The New International Agreement to Address Biodiversity Loss

The New International Agreement to Address Biodiversity Loss

Maria Pfister

What is the agreement?

Last month, over 190 countries signed a new agreement to protect global biodiversity.[1] The agreement, titled the “Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework,” was the end result of a nearly two-week conference, the 15th United Nations Biodiversity Conference of the Parties (“COP15”), held in Montreal and co-hosted by Canada and China.[2] Canada’s environment minister, Steven Guilbeault, stated that this biodiversity conference “is truly a moment that will mark history as Paris did for climate.”[3]

The agreement lays out ambitious goals. First, it calls for conserving thirty percent of the world’s lands and oceans by 2030.[4] This is notable, since only seventeen percent of lands and ten percent of marine areas around the world are currently protected.[5] The agreement also calls for the restoration of thirty percent of the lands and marine areas that are already degraded.”[6] In addition, the agreement aims to reduce, to “near zero,” any loss of nature that is high in biodiversity and ecological importance.[7] Other notable goals include reducing global food waste by half, reducing the extinction rate for all species by tenfold by 2050, and “mobiliz[ing] by 2030 at least $200 billion” in funding for improving biodiversity.[8]

This agreement is not legally binding.[9] Rather, the countries that signed on agreed to these pledges and will meet again in two years at the next COP to review their progress.[10]

Although this agreement is a significant step forward toward protecting biodiversity, it has received some criticism. Most notably, the Democratic Republic of Congo expressed concerns during negotiations about the lack of a new biodiversity fund, which it said was “needed to pay for conservation and alternative livelihoods” in order to effectively preserve biodiverse areas. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (“IUCN”), an organization which tracks the “extinction risk status” of the world’s species and publishes the IUCN Red List, expressed a concern with the lack of stringency for the agreement’s 2030 goals, which could decrease the likelihood that the agreement’s 2050 goals will be met.[12] Other concerns include that the agreement does not require companies to report their impacts on biodiversity and that the agreement does not specifically address the fishing or agricultural industries.

Why is it important?

This agreement addresses the growing biodiversity crisis.[14] A 2019 report estimates that one million species are facing extinction because of human activities.[15] The report suggests that the potential loss of biodiversity is as threatening to life as climate change. And scientists are sounding alarms that a massive loss of biodiversity is an indicator that we may be in the midst of the “sixth mass extinction.” The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework states that “[w]ithout such action [as laid out in the agreement], there will be a further acceleration in the global rate of species extinction, which is already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.”[18] The biodiversity crisis is bleak. This agreement seeks to address this crisis and puts the international community a step toward reducing biodiversity loss.

This agreement, although not legally binding, is a huge step forward to protect global biodiversity. If countries follow through on their commitments, then we may still be able to save some of the world’s most cherished species.


[1] Helen Briggs, COP15: Five Key Takeaways from the UN Biodiversity Summit, BBC (Dec. 19, 2022),; Laura Paddison, More Than 190 Countries Sign Landmark Agreement to Halt the Biodiversity Crisis, CNN (Dec. 19, 2022),; Press Release, Government of Canada, Canada helps lead the world to agreement on the monumental Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework, (Dec. 20, 2022),

[2] Natasha Gilbert, Nations Forge Historic Deal to Save Species: What’s in It and What’s Missing, Nature (Dec. 19, 2022),; Gloria Dickie and Isla Binnie, Rainforest-rich Nations Ensure COP15 Deal on Nature Sticks, Reuters (Dec. 19, 2022),

[3] Briggs, supra note 1.

[4] Press Release, Convention on Biological Diversity, COP15: Nations Adopt Four Goals, 23 Targets for 2030 in Landmark Un Biodiversity Agreement, (Dec. 19, 2022),

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Paddison, supra note 1.

[10] Gilbert, supra note 2; Convention on Biological Diversity, Key International Instrument for Sustainable Development, United Nations, (last visited Dec. 27, 2022).

[11] Patrick Greenfield, Objection by DRC Sours ‘Paradigm-Changing’ COP15 Biodiversity Deal, Guardian (Dec. 19, 2022),

[12] Press Release, IUCN, IUCN Welcomes Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework as an Important Step Towards Addressing the Nature Crisis (Dec. 19, 2022),; IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, IUCN, (last visited Dec. 27, 2022).

[13] Gilbert, supra note 2.

[14] See, e.g., UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating,United Nations (May 6, 2019),

[15] Id.; Jeff Tollefson, Humans Are Driving One Million Species to Extinction, Nature (May 6, 2019),

[16] Tollefson, supra note 15.

[17] Damian Carrington, Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction Event Underway, Scientists Warn, Guardian (July 10, 2017),

[18] Press Release, Convention on Biological Diversity, supra note 4.