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Nations Agree to Landmark Deal to Save Planet Biodiversity

Delegates at COP15 agreed to protect 30% of land and water considered important for biodiversity by 2030. Here, a person explores a giant map of Canada during the conference in Montreal.

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Lars Hagberg / AFP via Getty Images

Negotiators at a United Nations summit in Montreal struck a landmark deal early Monday to safeguard nature at a time when biodiversity loss is accelerating worldwide and the issue is rising on the agenda for sustainable investors.

Delegates from nearly 200 countries at the U.N. Biodiversity Conference, known as COP15, agreed to protect 30% of land and water considered important for biodiversity by 2030, dubbed “30 by 30.” They also agreed to provide financing to stave off biodiversity loss in the developing world. Currently only 17% of the Earth’s land areas and 7% of the ocean are protected.

The agreement came on the final day of the summit, which had been moved to Canada from China and postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the deal.

“We are finally starting to forge a peace pact with nature,” he told reporters during his annual end-of-year press conference at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, hailed the agreement on a shared global goal to stop and reverse nature loss by 2030 as “an exceptional feat” and “a win for people and planet.”

“The agreement represents a major milestone for the conservation of our natural world, and biodiversity has never been so high on the political and business agenda, but it can be undermined by slow implementation and failure to mobilize the promised resources,” he said.

Lambertini cautioned the deal lacks a mechanism to hold governments accountable to increase action if targets aren’t met. “We must now see immediate implementation of this agreement, no excuses, no delays,” he said.

Andrew Niebler, co-founder of Karner Blue Capital, whose flagship strategy is the Karner Blue Biodiversity Impact Fund (ticker: KAIBX), said investors are starting to understand how biodiversity interacts with climate change. 

“These really are planetary crises that, in our view, do threaten the existence of our planet if we don’t deal with them,” he said. “We’re drawing down nature at an unsustainable rate. We need to stop doing that because if we continue, we are taking away the foundation for all of life. And from an investor’s perspective, we are taking away the foundation on which many businesses are built.”

Niebler said “one of the most significant” elements of the agreement is the “effort to align public and private financial flows to support nature.”

A 2021 report from
noted that “businesses are inherently reliant on nature for resources and ecosystems to produce their products and services” and at the same time, “their operations also create direct and indirect impacts on nature that could ultimately affect their business.” 

Biodiversity underpins the global economy. More than half of global gross domestic product—$41.7 trillion—depends on the healthy functioning of the natural world, while a fifth of countries globally are at risk of their ecosystems collapsing due to a decline in biodiversity, according to a study by the Swiss Re Institute. 

The financial and human stakes are high. As species decline and habitats degrade, the planet loses ecosystems that help sustain life through fertile soils and food.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Risks Report, biodiversity loss and the collapse of ecosystems will lead to “irreversible consequences for the environment, humankind, and economic activity, and a permanent destruction of natural capital.”

Write to Lauren Foster at


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