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COP15 resulted in a historic agreement on biodiversity on 19 December in Montreal following a fortnight of debate amongst the world’s governments. Patrizia Gatti-Gregori, Environment & CSR Manager, and Carla Pfaff, Head of Biodiversity, Circular Economy and Resource Scarcity Projects were there.

Although people tend to focus on the problem of climate change, there are in fact many other aspects to environmental issues, such as pollution (air, water, etc.), soil conditions, marine environments, waste, etc. well as biodiversity. All of these issues are now of concern, and the challenges of maintaining a liveable world in the future are of an unprecedented scale and urgency.  

Biodiversity in particular is in free fall. Living things are essential to the balance of our own ecosystem of agriculture, well-being and health... In a nutshell, living things provide us with many ecosystem services. If they become sick, our survival is then at stake. 

Biodiversity in figures
The need to combat biodiversity loss has never been more urgent. 

- 59 billion tonnes of net global greenhouse gas emissions were man-made in 2019.  
- The 2022 global Living Planet Index showed a 69% decline in vertebrate wildlife between 1970 and 2018.  
- If we do not limit warming to 1.5°C, climate change will become the main cause of biodiversity loss.  
*Source: WWF

COP15, which took place in December 2022, aimed to set new targets for governments in order to restore and protect biodiversity through a common global biodiversity framework (GBF). Ultimately, this framework should make it possible to ‘achieve a common vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050’. 

What is COP15?
A COP (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations) is a gathering of ‘parties’, i.e. countries which have signed a convention. COP15 was the 15th summit where the countries which signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), agreed in 1992 at the Earth Summit, came together. There are three types of COPs. They deal with climate change, biodiversity and the fight against desertification respectively. 

Chaired by China and hosted by Canada, this conference was particularly important as it was seeking the adoption of a new global agreement (Global Biodiversity Framework, GBF). 
The last COP which had resulted in a GBF was the Aichi COP in 2010. None of its targets were ultimately met by 2020. The ‘Aichi Targets’ (twenty in all), made up the ‘Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020’ for the world, adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in October 2011. ‘Aichi’ refers to the name of the Aichi Prefecture in Japan. 

After preparing for their visit with the entire Bouygues Construction Environment network, Carla and Patrizia took off for Montreal with Orée*, a partner association. Their aim? To represent Bouygues Construction at the event, to learn about the major challenges facing biodiversity around the world, and the impacts and solutions which the construction sector could provide.

"It was very important to be there in order to understand the institutional and financial dynamics related to biodiversity at a global level, and therefore to be able to better understand the regulations and challenges, including outside of Europe. Anticipating these ‘contrasts’ from one country to another and forging new international partnerships at this type of event is invaluable for providing the best possible support to the Group's clients, regardless of where projects are located.”

Patrizia Gatti-Gregori CSR Manager at Bouygues Construction

A COP for progressing towards sustainable projects 

In addition to the negotiations between countries, major public interventions take place during a COP, including inspiring conferences by heads of state and businesses, speeches by experts and round table discussions, etc. These events within the main event were attended with great interest by Patrizia Gatti-Grégori and Carla Pfaff. 

Carla also had the opportunity to speak on behalf of Bouygues Construction about how companies can reduce their impact on biodiversity.  

Carla Pfaff spoke at one of the conferences of biodiversity experts organised by the Orée association. The two speakers alongside her: Guillaume Neveux, Director of the consultancy firm I Care and Isabelle Sultan, Director of Sustainable Development at Parfums Christian Dior.

Bouygues Construction and biodiversity: what is the current state of our impact and dependence on biodiversity?  

The list is too long to mention them all, but we can name the two main drivers:   

- The direct impact, linked to the impact of our construction sites on an area, such as soil artificialisation, or our nuisances (noise, light, etc.) during the construction phase. 

- The indirect impact of our value chain: how our purchases, our transport of materials, etc., impact living things.

worksite standards
Certifications such as BiodiverCity help to ensure standards on our construction sites.  “Bouygues Construction operates in urban areas a great deal, which offers many opportunities for renaturation. The aim is to create a real culture around living things, to see them as an opportunity," explains Carla. This is already partly the case within the Group. Linkcity's objective is to have 50% of projects with neutral or positive biodiversity by 2027.  

It should also be noted that Brézillon, which specialises in the environmental sector, has expertise in a number of these issues.  

COP 15: what are the implications for the construction sector? 

The agreement reached, known as the GBF, resulted in 23 targets. For the first time, one of the targets (target 15) is directly relevant to business, and is ambitious. It involves measuring the risks, dependencies and impacts of our direct activities on biodiversity, as well as of our entire value chain, and above all making these public. "It's a real revolution on a global level," says Carla. 
Although the construction sector is not specifically mentioned in the agreement, it was nevertheless mentioned many times during COP15 because it has a strong role to play. “It’s the 2nd largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, but the solutions are also in our hands,” explains Carla.  

We are now at a turning point for the construction sector. While soil artificialisation and urban sprawl are among the main causes of biodiversity loss, the construction sector can also play a role in preserving and restoring biodiversity. Bouygues Construction has implemented solutions such as greening cities, the prudent use of real estate through renovation and welcoming and respecting ecosystem species. Buildings benefit from drawing inspiration from living things, and the Greenlight business strategy is based on this fact. 

2023: a biodiversity roadmap for Bouygues Construction 

“We have two main objectives," explains Patrizia. “Firstly, financing solutions for the preservation and restoration of biodiversity. The aim is to gain an insight into developing sustainable finance internationally when regulations differ from those in Europe. What’s mandatory in Europe isn’t mandatory elsewhere. It’ll be very interesting to see how the world of sustainable finance evolves internationally. The sustainable finance approach is growing, and its benefits are starting to be understood. We need to organise ourselves to support our clients in relation to this financing. 
The second objective is to monitor the development of environmental metrics. These two objectives are linked. To prove that a project is sustainable, it must be shown using measurements. Although the carbon indicator is fairly simple, the same cannot be said for biodiversity. This is a complex and vast field, the metrics of which are still being defined. We must start to prepare for this by working on the indicators and tools which will be required by the regulations from 2023.”   
The working groups which will define the future KPIs have been identified. The objective is now to participate in these groups by bringing the issues and constraints of the industry to the attention of the researchers and consultants present in these groups. 
“We need to be proactive with regard to new regulatory and/or financial requirements in order to remain a key player in the ecological transition while maintaining our competitiveness. We’re going to organise our governance on environmental and CSR issues in the knowledge that everyone in the company has a role to play," says Patrizia in conclusion. 

*Orée is an association with whom Bouygues Construction has been a partner for several years. It has over 180 members, with the companies involved in three working groups focussing on extra-financial reporting, the circular economy and biodiversity. 

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