UN Summit to Seek Support From Bankers to Stem Biodiversity Loss

Organizers of a United Nations summit where world leaders will seek to negotiate an accord for nature akin to the Paris climate agreement want banks and fund managers to play their part in protecting the planet’s biodiversity.

Ahead of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which is scheduled for October in Kunming, China, the CBD Secretariat, the group of international civil servants that help prepare and run the event, is meeting with officials from banks, asset managers and insurance companies to discuss what needs to be done to “mainstream biodiversity in financial sector decision-making,’’ said Odile Conchou, financial sector focal point at the Secretariat in Montreal.

CBD 15, as the UN summit is known, is intended to be a watershed event at which countries agree on a framework to support nature, much like when they agreed to limit global warming at the 2015 Paris climate conference, or COP21. Proposals on the table include conserving 30% of the world’s oceans and land by 2030, keeping areas of wilderness intact, introducing controls on invasive species, and cutting plastics pollution. 

“CBD 15 is anticipated to be like COP21 for climate: The big one where governments, who are parties to the CBD, will agree on a global biodiversity framework that will provide the basis for the next 10 years of action to protect nature and reverse the loss of biodiversity,’’ said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the CBD.

To save the natural world, governments, businesses and financial institutions will need to move quickly and assertively. Global wildlife populations have declined by an estimated two-thirds on average in the past 50 years, with as many as one million species thought to face extinction and many of the earth’s ecosystems badly damaged.

And climate change is only set to make things worse. A recent report from a global team of scientists found that  92% of all endemic species on land and 95% of those in the sea will shrink in numbers or even disappear under current emissions levels, which put the world on track to warm by 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century from pre-industrial levels. 

Once seen as a remote concern for Wall Street, the rapid destruction of the planet’s biodiversity is now starting to capture the attention of fund managers. A group of 37 firms, including Axa SA and NN Investment Partners, have committed to contribute to the protection and restoration of biodiversity through their financing activities and investments.

One way to accelerate the flow of funds to nature-positive investments might be to encode a requirement in the biodiversity accord. The Paris agreement expressly called for the mobilization of financial markets to support the low-carbon transition, and while the current version of the biodiversity accord doesn’t make explicit demands on the financial-services sector, the idea is gaining support, Conchou said.

“The zero draft of the global biodiversity framework doesn’t currently make reference to the finance sector in the same way that article 2.1 of the Paris agreement does,” Conchou said. “But we now see that many voices are calling for this.”

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