A snapshot by yours truly while following the debate on synthetic biology. As you can see, business gets a seat in a place far, far away – in the back of the room.
After two weeks of intense negotiations in Montreal, on 19 December 2022, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the new Global Biodiversity Framework. Covington partner Bart Van Vooren was on the ground as a business delegate to these talks.
This blog explains one the most consequential outcomes for companies from COP15: the decision to set up a global mechanism requiring the private sector to pay into a new Global Biodiversity Trust Fund. The COP15 Decision was to decide to set up the mechanism immediately, and to tease out the details over the next two years. In short, the new fund is expected to generate up to 15 billion USD per year from companies that “use digital sequence information on genetic resources“. The revenue generated will then be disbursed in support of the four (4) Goals for 2050 and twenty-three (23) Targets for 2030 that together make up the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). This new mechanism will no doubt impact most life sciences companies, but the COP15 Press Release hinted at two sectors that are being singled out (my emphasis):
“Digital sequence information on genetic resources – a dominant topic at COP15 – has many commercial and non-commercial applications, including pharmaceutical product development, improved crop breeding, taxonomy, and the monitoring of invasive species.“
Reader beware, this blog is a long read. I will first provide some insight on the political narratives and financial expectations underpinning the new system, and then deep dive into the legal nitty-gritty and (un)knowns of the Decision on Digital Sequence Information (DSI) adopted by COP15.