The following statement was released by the Wildlife Conservation Society today at the conclusion of three meetings convened under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity or CBD: the third meeting of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF); the twenty-fourth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA); and the third meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI). All three meetings were held as the world’s governments plan to meet in Kunming, China, later this year at the 15th  meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP15) to agree to the GBF, which will include new global targets for biodiversity.

Said Dr. Susan Lieberman, WCS Vice President of International Policy:

“As the globe faces the inter-linked human-caused crises of biodiversity collapse, climate change, and pandemics,  world leaders need to agree on an ambitious Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). Regrettably, delegates meeting in Geneva ended up without consensus on the majority of issues. We are very disappointed to see the lack of ambition by all too many governments and inadequate willingness to compromise and come together to combat the biodiversity crisis that harms us all. At WCS, we remain committed to working closely with our government partners between Geneva and Kunming to develop a solid plan to combat the world’s biodiversity crisis. Nature cannot wait.

“Biodiversity is in crisis, ecosystems are collapsing, and without further action we could experience another pandemic of zoonotic origin, and we call on all governments to exercise more political will, leave narrow interests at home, and come together between now and Kunming to adopt a strong, ambitious, meaningful GBF—for the sake of our planet, and all of humanity.

“We applaud the many governments who showed strong political will in Geneva to conserve and protect our planet’s precious wildlife and wild places, from tropical forests to coral reefs. It’s time to stop fiddling while the world burns.  

“We appreciate that several governments have shown significant ambition and commitment to combat the combined crises of biodiversity collapse, climate change, and pandemics of zoonotic origin. We hope that their ambition and leadership can lead to renewed commitment and adoption of a strong GBF.

“In spite of the disappointing lack of consensus, we are very pleased to see key issues receiving overwhelming support: ecological integrity, the need to retain and protect highly intact ecosystems, the conservation of vulnerable ecosystems such as coral reefs, conserving at least 30 percent of land and sea areas by 2030, focus on a nature positive mission, and the need to respect the rights, needs, and contributions of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.

“WCS worked with government partners on various elements of the draft GBF—particularly on the retention of highly intact ecosystems, ecological integrity, vulnerable ecosystems (forests, coral reefs), the need to integrate climate change issues with biodiversity conservation, wildlife trade and use, and pandemic prevention from a biodiversity perspective. Unfortunately, there is no consensus yet on any of this, although we appreciate the leadership and support for a strong framework from some governments

“Further, WCS worked with governments on the draft of a Global Action Plan on Biodiversity and Health. Unfortunately, governments couldn’t agree on the text for such an Action Plan and will instead launch a process between Kunming (CoP15) and CoP16. WCS considers these issues critical and looks forward to bringing our scientific expertise to the table on this issue. Viruses cannot wait for governments to wordsmith text; urgent action must be taken now to prevent the next pandemic of zoonotic origin.

“There will be another round of GBF negotiations in Nairobi in June. WCS will be there, and we look forward to working with governments before that meeting, in Nairobi, and of course at the CoP in Kunming.”


Background on the OEWG, SBSTTA, and the SBI

There were 3 simultaneous meetings in Geneva over the period March 14-29:

  • The Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) negotiating the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), and its mission, goals, and targets. WCS priorities and recommendations to governments are at (ecological integrity, retention of highly intact ecosystems; forests, coral reefs; 30x30, protected areas & OECMs; wildlife trade and use, pandemic prevention.
  • The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA); it handles multiple issues, but here in particular WCS focused on the monitoring framework for the GBF (indicators, how to measure delivery, bringing in our science particularly on protected areas, spatial planning, ecological integrity, forests, coral reefs, etc.) and on the proposed Global Action Plan on Biodiversity and Health (see
  • The Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), dealing with resource mobilization (funding, subsidies, etc.) and implementation of the GBF.