Learning from Paris: what would ‘Kunming-compliant’ look like for development cooperation agencies?

Reflecting on the implementation of the climate Paris Agreement, Dilys Roe discusses what the new global biodiversity framework could mean for development cooperation.

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25 February 2021

Dilys Roe is principal researcher in IIED's Natural Resources group

View of Kunming, China, of a lake and houses in the background

The 2021 meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will take place in Kunming, China, and it will revise the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 (Photo: Aftab Uzzaman via FlickrCC BY-NC 2.0)

In recent years, public and private organisations have stepped up intentions to become ‘Paris-compliant’ or ‘Paris-aligned’ – that is to ensure their activities are in line with, and support, the goals on the Paris climate agreement.

Signed in 2016, the agreement (PDF) has three key goals:

  1. Limit global temperature increases to below 2°C (and ideally no more than 1.5°C) compared to pre-industrial levels
  2. Increase adaptive capacity and foster low-emissions (ideally ’net zero’ emissions), climate-resilient development, and
  3. Make finance flows consistent with a low-emissions, climate-resilient development pathway.

Sometimes simply called ’net zero’ (in context of emissions targets), ’Paris-compliant’ or ’Paris-aligned’ means both eliminating activities that undermine the agreement’s objectives and proactively contributing to both the incremental and transformative changes needed to achieve low-emissions, climate-resilient development.

This is the second in a series of blogs during the '2021 super year' for climate and nature. Read why this is such a big deal.

Paris-aligned development cooperation

From an international aid perspective, an OECD report has highlighted four key characteristics of Paris-aligned development cooperation:

  1. Does not undermine the Paris Agreement but rather contributes to the required transformation
  2. Catalyses countries' transitions to a low-emissions, climate-resilient pathway
  3. Supports the short- and long-term processes under the agreement, and
  4. Proactively responds to evidence as well as to opportunities to address needs in developing countries. 

The OECD notes that development cooperation organisations generally employ three key levers to achieve their objectives –financing, policy support and capacity development – and suggests that all three should be deployed to achieve the necessary transformational change.

What would a similar approach to the emerging post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF) look like – if agreement is reached in Kunming? Would being ‘Kunming-compliant’ change the way development cooperation agencies currently do business on biodiversity?

Complying with Kunming

Like the Paris Agreement, the post-2020 GBF also has a set of key goals:

  1. Increase the area, connectivity and integrity of natural ecosystems, while reducing the number of threatened species and maintaining genetic diversity
  2. Value and maintain or enhance nature’s contributions to people, supporting the global development agenda
  3. Ensure benefits from the utilisation of genetic resources are shared fairly and equitably, and
  4. Ensure the means of implementation are available to achieve all the framework’s goals and targets.

Currently, some of the draft targets set to achieve these goals may have negative development implications – for example a target to protect 30% of the world’s land area by 2030 could have disastrous consequences for Indigenous Peoples and local communities if their rights to land and resources are not respected. So development cooperation organisations may actively seek to not be compliant if that is the case.

But, assuming agreement is reached on a set of goals and targets that are equitable, being ‘Kunming-compliant’ would mean, among other things, screening existing and new investments and interventions to ensure they do not undermine goals one to three, as well as proactively seeking opportunities that contribute to their achievement. Biodiversity would be seen not only as risk to be managed but as an opportunity for investment and support.

Compliance with goal four would mean increasing the levels of development assistance available for delivering on the GBF, but also ensuring aid flows for other purposes do not undermine it. It would also mean providing support to mobilise non-aid sources of finance within developing countries – including private sector finance, tax revenue, debt swaps and philanthropy.

It would mean providing policy support to help developing countries mainstream biodiversity across other sectors, supporting technology transfer and building capacity – in much the same way as is happening through the Paris Agreement.

Coherence is key

Mainstreaming must also happen at home – within the development cooperation agency. And that includes ensuring coherence between Kunming and Paris (as well as with the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This means avoiding trade-offs so that efforts to align with Paris do not undermine Kunming-alignment (for example, carbon markets that undermine ecological integrity), and vice versa (protected areas that exclude local people and increase vulnerability).

It also means maximising synergies. For example, the Paris Agreement recognises the importance of ecosystem integrity and biodiversity protection (PDF), and this is reflected in the GBF which includes a target to “increase contributions to climate change mitigation adaption and disaster risk reduction from nature-based solutions and ecosystems-based approaches”.

Supporting appropriate nature-based solutions (noting that not all are good for biodiversity or good for local people) would be a good example of alignment with both Paris and Kunming.  

Country-driven, supporting local priorities 

Perhaps one key lesson from Paris alignment is that Kunming-compliant would mean development cooperation organisations should support bottom-up, country-driven processes and priorities for biodiversity.

Efforts to increase the area of natural ecosystems, or to conserve threatened species, or to value nature and its services need to be ’de-colonised’ and respectful of local knowledge, tradition, culture and preferences. This needs to be monitored carefully during the 2021 'super year' to ensure the decisions made do not disadvantage poor people and poor countries in the decades to come.

Nature positive’ is biodiversity’s equivalent of climate’s ’net-zero’ goal. But neither goal is good enough if poor countries or poor people pay the price. As well as respecting the rights of developing countries to determine their development pathways, both the Paris Agreement and the GBF highlight the need to recognise the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Paris-aligned or Kunming-compliant should not focus only on ’net zero’ or ’nature-positive’ but on achieving these goals with justice, equity and inclusivity. Development cooperation organisations should take heart, for these principles are also embedded in the SDGs. Kunming-compliant, coupled with Paris-aligned, are thus concrete steps towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for people, planet and prosperity.

Watch this space as we continue to develop our thinking on what Kunming-compliant might mean in practice as the GBF evolves.

About the author

Dilys Roe (dilys.roe@iied.org) is principal researcher in IIED's Natural Resources research group

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