Rethinking Biodiversity Governance: A Paris Moment for the Convention on Biological Diversity

After global cooperation for sustainable development celebrated two important successes with the Paris Agreement and the Agenda 2030, Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are to agree upon a post 2020 global biodiversity framework during COP15 in Beijing. The global biodiversity governance community has so far failed its commitments and, in contrast to the climate governance, has been unable to generate sufficient political will and societal urgency around the severe social, economic and environmental risks associated with global biodiversity loss.

While multilateral approaches have largely failed to hold unprecedented loss of biodiversity, a host of non-state initiatives exist and keep growing.  In the run up and as a potential part of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, within the CBD the “Sharm El Sheikh to Beijing Action Agenda for Nature and People” was launched with the aim of engaging these non-state actors. By giving a stronger role and more visibility to the contributions of non-state actors, the Action Agenda aims to emulate similar approaches in the climate regime complex i.e. via the NAZCA portal or the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action and in the case of the Agenda 2030 i.e. via the platform Partnerships for SDGs.

The recognition and stronger involvement of non-state initiatives in the context of multilateralism reflects a polycentric turn or shift from a regulatory to “catalytic and facilitative” governance model. Bringing non-state initiatives closer to the CBD could reinvigorate global biodiversity governance. Emulating elements of the climate regime complex to involve non-state initiatives could help engage more and new actors in halting biodiversity loss in both conservation and sustainable use, and in mainstreaming biodiversity into economic sectors; help in building positive political and societal momentum around global biodiversity conservation; fostering innovative and experimental governance arrangements, breaking current gridlocks and focusing on governance functions that, currently, are receiving less attention; and enabling countries to take on more ambitious biodiversity goals, in the knowledge that non-state and sub-national actors support more ambitious action.

In order to achieve this and harness the potentials of a polycentric turn in biodiversity governance, we need a better understanding of how promising biodiversity international collaborative initiatives work and what functions they fulfil within the biodiversity regime complex. This can provide insights on how non-state voluntary commitments could be integrated in the Action Agenda and the post-2020 framework.

This project compiles the results of six case studies on innovative approaches to biodiversity governance with the aim of broadening our understanding of key elements of successful international collaborative initiatives. In doing so we aim to provide insights on what this could mean for the post 2020 Architecture and how productive linkages between non-state and state-action can be built on the international level.