This December, after two long years of waiting, the CBD COP15, hosted by China and Canada, took place in Montreal, and the historic 'Kunming-Montreal biodiversity framework' was agreed. The framework is a series of agreements with four goals and 23 targets that span across scientific and community collaboration, policy targets, financial targets and much more - it has been hailed as the first step to resetting our relationship with nature and at the centre of this relationship, is our economy.

What was very obvious throughout, was the large and powerful presence of the private sector, actively pushing ambition (there were estimated to be around 1000 businesses in attendance). This presence will continually be felt as the momentum continues into 2023, but immediately I saw two clear impacts:

  • Policy makers and regulators heard loud and clear that they need to level the playing field to allow the financial sector to transition towards 'nature positive'
  • The broader financial system, taking note of the risks they may not be accounting for, and the opportunities that they may not want to miss

There was a lot going on, both inside and outside the negotiations – so here are three main takeaways.

The 'value of nature' and the 'nature of value'

The big picture of the 'nature finance' agenda was painted very clearly for the financial sector at COP15. Powerful remarks from the likes of Mark Carney, Emmanuel Faber, Jo Tyndall and Pavan Sukhdev all reiterated that not only has there been a 'tragedy of value' in terms of putting a price on nature, but that the value currently created by companies is 'inextricably linked' to nature and the eco-system services it provides. Building on the Dasgupta review, published by the UK Government in 2021, many speakers discussed the externalities associated with nature that are not currently being priced, and the disproportionate focus on measuring the flow of GDP as a single metric of value, ignoring the vital importance natural, social, or human capital play in value creation. Building on this, there was a focus on demonstrating how the current price of nature in global markets is mis-representing its true value to people and the economy, on top of being overexploited –creating negative externalities and inequalities. In response, there was a big push to align markets with nature positive and equitable principles, to both manage intrinsic risk that this mis-valuation creates, and to shift the finance needed to deliver on the agreed Biodiversity Framework.

The Taskforce on Nature Markets recent report, the Global Nature Markets Landscaping Study, presents the fact base for integrating nature markets into global efforts. They and many others highlighted the 'unseen' values of nature e.g., implicit value, missing revenue that could be supporting ecosystems and communities and, externalities relating to the impacts on nature.1

Reporting, disclosures, and signals from the regulators

A key aspect for the finance community at COP15 was always going to be disclosures and reporting – the favoured behaviour nudging tool of a lot of policy makers. While many will be disappointed that the word ‘mandatory’ does not feature in the final text, as 400 business and finance institutions from 52 countries had called for, the text does provide an unambiguous message to firms to prepare to disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on nature –and that stronger requirements from individual jurisdictions is coming down the line, by 2030 at the latest. 2

Supporting this message, was the huge presence that reporting and disclosure tools such as the Taskforce for Nature Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), Science Based Targets Network and the Natural Capital Protocol had.  The fast-paced and widely supported development of such initiatives demonstrated that ‘no regret’ actions can be taken right now to allow the finance sector to not only to assess how their business model depends on nature, but to seize the opportunities presented to them as this transition unfolds. Many organizations used COP15 to demonstrate how they are leading the pack, several major global financial institutions are participating in TNFD pilots, industry organizations are helping members conduct gap analysis and a large international banking group published its first biodiversity footprint.

Policy makers, standard setters and organizations were largely singing from the same hymn sheet, echoing support for the principles of transparency, disclosure, reporting and too for the specific tools that will allow the private sector to go further, faster. The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) for example, aimed at bringing consistency across reporting systems globally, demonstrated interest in the TNFD amongst others. There was a strong sense that the maturity of the market and our understanding of how nature and climate relate to the economy demands less of only using ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) metrics and complementing this with more comprehensive and aligned reporting frameworks to account for all the resources in eco-systems that ultimately create value for capital providers. But, gathering and using biodiversity data and metrics, although possible, is still a big challenge and organizations will need help to refine their measurement and reporting processes.

And following the release of a joint statement from the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate and the Network for Greening the Financial System outlining the case for finance and central banks to consider and address nature related risks - there was a widespread appreciation for the fact that regulators and financial supervisors have now joined the conversation on nature.

Integrating nature into the international climate equation

Following a landmark integration of nature into the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the 2021 COP26 in Glasgow the synergies finally seem to be realized and the acknowledgement that in many cases, wheels don’t need to be reinvented. Categorically, net zero commitments and credible transition plans in relevant sectors are not possible without the restoration and protection of nature, particularly agriculture, forest and other land-use based emissions.

