The devastating impacts of ecosystem and biodiversity loss have forced themselves onto the agenda for the climate talks at COP28 as never before. More and more negotiators, increasingly urged on by companies, are calling for the inclusion of nature-based solutions into climate solutions.     

It has long been recognised that biodiversity loss poses unique and site-specific challenges, quite different from and in some ways more complex than those posed by climate change. Biodiversity has been addressed by a separate COP process, beginning with the adoption in 1992 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and culminating with the CBD parties adopting the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) at “COP-15” last year – an instrument which has been dubbed “the Paris Agreement for biodiversity”. 

At the same time, there is awareness that climate change and biodiversity are inextricably linked. For instance, looking back to COP26, we drew attention to the Declaration on Forests and Land Use, a pledge that signified a growing recognition of the fact that safeguarding the world’s biodiversity is an essential step to addressing climate change (see our article here). The attitudes towards nature and biodiversity witnessed at COP28 suggest that this trend is gathering momentum.

Indeed, COP28 appears to have marked a turning point in terms of a wider acceptance of the need to integrate nature into climate strategies. The theme of nature and biodiversity has been high on the agenda throughout COP28. Nature is being raised by country representatives in many negotiations, including those on the Global Stocktake, adaptation, mitigation and the just transition, as well as in the public statements of heads of state. In his speech at the start of the talks, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak acknowledged that “we can’t get to Net Zero without nature”.

At the World Leaders’ Summit on 1-2 December, we witnessed a collective recognition not only of the indispensable contribution of nature to the global  climate system, but also of its profound, intangible value to our communities and cultures. Parties announced USD 1.7 billion of nature conservation finance. The UAE also announced its strategic USD 100 million investment in nature-climate projects, with a focus on the world’s largest forest basins across South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. Further, alongside President  Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s attendance at the summit, a UAE-Brazil ‘COP-to-COP’ partnership was announced to mobilize partners and resources for integrated nature-climate action towards COP30 in Belém. These announcements have acted to cement nature’s role in climate change action going forward.

Saturday 9 December was COP28’s Nature, Land Use and Ocean Day. Key outcomes of the day comprised commitments to finance natural climate solutions (NCS), including: Costa Rica and Ghana agreeing to supply forest carbon credits worth over USD 60m (backed by the governments of Norway, the UK and the US); the agreement on a comprehensive framework for ensuring the integrity of overall voluntary carbon markets; the Asian Development Bank and others launching The Nature Finance Hub; and governmental commitments such as Norway pledging USD 100m to support Indonesia in reducing deforestation. COP28 also saw 18 countries endorsing the COP28 Joint Statement on Climate, Nature and People by the COP28 Presidency and the People’s Republic of China, as President of the CBD, which stresses the need to “urgently address […] climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation together in a coherent, synergetic and holistic manner, in accordance with the best available science...”

Other initiatives announced at COP28 are yet further evidence of a pivotal shift taking place towards integrating nature into international  climate strategies. Among others, the ‘Unlocking Blue Pacific Prosperity’ initiative backed by the Bezos Earth Fund and the Ocean Resilience Climate Alliance's $250 million commitment, both of which showcase the substantial steps being taken towards ocean conservation and broader environmental stewardship. Furthermore, the Nature Finance Hub initiative is set to mobilize USD1 billion by 2030 for nature-focused climate projects, underscoring the necessity of investing in nature not just for biodiversity but for economic resilience and the livelihoods of over a billion people reliant on natural ecosystems.

COP28 has highlighted the crucial role of Indigenous peoples in combating climate change. So often at the receiving end of climate change impacts, Indigenous peoples have received much-needed recognition at COP28. As stewards of 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity, their knowledge and leadership are likely to prove indispensable as we advance from COP28 towards COP30 and beyond. Indigenous leaders and their representatives have spoken at key events throughout the conference and calls for the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives and the preservation of Indigenous rights are being proposed in almost every agenda item.

COP28 also presented a valuable opportunity for The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) to raise awareness of businesses’ interplay with nature. The TNFD has developed a set of disclosure recommendations and guidance to help businesses integrate nature into decision making and better identify nature-related financial risks. Structured around four pillars, the nature-related disclosure recommendations are consistent with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) reporting standards. 

While the recommendations are yet to be incorporated into international reporting standards and reporting against the TNFD is currently optional, this is likely to change in the coming years as nature and biodiversity-related risks move up the agenda. Indeed, nearly 50,000 companies will soon have to include biodiversity metrics, policies and targets in their sustainability reports under the EU’s new European Sustainability Reporting Standards, which are consistent with TNFD but go further.

It is worth noting that the TNFD has adopted the “double materiality” approach to sustainability reporting, whereby a company should disclose both the financial impact of nature on its operations and the impact of its operations on nature.

COP28 has been a turning point for the position of nature and biodiversity within climate change discourse. Particularly notable has been the pivot towards including nature and biodiversity within climate strategies, a vital move if we are to effectively tackle the climate crisis. The heightened appreciation of the importance of nature and biodiversity, both as a defence against climate change and to our communities and cultures, combined with the likelihood of increasing regulatory requirements in terms of reporting under the TNFD framework, suggests the trend around nature and biodiversity is only just beginning.