Understanding National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) and their significance for Australia

To understand National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), we need to zoom out, and first look at how they fit into the global context.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a multilateral treaty. It is a global, legally binding rulebook for biodiversity protection.

The Convention addresses all aspects of biological diversity, making it the first comprehensive legal instrument of its kind. By promoting sustainable practices and fair resource sharing, it aims to create a healthier, more balanced world for everyone.

Conference of the Parties (COP)

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the governing body of the CBD, where all member countries (called ‘parties’) come together.

At these periodic meetings they make decisions, review progress, and set priorities to advance the CBD’s implementation.

Global Biodiversity Framework

At the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the CBD, the historic Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (K-M GBF) was adopted. Think of it as the next chapter in the history of the Convention. It replaces the CBD’s previous plans (the Aichi Targets) and aims to achieve a world living in harmony with nature by 2050. It has specific goals for 2050 and targets for 2030. 196 countries have signed on to these commitments.

In short, the CBD laid the groundwork, and the K-M GBF takes it to the next level, aiming to halt and reverse nature loss globally.

National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans

A country’s NBSAP is the strategy for how that country intends to deliver on its international commitments under the Convention and Global Biodiversity Framework.

Australia’s Strategy for Nature

Australia’s current NBSAP, known as “Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2019-2030”, forms the overarching framework for nature for all national, state, and territory strategies, legislation, policies, and actions.

Australia’s Strategy for Nature was finalised back in 2018 (before COP15 and the K-M GBF was formalised) and was critiqued for its lack of measurable targets and thin implementation mechanisms.

It is now critical for Australia to update its Strategy to recognise the urgency and seriousness of the nature crisis, reflect the commitments set out in the K-M GBF, and articulate a clear, actionable plan that will turn our national trends of declining biodiversity around – for the benefit of Australia, and for the world.

What happens next?

As a party to the Convention for Biological Diversity, Australia is required to report every four years on the measures taken to implement its NBSAP – its plan of action for how Australia will halt and reverse nature loss by 2030, contributing to the goals of the GBF. Reporting is due by COP16, being held in October 2024.

In late 2023, all of Australia’s environment ministers agreed on 6 priority areas for national targets under the Strategy for Nature. These are:

  • protecting and conserving 30% of Australia’s land and 30% of Australia’s oceans by 2030
  • working towards zero new extinctions
  • effective restoration of degraded terrestrial, inland water, marine and coastal ecosystems
  • tackling the impact of invasive feral species
  • building a circular economy and reducing the impact of plastics on nature
  • minimising the impact of climate change on nature.

 

While a country may prioritise different areas within its NBSAP – where it believes it can make significant contributions to the global agenda – it must give confidence in those contributions by providing a level of detail about specific objectives, targets and actions regarding each of the 23 Targets outlined in the K-M GBF, as well as how success will be measured.

The Australian Government intends to update its Strategy for Nature following its public consultation which is open until 4 April 2024.

With our vast landscapes, unique ecosystems and rich biodiversity – but poor record on species extinction and ecosystem decline – we stand at a critical juncture. With the expertise and the funding available to an advanced economy, there is both a significant opportunity and responsibility for Australia to lead.

A well articulated, strong, measurable and timebound Strategy for Nature would enable other environmental plans and laws in Australia to align with the goals and objectives set out in our NBSAP, making it the roadmap that guides a coordinated effort to safeguard our unique ecosystems, wildlife, and natural heritage for future generations. 

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