Leaders’ Pledge for Nature

Leaders’ Pledge for Nature
The leader's pledge for nature must be translated into national and regional policies

Today sees the launch of the Leaders Pledge for Nature. Endorsed by political leaders from 79 nations across five continents, including from five of the world’s biggest economies, the pledge calls for a global scale-up of ambition to protect biodiversity to help avert the planetary emergency we face. Signatories recognise that biodiversity loss and climate change are interdependent crises and that to prevent them from undermining sustainable development we need more effective cooperation among nations, as well as solid assurances that high-level pledges for nature will be followed up with robust, sustainable action on-the-ground.

The pledge comes in advance of the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity on 30th September, and commits the signatories to a set of ten actions over the next decade:

  1. Green recovery: put biodiversity, climate and the environment as a whole at the centre of COVID recovery and future development strategies.
  2. Transformational post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework: including – a robust set of targets informed by science and diverse forms of knowledge, addressing direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, including full participation of indigenous and local communities, and strong continual monitoring and review.
  3. End silo-thinking: address environmental challenges in an integrated way, maximising efficiency and avoiding trade-offs between policies and actions.
  4. Sustainable production and consumption: including – acceleration of the transition to a circular economy and growth decoupled from resource use, scaling up nature-based solutions and introducing legally binding legislation on the high seas.
  5. Enhancing climate change action: including – raising ambition to enable the Paris Agreement targets to be met and global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, increasing the resilience of economies and ecosystems to climate change, and convergence of climate and biodiversity finance.
  6. End environmental crime: including – tackling organised crime such as wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, and addressing issues along whole supply chains by reducing demand for products and working with communities directly affected.
  7. Mainstream biodiversity across sectors: ensure that the value of nature and biodiversity is accounted for in international, national and local policies, decisions and investments, across sectors from economics and health to food and climate change; including equitable sharing of costs and benefits.
  8. One-Health approach: address health and environmental sustainability in an integrated fashion, in all relevant policy and decision-making processes.
  9. Reform economic and financial sectors: including – alignment of financial flows with environmental commitments and Sustainable Development Goals, mobilising financial and non-financial resources to support biodiversity, especially through nature-based solutions, redirecting subsidies away from environmental harm and towards sustainable activities, and increasing efficiency, transparency and accountability in resource use.
  10. Evidence-based, just policy: informing decisions with science as well as traditional and local knowledge, and with the engagement of the whole of society.

A key strength of the pledge is that it addresses not only what is needed to bend the curve on biodiversity loss and to achieve sustainable development, but also how such goals can be achieved.  As such, pledged actions range across all sectors, integrate economics and finance, with ecosystem health and human rights. Another strength is that Nature-based solutions (NbS) – ways of working with nature to address societal challenges – feature prominently. Not only will NbS receive newly mobilized financial resources, but there are also strong commitments to incorporating the value of protecting, restoring and sustainably managing ecosystems into supply chains. However, to genuinely build social and ecological resilience in a warming world, NbS must be designed and implemented with, by and for people and they must support biodiversity (see: www.nbsguidelines.info). As such, NbS must be carefully planned, implemented and monitored in close alignment with the IUCN Global Standard for NbS.

International agreements often fail to meet their goals, so what are the chances that this most recent pledge for biodiversity will bring about genuine, longterm change?  One key difference is that the signatories of the Leaders Pledge for Nature agree to be mutually accountable and to follow through on their pledge. Another is that as signatories only involve a subset of UN parties, the pledge can be more ambitious. Given the urgency of addressing the planetary emergency, coherent, ambitious and rapid action by a subset of nations is critical. The signatory nations have agreed to work together at the upcoming international meetings. The hope is that by working together and leading by example, they will be able to galvanize ambition and actions for nature from all nations and in so doing help to turn the tide on biodiversity loss.

Such high-level commitments from a diversity of nations are vital and welcome. However, these now need to be translated into effective actionable national and regional policies including robust, measurable time-bound targets and indicators against which progress can be monitored. Such indicators must recognise the multiple values of nature for people and in of itself. Moreover, a pledge for nature must not distract attention or investment away from the need to rapidly decarbonise our economies and the systemic change required to the way we run our businesses and societies.

The pledge will be formally launched at the Leaders Event for Nature and People today.