In 2021, we've been looking hard at the financial and industrial revolution related to decarbonization. Not a day goes by that we don't talk about taxonomy, carbon disclosure, energy efficiency, Scope3 emissions measurement, and national climate and energy plans. The COP26 in Glasgow brought many important additions from the procedural point of view, despite the lack of political ambition. Of course, politics and a large part of the economic world are still missing. Yet, we're moving forward.
In 2022, however, the big focus will be on biodiversity and nature-based solutions. We cannot say it enough: the issue of biodiversity loss, so interconnected to climate change (it would be right to speak of global change and planetary systemic crisis) is fundamental for human health, economic and food security, and planetary socio-political stability. Now more than ever, this issue must be brought back to the center of political and economic attention.
Waiting for the COP15 in Kunming
The meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) in May in Kunming, China, is at least as eagerly awaited as the great Climate Agreement that succeeded in accelerating decarbonization in 2015 in Paris. The difference between climate action and biodiversity action is exquisitely geographic. While with CO2 emissions a company contributes to a global phenomenon, biodiversity impacts are often incredibly local, less easily measured, and with extremely complex effects.
Therefore, a great action of local forces with a global vision is necessary to contrast the continuous destruction of habitats, forests, wetlands, exploitation (sometimes illegal) of animals and plants.
Economic resources, monitoring strategies and guidelines on biodiversity are much less mature than those on climate today. Likewise, the commitment of large companies is weak, starting with those in the food sector, which have always had the greatest impact on nature. Only a small fraction of companies and multinationals include biodiversity in their reports. In the press, attention to these issues is often reduced to the major reports of UN agencies or non-governmental organizations, with very few journalists who are really knowledgeable on issues such as regenerative agriculture, biodiversity protection, habitat conservation. Even among animal rights activists there is often attention to animal cruelty but very little attention to the protection of distant habitats or the relationship between beloved domestic species and wildlife.
Measuring biodiversity impacts to guide industry and finance
According to Renewable Matter partner GreenBiz, there are several initiatives to create new standards and metrics to include biodiversity in non-financial reporting. For example, GRI and the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group have been collaborating to release an update to the GRI biodiversity standard by the end of 2022. This standard is used by more than 2,000 companies including Shell, Ferrero, Solvay and Brother. The only problem being that it is self-reported and not certified or verified by a third party.
The financial world, through TNFD, the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, has announced the creation of a framework for biodiversity-friendly investments that they hope will assist companies in shifting investments away from activities that negatively impact nature. The board includes companies such as Bank of America, BlackRock, HSBC, Tata Steel, Natura and Moody's. They first met in October 2021 and are planning to deliver a beta version of this framework by early 2022. Those who don't trust corporations can breathe easy: Elizabeth Mrema, assistant secretary general of the United Nations and executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), is leading the team.
CDP (Carbon-Discloruse Project), which has become the gold standard in corporate carbon reporting, has also created an analysis system for companies that wish to know their impact on biodiversity. The system will be based on GRI standards and the TNFD framework. But this is just the beginning. We need laws, regulatory guidelines, independent watchdog systems. Otherwise, it's just greenwashing.
Biodiversity is undoubtedly a fascinating topic, which must necessarily find visibility in the cultured debates as well as at a popular level. From the press to the movies (in the wake of Don't Look Up), from newspapers to industry conferences, it's time to get back to talking seriously about this issue. Let's talk about clean air, uncontaminated water, medicines, nourishment for our bodies, the fight against pandemics. Let's not forget: without the senseless assault on nature, we wouldn't be here today to mourn the miseries of Sars-Cov2. And this is not necessarily the last zoonosis. We better start taking this issue seriously.
Image: Peter Neumann (Unsplash)