Biodiversity is the subject of a new global agreement approved by Switzerland (the Global Biodiversity Framework GBF) at the end of December 22. What is at stake for Switzerland?
The business is now part of it
As with the climate in Paris in 2015, the GBF marks a turning point in the management of our natural resources. States will have to integrate the private sector into their biodiversity conservation programme. Switzerland has tried to do so, but by limiting the private sector to labelling actions (biodiversity action plan, FOEN, 2017), without addressing production patterns. Enacting the GBF into the Swiss law should cut across political lines and could build on what is being done elsewhere, where support programs enable companies to create new values with biodiversity (e.g. companies committed to nature, France OFEB). Or replicate the economiesuisse support for companies ‘ climate plans 😊. Federal governance could be an asset, by multiplying incentive programs, combined with consolidation at the federal level. Keep in mind that the new EU CSRD will require Swiss companies (with more than 150 million exports to the EU) to report on their dual materiality to biodiversity. Recall that the WEF has estimated the potential new revenue for nature positive business at 10 trillion!
Call for a new alliance
Switzerland is committed to reducing its biodiversity-negative subsidies (global target of -50%!). Swiss scientists (Lena Gubler, 2020) have identified CHF 40 billion in subsidies that are damaging biodiversity (all types of public funds). Compare with the 2020 federal budget of 75 billion 😮. This study clearly shows that agriculture does not bear the full weight of this reduction, because other sectors share this responsibility: tourism, transport, spatial planning, energy sector, … . In addition, this reduction will unlock means to support new practices or current biodiversity-positive policies such as the FOAG’s Plant Protection Products Action Plan.
Let’s develop protection v2.0
With the GBF, Switzerland has committed to protect 30% of its surface, which will be impossible with the current regulatory framework (and its definition of protection). Some might quickly consider mountainous regions as easily protectable areas. As a large part is owned by municipalities or private, not sure that it works in the current state (see failure in the creation of parks). Two options seem promising. First, encourage private protected areas. Indeed, Rachel Palfrey (Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2022) has shown that this type of protection is easier to apply in areas with a high human presence. Second, climate change will alter the altitudinal distribution of species and require dynamic protection. Cassidy d’Aloia (Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2019) has shown that the technical means now exist to plan these temporarily-localized protected surfaces. Despite their long-term goals, these surfaces could be displaced as temperature rise. Finally, 70% of the Swiss biodiversity footprint occurs abroad (Cathani C. for FOEN, 2022). This leads to implementing the majority of this protection goal carefully, in order to avoid a simplistic pattern such as : protection in developing countries, production/consumption in developed countries.
Genetic resources will become a source of shared income
Switzerland has a very important pharma/chemical industry. Several companies have already made progress on sharing benefits from plants/animals. Nevertheless, this is the first time that a global approach has been accepted for the benefit of the source countries of genetic resources. Genetic biodiversity (and therefore that of species) is no longer just a burden for developing countries.
So, the GBF, historic or not?
This agreement is a vast program bringing together 195 (!) countries and is the result of 4 years of negotiation. History will tell if it is a ground-breaking paper, the present indicates that states and companies will provide evidence for its credibility. Several quantified objectives will make it possible to assess its implementation. The business involvement can be inspiring! Kering and L’Occitane have, e.g., created a Climate Fund for Nature already endowed with 140 million euros (300 in the long term); in addition to the commitments of the States for a fund of 100 billion. This commitment from the private sector is already a positive effect of the GBF!
Meanwhile, stay tuned and step out for fresh air!