Not only was this recognised front and centre of the final biodiversity agreement itself and within Target 8, but key players were hammering this message home. The ISSB announced enhancements to climate disclosures to include nature and a just transition. Mark Carney delivered a powerful opening speech to kick start finance day urging financial institutions to not only assess their risks associated with nature but to ensure net-zero transition plans included clear priorities on deforestation, protecting nature and restoring biodiversity.

Many existing members of Carney’s Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) were vocal on their progress in the ‘deforestation free finance’ space, including members of the 36 strong Financial Sector Deforestation Action group, who committed at COP26 to eliminate deforestation from investment and lending portfolios.3 Leaders in this space are starting to integrate biodiversity and nature cross over issues into their policies and operations, a global insurer launched its Biodiversity Report which covers progress across risk management, investments and underwriting. The cross over with their climate work is notable, and deforestation risk was incorporated.

So, the framework, if implemented correctly, has the potential to transform biodiversity and climate impact, create or preserve tens of millions of jobs, and hundreds of billions of dollars. The final biodiversity agreement as implemented will impact (both transition risks and opportunities) the financial sector on many fronts, i.e., in relation to the emerging global position on repurposing subsidies, the financing mechanism for the framework, the need to increase flows of capital from all sources, and the likely regulation that individual jurisdictions will put in place to deliver on the agreement.

But despite the many difficult decisions and actions that still need to be made to deliver, there has been an encouraging amount of consensus on many of the important issues. Outside of the negotiations, people found common ground on the critical importance of nature, on the need to start acting now while the system and architecture continues to mature, and on the role that finance can and should play to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.

Québec implications

The ‘Kunming-Montreal biodiversity framework’ pushed many countries into action, including Canada. The commitments made throughout the conference are two-fold: Firstly, Justin Trudeau announced alongside the Minister of Natural Resources a commitment to the Bonn Challenge, which entails restoring 19 million hectares of deforested land in Canada by 2030. Lastly, Canada launched the Critical Minerals Alliance alongside Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. This Alliance commits each country to ensuring that mining activity on their territory is done while meeting high environmental, social, and governance standards, including respecting the rights of Indigenous people.

Following in its country’s steps, Quebec had its own commitment to share. On the opening day of the conference, premier of Québec Francois Legault announced the province’s creation of a $650 million «Nature Plan» to combat biodiversity decline across its territory. This plan compliments the province’s promise to protect 30% of its territory by 2030, of which they have reached 17% so far. The government itself will be investing over half of the money for this plan over the next 4 years, in three different facets: $266 million will go towards giving Quebecers more access to nature and reaching the 30% conservation target, $56 million towards protecting vulnerable species, and $23 million to support Indigenous Leadership. A big part of change will be achieved by asking economic actors to reduce their impacts on biodiversity, and this will translate to financial institutions and where they place their capital. Quebec is also the only Canadian provincial government that is backing the development of the new Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), alongside the federal government and other banks and companies across the country.

Financial institutions in the province came prepared for COP15 discussions and its outcomes. A specific example of how the Quebec-based financial sector is taking action on biodiversity issues is the announcement of a collaboration spanning over the next two years between some investment groups and non-profits. This collaboration was established at the beginning of the conference with the goal of conducting research in order to create specific Quebec-focused biodiversity indicators on how investors can measure impact. This is a first and big step in the right direction for both Quebec and Canada, as these indicators will create the basis for a shared biodiversity impact framework amongst financial institutions across the province. Since these institutions play an important role in biodiversity conservation through their investments, the implementation of this framework will help in intentionally knowing and effectively reducing negative impacts of investments on biodiversity.

1 Global Nature Markets Landscaping Study, Taskforce on Nature Markets
2 Make it mandatory - EN — Business for Nature
3 Leading financial institutions commit to actively tackle deforestation - Climate Champions (unfccc.int)

Additional sources:

  • COP15 : Faits marquants du jour, canada.ca, le 12 décembre 2022
  • COP15 Québec annonce un « Plan Nature » de 650 millions, La Presse, le 6 décembre. 2022
  • Plan Nature 2030 - Québec prévoit un investissement historique de 23 M$ pour soutenir les initiatives autochtones en matière de biodiversité, Gouvernement du Québec, quebec.ca, le 10 décembre
  • Lancement d’un projet collaboratif de développement d’indicateurs de biodiversité pour les investisseurs québécois, CDPQ, le 8 décembre
  • At COP15, a movement grows to manage nature-related financial risks - The Globe and Mail, December 9 2022

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