26 May 2020

Venue: Live | Webex Event & Facebook

Organization: Geneva Environment Network

The UN Biodiversity Conference will convene governments to agree on a new set of goals for nature over the next decade through the Convention on Biological Diversity post 2020 framework process. It sets an ambitious plan to implement broad-based action to bring about a transformation in society’s relationship with biodiversity and to ensure that, by 2050, the shared vision of living in harmony with nature is fulfilled. Initially scheduled to take place in Kunming, China, in October 2020, the conference has now been postponed.

About the GENeva Environment Dialogues

The GENeva Environment Dialogues’ special COVID-19 series discusses the impacts of the pandemic on the global environmental agenda. Experts are concerned that the world is losing critical time to turn around alarming trends in biodiversity loss, climate change, sound management of chemicals and other environmental threats.

The series addresses the following topics:

  • The impact of the crisis on the invited organization activities
  • The response of the invited organization to the COVID-19 crisis
  • The impacts on the preparations of the conferences and negotiations they are hosting
  • New schedules and programmes for these conferences and negotiations


Facilitators: GEN Team

Elisabeth MREMA

Acting Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity


Deputy Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity

H.E. Amb. Mohamed GAD

Head of Environment and Sustainable Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Egypt


Head of Section, Rio Conventions, Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland


Europe Director, UNEP


Opening remarks

Moderation: Diana Rizzolio, Geneva Environment Network

The COVID-19 pandemic is a health crisis that affects everyone, and that has an important economic impact on top of the human suffering caused by the disease itself.

Indeed, the pandemic has shown how negative human impacts on our natural ecosystems can result in widespread humanitarian, social and economic consequences across the globe. More than ever, we see the need to urgently enhance the protection of biodiversity.

In the past weeks the Secretary General of the United Nations has various times referred to the COVID-19 pandemic as “an unprecedented wake-up call”. The pandemic is resulting in major economic and political shifts around the globe which are giving the international community a unique window of opportunity in which recovery plans can be instrumental in creating a more sustainable and resilient future. As we recover, we must build back better for people and for the planet.

The Secretary General keeps also reminding us that we have a framework for action – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

There is a large response from the UN system and from other actors to this crisis, including on the global environmental agenda, as we have heard in all the sessions we have convened.

In this session we will discuss the impact of the pandemic on the preparations of a major event, the UN Conference on Biodiversity, that was scheduled to take place in Kumming, China in October this year.

2020 is referred to as a super year for nature as we were and are expecting important decisions to be taken for our planet in major negotiations and high level discussions initially planned to take place this year.

At the UN Biodiversity Conference governments should agree on a new set of goals for nature over the next decade, through the Convention on Biological Diversity post 2020 framework process. It sets an ambitious plan to implement broad-based action to bring about a transformation in society’s relationship with biodiversity and to ensure that, by 2050, the shared vision of living in harmony with nature is fulfilled.

Bruno Pozzi, Europe Director, UNEP

  • We are living in extraordinary times
  • We have lost touch with nature and biodiversity
  • We have to fix this
  • Nature is sending us a number of signals
  • Imperative to be up to the task and deliver on the super year for nature – year of action
  • UN CBD plays a major role in the debate of this year

Norbert Bärlocher, Head of Section, Rio Conventions, Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland

  • One of the negotiators of the new global biodiversity framework
  • This year is the super year for nature – now with a special character
  • COVID-19 as a wake-up call
  • Biodiversity is not in a super state
  • We have a super strategy 2011-2020 and super Aichi targets, but what is not super is implementation of our goals and targets
  • Chance to negotiate a new biodiversity framework – we need some elements:
    • ambitious targets – Aichi targets need to be adopted to make them future proof
    • a specific biodiversity global framework, that englobes all the different processes and organizations active in this field
    • a clear system of synergies, where it is clear what process is covering what – the role of Geneva can be essential in that, having headquarters of many of the processes
    • means of implementation – COVID-19 will have an impact – need to link policy with behaviours that are not good for nature (reform of subsidies, taxes, …)
    • review mechanism, where we can learn from each other, where best practices are highlighted, where we can correct our trajectories – integrated reporting system, clear indicators, assessment of the progress related to the targets
  • Crisis is not only a health one, but a biodiversity one as well – we need to change
  • Everything depends on nature – ways to embrace nature and live with nature
  • COVID-19 as a wake-up call – need to live in harmony with nature

The UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP15) Preparations

Elisabeth Mrema, Acting Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity

  • The situation before COVID-19 was not good: biodiversity loss was high
  • COVID-19 was the result of a bad situation related to nature and biodiversity – biodiversity loss, mismanagement of nature
  • Unprecedented global human crisis – wake-up call from nature
  • Need to build back better – go back to a new normal
  • Implication to CBD activities of COVID-19:
    • Disease is resulted from a spill over – zoonotic disease
    • Response within the CBD programmatic work
      • Sustainable Wildlife Management
      • Invasive Alien Species
      • biodiversity and Health
    • Last COP, adopted guidance on biodiversity and health
    • Socio-economic implications – particularly for the poorest and the indigenous communities
  • Implications to COP15:
    • 2020 is the super year for biodiversity – pandemic made it clear that nature and biodiversity are important
    • Global biodiversity day – our solutions are in nature
    • Meetings had to be postponed – momentum has continued, as WG, TG, … continued virtually
  • Post-pandemic recovery:
    • Risk assessment and prevention measures to avoid a possible new zoonotic disease
  • As countries exit their lockdowns, we hope to see investment and prioritization of green economy, circular economy

David Cooper, Deputy Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity

  • Need to adapt as we go forward but keep the momentum
  • UN Summit on biodiversity – essential for keeping the momentum on biodiversity
  • COP15 is postponed until 2021 – date yet to be decided
  • Building different scenarios in our planning for the meeting
  • Preparatory meetings:
    • Meetings of the subsidiary bodies – postponed to August, will probably be postponed further or virtually
    • Working group for the post-2020 framework – due to be held in Colombia, date to be decided
    • Exploring holding some sessions virtually
  • In terms of the substantive work:
    • Risk of future pandemics
    • Building synergies: Joint Work Programme with WHO
    • Post-2020 global biodiversity framework as an essential part of the building back better

H.E. Mohamed Gad, Head of Environment and Sustainable Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Egypt (COP 14 Presidency)

  • Linkages between freshwater and access to sanitation and biodiversity
  • Egypt holds Presidency of COP on behalf of the African region
  • Salute the CBD Secretariat for the efforts in achieving the goals of COP14, chief among which is the post-2020 global framework on biodiversity
  • Need for synergetic and comprehensive global approach
  • Outcomes adopted in Sharm-el-Sheik in 2018 were ambitious
  • In 2019, we started working and we were confident we would add valuable elements to the post-2020 framework
  • 2020 was a focus year for environmental processes – very optimistic view, super year of biodiversity
  • Nature-human interaction lead us to a different path
  • Pandemic – added opportunity ahead of the conclusion of the outcomes and on the post-2020 framework
  • 4 important elements to bring forward:
    • appreciate the early lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic and the protection and conservation of biodiversity and nature
      • acknowledging the importance in investing in resilience, even in the most advanced economies
      • ensure that everybody is included, that no one is left behind
      • ensure food security and water security
      • not losing the momentum, particularly on the means of implementation, especially financially – important not to divert resources away from biodiversity
      • ensure that nature is incorporated in the recovery process
    • look at the months ahead as an enhanced opportunity for the post-2020 framework
      • do not focus purely on the targets – targets are as good as the ability to implement them
      • consider the dimension of economic growth and food security – need for an all-encompassing approach to sustainable development
      • must have an inclusive process to have a successful outcome – virtual voices of all stakeholders need to be heard
      • UN Biodiversity Summit has to be an important milestone to raise the importance of the issue of biodiversity
    • biodiversity on its own is insufficient
      • need to consider climate, land-use, … and the relevant institutions
    • inclusivity of action at the local, regional and global level


Anna Plotnykova

How do you foresee including transboundary perspectives into the new biodiversity framework, for example, for the purpose of conserving freshwater biodiversity under climate change?

Nalini Sharma, SAICM

How can we strengthen the links between the post-2020 frameworks for biodiversity and chemicals/waste?

Chiara Tellarini, Covalence

How could we better engage indigenous communities, which could generally help us in going much deeper into these topics? There are many other cultural contexts where the distinction between human health and the environment never existed and this could help us in understanding many things.

Hafren Williams, International Council on Mining and Metals 

Will the framing of the framework targets be informed by the Long-Term Approach to Mainstreaming?
Will the SBI also be open to observers and will there be a schedule of side-events?

Sonia Pena, IUCN

Assessing implementation is extremely important. However, having comparable data across countries/parties is essential so that a true global picture of progress can be obtained. How can we promote better good practices and incentivize further action? How do we also strengthen the Action Agenda and its commitments?

Olivier Schär

What could be done with the private sector, from to the COP, to strengthen its engagement?

Monika MacDevette, UNEP Chemicals and Health Branch

Do you see the changes is timing for various major meetings having an impact on the level of ambition for the post-2020 framework?

