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What is a biodiversity COP?

Objective: halt the loss of nature. Conference held every two years to agree on global commitments.

Biodiversity COPs aim to stop the loss of nature. Every two years, countries meet to reach agreement (again) on global objectives. Crucial work done for the planet's future, which DECATHLON draws heavily on to reduce the impact of its activities on biodiversity.

Among the "COP" family, these "Conferences of the Parties" bringing together all the countries from around the world to attempt to find agreements in support of the environment, we've grown accustomed to the eldest, the climate change COP. The last one held was in 2023 in Dubaï. Its younger sibling is less well known and just as vital but given much less media attention: the biodiversity COP. The next edition, COP16, will take place in Colombia from 21st October to 1st November 2024. Let's take the opportunity to look back at this crucial conference's history, and to understand what is at stake.

What is the point of biodiversity COP?

The biodiversity COP is the medium through which a historic agreement, signed in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, is implemented: the UN Convention of the Parties on Biological Diversity.
This agreement brought together no less than 196 countries, aiming to achieve three main objectives:
- conservation of ecosystems and biological diversity;
- sustainable use of the biodiversity's components;
- provide fair and equitable access to the benefits of using genetic resources.

The biodiversity COP is subsequently the event where the signatories of this Convention meet at regular intervals to review these objectives and the means to achieve them.
Protecting the oceans, soils, all animal species, wetlands… Each edition serves to reach a new agreement, revised thanks to new data, and decide upon action plans.

What is a biodiversity COP?

How is it different to a "standard" COP?

The "standard" COP we most hear about is the climate change COP. These are two different events that do not take place at the same time, but are intertwined. In fact, the climate change COP and the biodiversity COP share the same mission: to protect the major natural balances that shape our planet. Both issues are, by the way, highly interdependent: combating climate change protects biodiversity; and conversely: looking after biodiversity is good for the climate because it contributes to regulating it (with it worth remembering that forests capture CO2, oceans regulate temperatures, etc.).

They are scheduled slightly differently in the calendar: the biodiversity COP takes place every two years, while the climate change COP happens each year. But they share the same format: for approximately two weeks, all countries meet for often complex negotiations, where public and private interests must agree to reach a consensus. The COP is brought to a close with a final text, where every punctuation mark matters.
As for the rest, the theme sets the biodiversity COP apart:its ultimate aim is to halt and reverse the dramatic loss of nature on Earth. And this is a matter of absolute urgency. The latest estimates (2019) by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) alerts: 1 million species are at risk of extinction; and 75 % of land ecosystems and 66 % of ocean ecosystems are significantly altered.

It is not only an environmental challenge but also an economic and social one: it is estimated that over half of the world GDP (some 41,700 billion dollars…) depends on ecosystems being in good health.

What has emerged from previous COPs?

Biodiversity COPs come one after another… but don't all turn out the same. Indeed, some led to small steps forward, while others are more productive at achieving bolder advances. Among the fifteen Biodiversity COPs that have taken place since 1992, we would like to highlight two in particular: COP 10 and COP 15.

- COP10, the one with lofty ambitions… and disappointmentsThe Biodiversity COP, in 2010, was held in Nagoya, Japan. The countries had to set the objectives for the 2010-2020 decade. The outcome was particularly conclusive, with the adoption of what was named the "Aichi Targets" (Aichi being the borough of Nagoya).
This ambitious strategic plan compiled twenty priorities. Among which: the elimination and reduction, by 2020 at the latest, of incentives (such as subsidies) that are harmful to biodiversity (target A.3); sustainably and legally managing and harvesting all fish and invertebrate stocks, and aquatic plants (target B.6); or, again by 2020, preventing the extinction of species known to be at risk and the improvement of their conservation status (target C.12).
It was, furthermore, decided to safeguard the biodiversity of 17 % of terrestrial and inland water areas (and 10 % of marine and coastal areas). But the promising "Aichi Targets" were not acted upon: they were never reached, fuelling a sense of frustration and disappointment among biodiversity conservationists.

