reduce pollution risks and the negative impact of pollution to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity, and reduce the introduction and establishment of known or potential invasive species by 50%, by 2030;
- Encourage and enable businesses to regularly monitor, assess, and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity along with their operations, supply and value chains and portfolios, as a mechanism to progressively reduce negative impacts on biodiversity;
- Ensure that people are encouraged and enabled to make sustainable consumption choices;
- Ensure that all actions respect and protect the rights of, and customary sustainable use by, indigenous peoples and local communities.
On behalf of ANIMONDIAL, I’d like to wish you Seasons Greetings, and a Nature Positive 2023!
» Read the finalised Global Biodiversity Framework
» Demonstrate your business’ support by signing on to the Vision for Nature Positive Tourism Nature Positive Tourism
» Discover your business’ risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity. The online Nature Positive Evaluation Tool for Travel & Tourism, enabling your business to discover its impact on nature and take the necessary steps to protect & restore it.
I joined many conservationists last week in cheering loudly when the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) finally announced that COP15 – the global biodiversity summit – will go ahead in Montreal (Canada) from 5 – 17 December 2022.
The previous location of Kunming (China) had experienced two years of setbacks and there were even doubts whether the vital conference would take place in 2022.
COP15 seeks to secure the commitment of 196 countries (Parties to the CBD) to ratify the proposed Global Biodiversity Framework and adopt its nature protection goals. Effective implementation will require the efforts of global governments, businesses and all sectors of society to reduce and reverse environmental damage if the ambitious 2030 and 2050 targets are to be met – to halt biodiversity loss and restore nature.
The Good news is that confirmation of the COP15 dates will help to focus minds during the current negotiations. The additional time between now and December can be used to mobilise the high-level commitment required to avert a cataclysmic loss of biodiversity. We are already experiencing the Sixth Mass Extinction, with the rate of extinction of plant and animal species at least 1,000 times faster than would be expected without human influence. Time is of the essence, but we do still have a chance to lessen the decline and prevent ecosystem collapse. Failure to do so will threaten our wellbeing, prosperity and survival. The urgency must surely spur action.
ANIMONDIAL is proactively focused on supporting the travel and tourism sector. Our Services provide guidance for businesses that wish to adopt a Nature Positive approach, including capacity-building training, a directory of nature-friendly project partners, and an evaluation tool, in development, to identify dependency and impact on nature.
As with all industries, travel and tourism is implicated in driving biodiversity loss. However, unlike many other sectors, it has a unique opportunity to become a significant influencer for transitional change. I would go so far as to say that nature-aware travel and tourism, that values nature through all its offerings across destinations, could be a vital part of the solution to this biological crisis. This was a conclusion in our upcoming publication, Towards a Nature Positive Travel & Tourism, produced by ANIMONDIAL and the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The Bad news is that the content of the Global Biodiversity Framework has yet to be agreed by all Parties. While the pre-COP15 negotiations in Geneva and Nairobi have refined the targets, specifically those related to conservation and sustainable use, progress in other areas is reportedly slow and lacks ambition. Issues over money for protecting biodiversity, proposals to protect 30% of land and sea, and concerns over the stealing and commercialising of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources (biopiracy) have hindered an advance. Civil society is reportedly “appalled” at the lack of progress following the emergency meeting in Nairobi last week, calling on countries to “step up [and] show the leadership that this moment requires, and act urgently to find compromise and solutions.” It is hoped that governments will take the opportunity between now and December to overcome their differences and commit to ambitious actions to halt biodiversity loss and ensure stronger protections for life on land and in the sea.
The Ugly matter of benefit-sharing and biopiracy continues to divide ‘Developed Countries’ and ‘Developing Countries’. In fact, it threatens to derail the global agreement. Countries, including Brazil, India and Gabon, are demanding payment for drug discoveries and other commercial products based on their biodiversity. Meanwhile, additional demands on richer countries to pay £80bn in biodiversity finance to help subsidise conservation efforts, are causing further divides – similar to those currently hampering negotiations for the next climate change conference (COP27) scheduled for this November in Egypt.
There is a desperate need to overcome this impasse for the Global Biodiversity Framework to be ratified and biodiversity protections applied. Focused discussions and creative solutions will be needed to find common ground and move the process forward.
Travel and tourism, and the huge revenues generated through nature-based tourism, could well provide a solution. Not only does tourism underpin national and local economies, but job creation and community empowerment bring heightened value to nature, encouraging positive attitudes towards its protection. When structured well, our industry can help to provide income and development opportunities to fairly compensate lower-income countries for protecting their biodiversity. Often the most biodiverse locations on Earth, the low-income countries also help sustain travel and tourism and its revenues.
The increased international attention on commercial impacts on nature will present travel and tourism with an opportunity to demonstrate its potential for positive contributions and to play a leading role in building a global Nature Positive future.