Sirini Withana, UNEP

A key part of efforts to strengthen implementation concerns addressing harmful subsidies and incentives. How to strengthen efforts to repurpose agriculture subsidies for nature and sustainable food systems as part of countries efforts to build back better?

Victoria Romero, IUCN

The covid-19 is a global health crisis stemming in part from the biodiversity crisis but so far the response has been less than coordinated. What makes you think that the synergies and multilateral cooperation need to tackle the crisis of biodiversity loss will materialize in the post-2020?

Pierluigi Bozzi, International University Network on Cultural and Biological Diversity (IUNCBD) 

In the recent online meeting organized by CBD Alliance the Co-Chair of the WG Post 2020 kindly provided information on the next process. It seems that the next phase is reserved for the parties and there are no opportunities for the direct participation of the stakeholders through consultations and submissions. I believe that for the following four reasons, it would certainly be appropriate to offer opportunities to stakeholders and would ask for your opinion: 1) the pandemic has significantly lengthened the time, making it possible to modify and enrich the process 2) the pandemic has added a new framework, very important for the development of negotiations and new positions of the parties and stakeholders who need a new window to present and discuss innovative issues 3) the pandemic has made clear the feasibility, speed and effectiveness of online consultations and contributions which have revolutionized the way we work for and last bullet 4) the philosophy of the Post 2020 Global Framework and the fundamental experience of the pandemic shows that the active participation of society is crucial for the success of any sustainable policy.


Elizabeth Mrema

  • Links between chemicals and waste and chemicals – agenda items can’t be separated
  • Land-use, which use many pesticides, are the primary drivers of biodiversity loss
  • Important that chemical agenda recognizes the impacts of chemicals on biodiversity and vice versa
  • That aspect is there in the first draft of the framework
  • Good idea that chemicals and biodiversity interact closely on the complementarity aspects
  • Indigenous communities are extremely involved in biodiversity
  • Specific events for their recommendations that fed in the post-2020 framework
  • Framing targets for long-term approach on mainstreaming and capacity-building are in development
  • To have comparable data across countries – in the post-2020 framework – monitoring and reporting tool will be included
  • Actions and Commitment Agenda was pushed by the Egyptian Presidency and taken up by the incoming Chinese Presidency – all stakeholders are invited to submit their commitments

David Cooper

  • Holistic approach that indigenous communities are
  • Situation we are in is the result of not having a holistic approach
  • One-health approach – health of ecosystems is essential for the health of people too
  • Looking at the full range of interactions among biodiversity and humans
  • The transboundary aspects of biodiversity are exactly the reason why we need a global framework – issue that has to be addressed globally
  • That is also why strengthening multilateralism, the theme of the 75th anniversary of the UN, is essential
  • Need to be prepared not only with targets, but with implementation, data and monitoring as well

Norbert Bärlocher

  • The EU, Switzerland and UNEP are preparing a digital data reporting tool – serving Parties to report to MEAs – allowing comparison among countries and between processes
  • In the Climate Change negotiations, the action agenda was lacking a monitoring mechanism – in the biodiversity action agenda, we must have an assessment of the commitments
  • Switzerland is funding the Bern Process among biodiversity-related Conventions – need to look beyond that, involving other stakeholders
  • Need to bring together information from other processes
  • Hope that the Bern Process can feed in the global biodiversity framework

Elizabeth Mrema

  • Current situation will strengthen the post-2020 framework – we will be more ambitious as we have the will to avoid future pandemics

David Cooper

  • Dealing with subsidies is crucial – investing on biodiversity, not on the destruction of biodiversity
  • Aichi target 3 has had disappointing progress
  • Removing harmful subsidies has been in several international targets, yet the action on the issue has been slow
  • Need for more coordination – look at the successful meeting of the WHA, which supported for multilateral response, even though the environmental dimension is not extremely present
  • There has been a call for a green recovery, for investment in social and environmental measures in the recovery
  • The delay doesn’t affect the level of ambition, but the cause of the delay should increase ambition
  • The way were are managing ecosystems is not good enough, and this has consequences on human health and social and economic development
  • Protection of biodiversity is essential to build back better

Closing remarks

Bruno Pozzi

  • First keywork: need to have an encompassing process
    • holistic approach
    • inclusive approach
    • no one is left behind
  • Second keywork: action
  • Look at biodiversity centrally in all human activities – build this resilience
  • This is the super year for nature
  • Nature send us a reminder that there is an issue on how we treat it
  • Need to cherish biodiversity and put it at the centre



The event was live on Facebook.