- COP15 is the one with a historic agreement… that will have to be honoured. COP15, being the most recent, was held in December 2022 in Montreal, Canada. Presided by China, it brought together 188 governments and set the objectives for the 2020-2030 decade. Once again, countries seemed mobilized when faced with this emergency, delivering a text called the "Kunming-Montreal Agreement" (renamed, in line with COP16, "Biodiversity Plan"), considered by some as historic. Its key point? The protection of at least 30 % of the Earth's land, fresh water, and oceans by 2030.

This worldwide biodiversity framework signed in Montreal also puts an emphasis on the financial component. The target by 2030 is to:
- commit 200 billion dollars per year of public and private funding to finance biodiversity;
- increasing support from developed countries to developing countries up to 30 billion dollars per year;
- reduce subsidies harmful to biodiversity by at least 500 billion dollars per year.

What is a biodiversity COP?

What should we expect from COP 16?

The new biodiversity COP, COP16, takes place on the 21st October from 1st November 2024 in Colombia.

It will be the opportunity, among other things, to assess how well the major agreement, signed in 2022 in Montreal (Canada), is implemented.
On the agenda, in particular: untangling the crucial issue of finance (the specifics of how to mobilize the resources); put together the agreement's operational framework; but also make concrete a multilateral mechanism to fairly and equitably share the benefits linked to using genetic resources…

From a company perspective, it is worth noting the obligation to measure and disclose its risks and dependencies on biodiversity, moving towards standardised methods and indicators, defining quantified impact reduction targets for companies and financial institutions...

What is a biodiversity COP?

What has this got to do with DECATHLON?

For several years, DECATHLON has worked on integrating the issue of biodiversity in its sustainable development strategy. A Biodiversity project incidentally saw the light of day internally in 2019. The biodiversity COP and its conclusions, an essential reference on this issue, were, therefore, scrutinised by the company. The agreements signed every two years serve as a guide, and their targets permeate the trajectory deployed by DECATHLON.
Among the main levers already in use:impact measurementIt is in actual fact the starting point for any structured and effective approach. Like the carbon footprint, for example, it involves assessing the impact of the company's activity on biodiversity loss and identifying its primary sources.

DECATHLON has selected a French tool to do this: the Global Biodiversity Score. The company annually updates this report, and as part of its willingness to be transparent, it has decided to make its results public. Subsequently, the last report to date, done with 2021 data and published in 2022, revealed an annual impact of 65.5 MSA.km2 on land areas; and an impact of 1.6 MSA.km2* on fresh water ecosystems.
Measurement is a good starting point. It then involves assessing how to reduce the impact of its activities, with Decathlon having chosen to define its first commitments as soon as 2021 for its direct operations and joined the "Companies committed to nature" scheme. In its 2020-2026 transition plan, four commitments are directly linked to biodiversity. As a result, in 2026, for the property entity in France:
. 100% of new stores in France will be certified with a "Biodiversity label". This French label serves, in particular, to ensure that a new layout is more favourable to biodiversity than what came before it.
. 10% of DECATHLON's French property stock will undergo works that help to restore nature on site.

* Decathlon has chosen to express its results with this unit of measurement for learning purposes. It is based on a commonly used metric: MSA.km2 = Mean Species Abundance per square kilometre.

A variety of levers are available to achieve this: restrict artificilization of the soil, which is a major reservoir of biodiversity; make soils permeable for water infiltration;restore local biodiversity areas, in particular, parks and gardens, etc.

Lastly, on the international stage, DECATHLON publicly supports the implementation of a biodiversity protection framework In 2022, DECATHLON, as part of the COP15, actually signed, with 330 other companies, an open letter to Heads of State to make it compulsory to measure and disclose the impacts and dependencies on nature.

For COP16, Decathlon stands by this commitment, keen to see this international framework enable the company to integrate biodiversity as a monitored environmental indicator in its activities and, subsequently, contribute to the mission set out in the Kunming-Montreal agreement: "halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030".

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