The IUCN Congress, Marseilles and the UN Biodiversity Summit, Kunming

Dr Ross Jeffree, NPA Southern Sydney Branch and State Council

NPA has recently rejoined the IUCN as an Associate Member of the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). The IUCN is a source of international consensus on conservation, guidance on issues of relevance to NPA priorities and emerging positions which are worthy of consideration.
Two globally important conservation meetings have recently taken place this year: The IUCN World Conservation Congress, 3-11 September, Marseilles, setting the nature conservation agenda for the next decade and beyond; and the UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP 15, Part 1), 11-15 October, Kunming, China. COP-15, Part 2, will be Face-to-Face Meetings (25 April-8 May 2022). This second and resumed part of these COP-15 meetings is expected to include the finalisation and adoption of the post 2020 global biodiversity framework.

Some of the relevant highlights from these two meetings are reported on below.
The Marseille Manifesto aims to capture a limited number of key messages that are globally and currently relevant and which relate to the Congress proceedings, including any notable and important commitments and announcements that emerged from Congress events. The focus is on the post-Covid recovery, the biodiversity crisis and climate emergency.

IUCN World Conservation Congress – Marseilles

The following highlights some of the Congress outcomes of relevance to NPA:

  • Resolution to develop and implement a transformational and effective post-2020 global biodiversity framework- at least 30% of terrestrial areas and inland waters and of coastal and marine areas, respectively, are effectively and equitably governed, protected and conserved with a focus on sites of particular importance for biodiversity; in well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) by 2030, with the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples;
  • through a whole-government approach, fully integrate nature in all key political, economic, cultural and social decisions and throughout all relevant sectors, in cooperation with relevant stakeholders and rights-holders, including civil society and the private sector, at all levels and stages of decision making;
  • Conservation must be both effective and equitable, and further empower Indigenous peoples as proven stewards. IUCN will elect for the first time an Indigenous Councillor, alongside those chosen to represent geographic regions;
  • Direction to IUCN to do more to address the climate crisis. The most vigorous open debate in the Members Assembly resulted in a mandate to create a 7th IUCN commission to mobilise climate action, given that it is such a major and increasing driver of biodiversity loss; and
  • Madhu Rao of the Wildlife Conservation Society was elected Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas, succeeding Kathy MacKinnon. (Madhu is a long-term WCPA member, with deep experience in protected area management and species conservation. She supports field programs at priority sites across Asia, implementing protected area creation and management, human-wildlife conflict, species monitoring, and policy action.)

Ecological Compensation and Offsetting 

With regard to WCPA’s Australia’s contributions at the IUCN Congress the following is relevant:

  • Ecological compensation that helps achieve biodiversity targets in alignment with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework’s (GBF) ambition for overall biodiversity recovery.

Loss of habitats or ecosystems arising from development projects are frequently addressed through biodiversity offsetting. Their poor design and implementation are delivering an overall net loss for the environment. As currently implemented, offsetting typically requires an outcome of “no net loss” of biodiversity, but only relative to a baseline trajectory of biodiversity decline. This type of “relative” no net loss entrenches ongoing biodiversity loss, and is misaligned with biodiversity targets that require “absolute” no net loss or “net gain.” (Simmonds et al, 2019)

Increasingly, government and corporate policies on ecological compensation (e.g., offsetting) are requiring ‘net gain’ outcomes for biodiversity. This presents an opportunity to align development with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework’s (GBF) ambition for overall biodiversity recovery. To achieve the 2030 milestones, 2050 goals and 2050 vision of the proposed GBF, actions that improve biodiversity such as ecological restoration are needed.

A new framework is proposed to compensate for biodiversity losses from development in a way that is aligned explicitly with jurisdictional biodiversity targets (ie. where a court can make legal judgements). Targets for particular biodiversity features are achieved via one of three pathways: Net Gain, No Net Loss, or (rarely) Managed Net Loss. This framework advances ecological compensation beyond a reactive, ad-hoc response, to ensuring alignment between actions addressing residual biodiversity losses and achievement of overarching targets for biodiversity conservation (Simmonds et al, 2019).

UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) – Kunming

The Kunming Declaration under the theme “Ecological Civilisation: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth” has articulated a range of international commitments, including the following:

  • Ensure the development, adoption and implementation of an effective post-2020 global biodiversity framework, that includes provision of the necessary means of implementation, in line with the Convention; and appropriate mechanisms for monitoring, reporting and review, to reverse the current loss of biodiversity and put it on a path to recovery by 2030 at the latest, towards the full realisation of the 2050 Vision of “Living in Harmony with Nature”;
  • Accelerate and strengthen the development and update of the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans, to ensure the effective implementation of the post 2020 global biodiversity framework at national level;
  • Improve the effectiveness, and increase the coverage, globally, of area-based conservation and management through enhancing and establishing effective systems of protected areas and adopting other effective area-based conservation measures, as well as spatial planning tools, to protect species and genetic diversity. Reduce or eliminate threats to biodiversity, recognising the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and ensuring their full and effective participation;
  • Step up actions to reduce the negative effects of human activities on the ocean to protect marine and coastal biodiversity and strengthen the resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems to climate change.

This Declaration will be submitted to the General Assembly of United Nations, the 2022 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, and the second part of the 5th United Nations Environment Assembly.


Simmonds, J.S. et al. 2019. Moving from biodiversity offsets to a target-based approach for ecological compensation. Conservation Letters 13 (2)

Marseilles Manifesto, 21 December 2021. IUCN World Conservation Congress.

Convention on Biological Diversity COP 15 Kunming 2021.

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