The recently concluded Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-15) held in Montreal was a significant event. It aimed to address the urgent need for biodiversity conservation and set the stage for a sustainable future. The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework emerged as a crucial outcome, with a vision to achieve “living in harmony with nature” by 2050. It also laid out actionable targets for nations involved in the framework, such as protecting 30% of land and water, to be achieved by 2030.
Let’s Talk about the Past
Protecting our land and water has long been recognized as a priority. In 2010, countries came together to establish the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. These targets were adopted during the 2010 U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) summit in Nagoya. They included goals such as reducing deforestation by at least half during the coming decade and curbing pollution so that it no longer harmed ecosystems.
Unfortunately, we fell short of meeting those targets – with every single one being unmet. It raises an important question: Why do you think these efforts failed?
As Reuters put it: “A lack of clearly defined metrics by which to gauge progress made the Aichi goals tough to implement” (Dickie, 2022). One of the goals in these targets was conserving 17% of land areas, which was the one goal that most countries could implement. It had clear targets and an understanding of how to achieve them. However, many other targets included vague language and did not hold governments to a specific action.
The failure to meet the Aichi Biodiversity Targets by 2020 was indeed concerning. After parties adopted the Aichi targets, they were expected to devise national biodiversity strategies that would mimic the goals laid out by Aichi. Nearly all parties collaboratively developed these strategies for the Aichi targets, but most were never fully implemented.
One possibility is that the targets have better implementation strategies or enforcement mechanisms. Additionally, there might have been challenges in securing the necessary funding and political commitment to address biodiversity loss effectively. We must reflect on these past shortcomings and learn from them as we move forward with the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
Let’s Talk About Today
Now, let’s focus on the present and discuss the new Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework and the statements emerging from COP-15. We must ask ourselves: what gaps do we see between our current industry practices and the ambitious goals set by this framework? For instance, energy infrastructure developers often prioritize remediating the damage caused during construction but don’t always go beyond minimizing their impact on biodiversity.
There is a sense of optimism and ambition regarding the new Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework and the statements made. The framework sets a clear vision for the future and emphasizes the need for concrete actions to protect biodiversity. However, significant gaps exist between our current industry practices, especially in energy infrastructure development, and what the framework aims to achieve. Often, our focus has been on mitigating the damage caused during construction rather than proactively minimizing our impact on biodiversity. This discrepancy highlights the need for a paradigm shift in approaching and integrating biodiversity considerations into our projects.
With that being said, the energy industry, including the energy infrastructure sector, has made significant strides in implementing biodiversity practices to minimize its impact on ecosystems. For instance, environmental impact assessments are conducted in energy infrastructure construction projects to identify sensitive areas and develop mitigation plans. These plans often include measures such as habitat restoration, re-vegetation, and establishing buffer zones to protect critical habitats and species. Additionally, advanced technologies and techniques are employed to minimize soil erosion, prevent sediment runoff into water bodies, and maintain water quality during construction. Companies are increasingly incorporating wildlife monitoring programs and developing strategies to avoid or minimize disruptions to migratory corridors and nesting sites. They also engage in stakeholder consultations to gather local knowledge and ensure that the concerns of indigenous communities and other stakeholders are addressed during infrastructure construction activities. These efforts demonstrate the energy industry’s commitment to integrating biodiversity considerations and implementing sustainable practices to safeguard ecosystems while meeting energy needs. However, there is always room for improvement and innovation to enhance biodiversity conservation within the industry further.
Let’s Talk about the Future
Having explored the past and identified current gaps, it’s time to envision the future. As young professionals working in the energy infrastructure sector, which directly influences land and water, how do you believe our industry should move forward? What opportunities do you see for us to contribute to biodiversity conservation and align with the goals of the Kunming-Montreal Framework?
The role of youth and young professionals is mentioned in Point 4 of the decision. It urges Parties and other Governments to implement the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and enable participation at all levels of government. Youth and young professionals are important stakeholders whose active involvement is crucial for successfully implementing the framework and conserving biodiversity around the globe.
As young professionals working in the energy infrastructure sector, we have a unique opportunity to drive positive change. Moving forward, our industry should prioritize integrating biodiversity conservation into the entire project lifecycle, from the initial planning and design stages to the construction, operation, and decommissioning phases. These conservations include conducting more thorough environmental impact assessments, employing sustainable construction practices, adopting nature-based solutions, and promoting biodiversity-friendly operations. By embracing innovative technologies and collaborating with stakeholders, we can develop infrastructure projects that meet energy demands and contribute to biodiversity conservation and the goals of the Kunming-Montreal Framework.
The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework will have significant implications for the energy industry. As young professionals working in this sector, we must recognize that our industry directly impacts land and water resources which are essential components of biodiversity. The COP-15 framework’s emphasis on protecting ecosystems, conserving biodiversity, and promoting sustainable practices aligns with the urgent need to transition to zero or near-zero emission energy sources. The energy industry must prioritize integrating biodiversity considerations into its operations, from project planning to infrastructure development and operation. Embracing renewable energy technologies, implementing nature-based solutions, and adopting sustainable practices will not only help mitigate the industry’s impact on biodiversity and contribute to a more sustainable and resilient energy system.
As inheritors of the planet, we will bear the long-term consequences of today’s actions. Young professionals bring fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and a deep sense of urgency. Our generation is more connected than ever, enabling us to collaborate across borders and disciplines to find holistic solutions. We can influence policy decisions, drive industry transformations, and advocate for sustainable practices by actively participating in initiatives like the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Our passion, energy, and commitment are invaluable assets in shaping a harmonious future where biodiversity and human well-being coexist. Together, we can create a world where nature thrives, and future generations can enjoy the richness and diversity of our planet’s ecosystems.
Ryan Stewart, Membership Growth & Development Committee Chair
Saharsh Shah, Membership Growth & Development Committee Volunteer and Former Chair
(1) Dickie, G. (2022, December 9). Explainer: Why did past targets to protect nature fail over the last decade?. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/why-did-past-targets-protect-nature-fail-over-last-decade-2022-12-09/