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France’s biodiversity strategy a ‘leading example’ on what to expect for safeguarding nature

© Shutterstock / Guillermo Olaizolalake annecy france
France's Lake Annecy, the cleanest in Europe

The French Government has published the draft of the third phase of its National Biodiversity Strategy in keeping with the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework, which was adopted in December 2022.

  • France’s draft National Biodiversity Strategy includes 39 measures defining its roadmap for safeguarding nature through 2030.
  • It was the first country to introduce a law on biodiversity reporting, Article 29 of the French Law on Energy and Climate, in 2021. 
  • Awareness of the relationship between economy and policy in the context of biodiversity is essential for achieving a balance between economic development and environmental conservation.

France published the draft of its National Biodiversity Strategy (NBS) in July 2023 after two years of work, keeping with its commitment to the Kunming-Montréal Global Diversity Framework (GBF) adopted in December 2022.

It came the same month French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced that France’s investment in the protection of biodiversity should reach “almost” €1 billion by 2024. 

The latest announcement is part of a long process

France was the first country to implement a decree on biodiversity reporting. Article 29 of the law on Energy and Climate was introduced in 2021, requiring all financial institutions to disclose biodiversity-related risks and climate-related risks, using the concept of double materiality

The French NBS is part of an international framework that has expanded over the last couple of decades. It came from the original multilateral treaty Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and is connected to the Aichi Targets (consisting of 20 specific targets to address and mitigate biodiversity loss across the globe) as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

The NBS’s goal is “above all to tackle the pressures on biodiversity” and “to restore nature wherever possible”. The current roadmap builds on two previous phases. 

The first phase, from 2004 to 2010, involved adopting a national strategy for biodiversity in response to international commitments, aimed at integrating biodiversity into all public policies, which consisted of four key orientations. It included 10 sector-specific action plans, which were later revised in 2009 to incorporate the commitments of the Grenelle environmental agreements. The ambitious objective of reducing biodiversity loss by 2010 was not achieved, neither in France nor in other countries. 

The second phase, from 2011 to 2020, established a framework for public and private projects to voluntarily assume responsibilities. The strategy was developed collaboratively, involving various stakeholders, and aligned with the Aichi Targets to facilitate reporting to the CBD every four years.

Irina Tsukerman, a geopolitical analyst and president of advisory company Scarab Rising, noted that the strategy is a response to the conclusions of COP15. She said that it is “one of the most comprehensive publicly announced measures today”.

“This is a great example of leading by example, because these priorities are proactive and touch on many areas in ways that are constructive, specific, and set out measurable concrete goals – far apart from many international agreements that are excessively vague, overbroad, or set out unrealistic ‘aspirational ideals’ without a clear path to enforcement, and without taking into account challenges, conflicting goals, and possible critiques,” Tsukerman added.

What is the French strategy trying to achieve?

The French prime minister announced in July 2022 that €264 million will be allocated toward the NBS implementation. The funds will be used to strengthen the “effectiveness” of protected areas, the protection of ecosystems, species, the biodiversity of forest and marine environments, and support for soil restoration. 

The French Government seeks to place 5% of the metropolitan sea “under strong protection”, including all of the Posidonia meadows in the Mediterranean, 34% of which has already been lost. While it is a laudable action, it is a far cry from the 30×30 committment, the COP15 initiative calling on governments to designate 30% of the planet’s land and ocean as protected areas by 2030.

France is also setting out a location for a national wetlands park, which Tsukerman said is a long overdue decision as it has been in the works since 2008. The strategy includes the establishment of at least 500 high-profile operations between now and 2025, particularly in the French overseas territories, to combat invasive species.

The Government has also promised to set up a service to help companies meet their obligations to combat trafficking in endangered species, the importation of goods linked to deforestation or conflict minerals.

According to the French Ecology Department, the NBS strategy is built on three principles: sobriety in the use of natural resources, coherence in actions across public policies and partnerships with the private sector at various levels (local, national, international), and operability to bring about concrete actions for ecological transition.

Its three main objectives are to protect and restore nature, ecosystems, and species; promote sustainable and equitable use of natural resources and ecosystem services; and raise awareness and mobilise society, including citizens, businesses, and the public sector. 

The strategy will have interministerial governance to coordinate all public policies and will include targets and indicators to monitor its implementation and identify necessary adjustments. According to the text, a financial aspect will be developed based on a mission of inspection conducted in 2022.

Will the roadmap be welcomed by all?

The NBS may face resistance from various stakeholders, including industries with environmental impact, land developers, local communities dependent on resource extraction, agricultural lobby and farmers’ associations, politicians prioritising short-term economic goals, and those focused on immediate benefits. 

Addressing their concerns, involving them in the decision-making process, demonstrating the economic benefits of biodiversity conservation, and providing support for sustainable practices is crucial to gaining broader acceptance and effective implementation of the strategy.

According to Tsukerman, having a clear roadmap makes it easier to attract the private sector and additional domestic and international institutions partners who are sharing the vision and implementation. As she highlighted, industries are not under any legal obligation to participate in these initiatives; instead, those that have received funding are primarily responsible for the implementation, including operations like combating invasive species.

Nevertheless, businesses and industries have the option to proactively advocate for the strategy’s adoption as a decree or engage as institutional partners, additional donors, or contractors to support and implement specific operations. While their involvement is not mandatory, voluntary participation from the private sector could significantly contribute to the success and impact of the strategy.

SGV Take

The success of the French NBS hinges on two crucial factors: firstly, whether it will be adopted by decree similar to the existing decarbonisation strategy, and secondly, the level of commitment demonstrated by the institutions receiving funding towards implementing the proposed policies. Regardless of the adoption method, the NBS raises areas of concern that can foster increased public interest and assist institutions in prioritising and balancing various environmental considerations, such as energy efficiency, decarbonisation, and biodiversity preservation.

While its impact will depend on institutional dedication, the NBS has the potential to create awareness and promote a more holistic approach to environmental protection. It is also worth noting that awareness of the relationship between economy and policy in the context of biodiversity is essential for achieving a balance between economic development and environmental conservation. It enables us to make more informed decisions, promote sustainability, and safeguard the natural resources that support human well-being and economic prosperity.

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