This section presents a selection of the most important international agreements and initiatives for biodiversity conservation.

Biodiversity loss and climate change are widely recognized as the most critical and interdependent environmental challenges facing society. Requiring united global action, these challenges are at the centre of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). A number of further international agreements complement these aims by focusing on specific species or habitats. To put their goals into action, these multilateral treaties and conventions are accompanied by operational tools like the setting of targets, programmes of work, trade permits and certificates and site listings.

The Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity has a dedicated page explaining the importance of global biodiversity and its governance. It also highlights the EU action via international engagement in global biodiversity-related platforms and coalitions, support for global biodiversity governance, EU policies and projects relating to global biodiversity.

UN Convention on Biological Diversity

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which entered into force in 1993, promotes the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits. The CBD is the most important and encompassing international agreement in the field of biodiversity. In 2010, Parties of the Convention adopted 20 Aichi biodiversity targets to 2020, but none of these were fully met, and only six targets were partially met by 2020.

In Dec 2022, the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) adopted the historic Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) as a global framework for action by all countries, all stakeholders and across the UN system to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. The GBF includes four long-term goals to 2050 and 23 action-oriented targets towards 2030, e.g., to protect 30% of Earth’s lands, oceans, coastal areas, inland waters by 2030, and to restore 30% of degraded terrestrial and marine ecosystems by 2030. The GBF is complemented by other important decisions e.g., on monitoring, reporting and review, and resource mobilisation etc.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an independent intergovernmental body, was designed to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services and support international agreements such as the CBD. Specifically, IPBES aims to develop and present evidence-based knowledge, including from indigenous and local knowledge. IPBES performs regular and timely assessments of knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services and their interlinkages, which include comprehensive thematic, global and regional assessments. To date, 8 IPBES assessments have been completed, incl. the IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

More information on the CBD and post-2020 global biodiversity framework and IPBES:

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

While the climate and biodiversity crises have historically been approached in isolation, there is growing recognition of the interdependencies and need for joint solutions to successfully tackle both and much work is done to support this. For example, in 2020. a joint workshop with scientists from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to explore the synergies and trade-offs between biodiversity protection and climate change mitigation and adaptation. This and more recent developments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are underscoring the interconnectedness of climate change and biodiversity. One UNFCCC-led initiative of note in this regard is the Knowledge-to-Action Hub for Climate Adaptation and Resilience, which brings global experts together to work on eight thematic areas – one of which is dedicated to the topic of ‘Biodiversity and Ecosystems’ in relation to climate adaptation and resilience.

The UNFCCC is supported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC prepares comprehensive Assessment Reports about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place as well as Special Reports and Methodology Reports for conducting greenhouse gas inventories.

More information on the UNFCCC:

Other relevant conventions and initiatives

The CBD is complemented by further international agreements that cover specific species or habitats, such as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the World Heritage Convention and the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) provides open access to data about all types of life on Earth.

More information on these conventions and initiatives: