The fourth meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group (WG2020-4) on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) took place in Nairobi, Kenya from June 21 to 26. The Framework will define targets and pathways for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity over the next decade and beyond, making it a critical tool for the world to stop and reverse the current catastrophic trends in biodiversity loss.

Delegates headed into negotiations drawing on recommendations from previous meetings, the reports from SBI-3 and SBSTTA-24, and the outcomes of relevant intersessional processes. The draft text of the Framework still remains heavily bracketed, which means that parties could not reach an agreement on the final content of the targets and the specific language used. Until brackets are removed and targets unanimously agreed upon, the Framework will not be implemented and its potential for biodiversity conservation around the world will not be exhausted. With wide-reaching considerations at stake, parties face the difficult work of negotiating to create a strong framework while carrying it to completion within a limited amount of time.

Progress on targets relevant to gene drive research during the negotiations was slow, with parties agreeing only on Target 19.2, which focuses on the framework’s means of implementation. Target 17 on biotechnology and Target 6 on invasive alien species (IAS), did not receive much discussion time and the text remains overall the same. References to biotechnology’s benefits and the need for innovation and new tools to manage IAS are still bracketed.

Section K, which focuses on enhancing communication, education, and awareness on biodiversity recognizes the critical role of science, technology, and innovation in developing innovative solutions to improve biodiversity conservation. However, parties could not find common ground on the topic and the entire section was put into brackets during the plenary debate. Parties will have to continue negotiations on it at COP 15.

On the whole, recognition of the need for innovation and science is gaining ground but remains relatively underestimated in the new Framework. Decisions will be finalized at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity COP15, now announced for December 5-17 in Montreal, Canada. Due to lack of progress, COP15 will be immediately preceded by a final GBF round of negotiations, also to be held in Montreal. 

The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is an opportunity to create a prosperous environment for science and technology to contribute safely to conservation efforts. The current conservation crisis could be tackled effectively with the use of science, considered not just as a monitoring tool, but as an inherent part of the solution. The revised Framework should also take into account the need for increased funding for research and innovation so that all countries are able to implement the actions required to meet the ambitious goals and deadlines it sets.