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New hope for nature from the UN Biodiversity Conference – Top six highlights

At the UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada, the world’s nations adopted targets to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. National implementation will be the next step.


Lasse Miettinen

Director, Sustainability solutions

Emma Sairanen

Project Coordinator, Global collaboration, Sustainability solutions


The UN’s historic biodiversity targets and the indicators for monitoring these targets were approved in the early hours of 19 December 2022, Montreal time. Greeted with rapturous applause and cheers, the moment was the culmination of four years of work for thousands of negotiators and interest groups.

The message for this decade is clear: we must be able to halt the loss of biodiversity and focus on ecological recovery.

What did we learn from the Montreal conference? We have listed the six most important considerations.

1. Concrete and ambitious targets

The new targets are a response to scientific findings on the amount and extent of necessary ecological measures: 30% of the world’s land and seas must be protected by 2030. In addition, 30% of weakened ecosystems need to be brought under restoration. Measurable indicators were set to ensure progress.

After a bleak year, the conference offered a glimmer of optimism: the international community was able to put together a package that is genuinely ambitious and strong.

The Montreal Conference may become a similar watershed for reversing biodiversity loss as the Paris Agreement was for the climate crisis.

2. Stronger implementation; better chance of success

Twice before, in 2010 and 2020, the world’s nations set the goal of halting biodiversity loss – and failed. The problem was not with the targets, but rather that they were not implemented.

With this in mind, implementation was integrated into the entire Montreal package. The mechanism resembles the Paris Agreement on climate policy: member states bring their national objectives and strategies to the table, followed by a regular assessment of whether the reported actions are enough to achieve the Montreal targets. If not, there needs to be an investigation into what more needs to be done to get on track to meet the targets.

After a bleak year, the conference offered a glimmer of optimism.

3. Money talks, still

We already know that stopping biodiversity loss will require significantly higher volumes of funding – at least tenfold compared to the current amount. We need funding for developing countries whose own resources are not sufficient, as well as new resources in industrialised countries, for example for the implementation of conservation and restoration targets.

The 30 billion US dollars of annual funding by 2030 promised to developing countries in Montreal is a start, but certainly not enough.

That is why mobilising cash flows will be key for reaching the Montreal targets. We need new sources of funding: international financial institutions, new market-based solutions to involve private capital and the innovative use of public funds.

One of the important highlights of the Montreal conference was the target of reducing subsidies harmful to biodiversity by 500 billion US dollars by 2030. This is money that already exists in budgets: it can be allocated to the same societal need, such as a certain industry, but redirected to support measures that strengthen the natural environment.

4. States spurred on by the private sector

To quote an experienced veteran of international negotiations, who put it simply at the end of a panel discussion in Montreal: It used to be that private-sector representatives came to these meetings worried that states would decide to do too much. Now there were representatives of the private sector on stage, sitting with trillions of dollars in their investment portfolios, spurring on states, worried that they would decide to do too little.

There is a major change going on in terms of how awareness of the severity of biodiversity loss is rapidly permeating different sectors.

The message of the pioneers of business and finance was clear: set strong goals and set clear and binding rules for the market – and the market will adjust to produce solutions effectively.

Finnish businesses were also involved: during the negotiations, the Confederation of Finnish Industries announced its support (in Finnish only) for an international campaign for ambitious biodiversity objectives by businesses and finance institutions.

5. Progress on the human rights front

If human rights are not respected, people cannot fully engage in halting biodiversity loss. With the Montreal targets, human rights play a more central role than ever before, although indicators for gauging how human rights are respected in biodiversity work were not agreed upon.

Indigenous peoples’ rights were especially highlighted, but specific targets were also set for women’s and girls’ rights and youth involvement at all levels of decision-making. The protection of environmental human rights defenders was also included in the text.

6. The next step is national implementation

Achieving the targets ultimately depends on national implementation. In Finland, after the upcoming parliamentary elections in April 2023, the new parliament and government will play a key role in translating the Montreal targets to national decision-making.

At the same time, companies and local authorities can spur governments on by setting more ambitious targets, just as the pioneers of the private sector motivated the states in Montreal. And individuals can show the way for businesses and political decision-makers: we will succeed in halting biodiversity loss only if we work on it every day.

It’s now up to us.

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