A series on the GBF by Linzi Lewis and Mariam Mayet

As part of a series of briefings by the African Centre for Biodiversity in the lead up to the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to be held in December in Montreal 2022, this briefing examines the contradictory nature of the sustainability discourse over the years, in response to multiple and converging social and ecological crises, including the climate crisis, and discusses how sustainable development, in particular, is being misused to promote un-ecological and unjust outcomes. 

We argue that sustainable development has become increasingly subsumed and embedded in neoliberal market rationality and biased toward economic development and as such, has prevented the fundamental search for systemic alternatives to our prevailing, utterly unsustainable production and consumption patterns and their structural determinants. Even the objectives of the CBD (i.e. conservation, sustainable use, and equitable benefit sharing) operate within an extractive and exploitative relationship with the Earth, which has perpetuated and even facilitated the unsustainable use of biodiversity as a result. Similarly, the underlying ethos underpinning the negotiations around the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) is economic growth and industrialisation as the real end goals.

Multilateral deliberations within the CBD and the GBF continue to be on a collision course with nature and the planet, directing humanity towards a highly managed and techno-driven future. This will have extreme impacts particularly on African peoples and landscapes. We are deeply concerned that the Post-2020 GBF that will emanate from the final negotiations in Montreal will be weak and embedded within the same neoliberal economic paradigm – representing a serious danger, while also restricting and foreclosing alternative possibilities.  

This briefing asks negotiators, how will the GBF take bold steps and shift focus from isolated and limited targets, embedded in this highly flawed paradigm, to supporting, guiding, and accelerating transitions to fundamentally change the way we provide food, water, shelter, mobility, and other essential social services, in an ecologically sound and socially just way, now and into the future?  

Click here to read the briefing.

Cover image: Adam Rumball, Sharkbuoys Designs, South Africa