Small Steps Towards Ensuring Biodiversity

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By Devinder Kumar
IDN-InDepth NewsReport

NEW DELHI (IDN) - While official statements about the outcome of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad, read rather upbeat, a global environment organisation, Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), has criticized negotiators for focusing on false solutions to biodiversity loss and favouring corporate polluters over people and the planet.

One of the main themes at the UN Biodiversity negotiations, FoEI argues, was the 'financialization' of nature – which means reducing nature to a commodity or a derivative to be speculated on in financial markets thus opening a way for corporations to plunder the planet while making profits.

"Financialization is a false solution to biodiversity loss and climate change. It is a way for corporate polluters to continue destroying biodiversity and threatening indigenous peoples and local communities. If UN talks start favouring the financialization of nature, community and Indigenous peoples' rights will be violated, leading to mass land grabs," says Isaac Rojas, FoEI coordinator of the Forests and Biodiversity Programme.

Many multinational corporations are lobbying the UN to push their interests, namely, the financialization of nature, Rojas warns. "The corporate influence on UN talks is extremely worrying. Multinational corporations lobby in favour of approaches which have negative impacts on communities and Indigenous Peoples and do not protect forests and biodiversity. These are false solutions. Instead, we need ways to properly protect traditional knowledge and ownership. For instance we need more community-based forest governance, which is an effective way for local people to help protect their forests as well as the climate."

Synthetic biology, the creation of novel organisms through new biotechnologies, was another major issue at the UN Biodiversity Conference October 1-19, 2012. Eric Hoffman, food and technology policy campaigner for Friends of the Earth U.S. says: "Synthetic biology is a false solution that will only benefit wealthy nations and their corporate partners."

He adds: "The creation of novel organisms through synthetic biology poses numerous risks to biodiversity, including but not limited to genetic contamination, novel invasive species, and loss of livelihoods. It is tragic that so far the UN missed the opportunity to implement a moratorium on the environmental release and commercial use of synthetic organisms."

In fact, synthetic biology has not even been added to the Convention on Biological Biodiversity's agenda, notes Hoffman. "Even so, a relatively weak but small step forward was taken as the Parties agreed to apply the Precautionary Principle when dealing with synthetic biology and its potential risks."

Representatives from more than 192 countries participated in the Hyderabad COP 11 of the Convention on Biological Biodiversity, which seeks to address threats to biodiversity and ecosystems, including climate change.

Friends of the Earth International acknowledges the great work that many organizations and social movements, working together as the CBD Alliance, made during the two weeks negotiations. The CBD Alliance plays an important role in ensuring that civil society, indigenous peoples, and local communities have a seat at the negotiation table, stresses FoEI.

One day before concluding, on October18 a report produced by United Nations Environment Programme's (UNNEP's) World Conversation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said that despite the growing number of nature reserves, national parks and other protected areas across the globe, half of the world's richest biodiversity zones remain entirely unprotected. The study is the first in an annual series that will monitor global efforts to support and expand protected areas.

"Protected areas are being managed in a more equitable way, with a greater role for indigenous communities. But current investment in protected areas is only around half of what is needed to support endangered species, protect threatened habitats and deliver the full benefits that sustainably-managed protected areas can deliver," the Protected Planet Report 2012 said.

The study points out that protected areas have increased in number by almost 60 per cent, and in area by just under 50 per cent, since 1990. But it states that "poor management, under-funding and a lack of critical data on protected areas mean that the world is making insufficient progress towards the 2020 goals".

Official view

An official statement on the outcome of the Hyderabad COP11 seeks to neutralise – by implication – the report's criticism, by saying that the world's governments have agreed to increase funding in support of actions to halt the rate of loss of biodiversity.

"Developed countries agreed to double funding to support efforts in developing states towards meeting the internationally-agreed Biodiversity Targets, and the main goals of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020," the statement points out.

The Saragasso Sea, the Tonga archipelago and key corals sites off the coast of Brazil are among a range of marine areas to receive special attention by governments as part of renewed efforts to sustainably manage the world's oceans agreed in Hyderabad, the statement informs. Many of the areas are beyond national jurisdictions and, as such, receive little or no protection at present.

Other key decisions taken at the CBD COP 11 include new measures to factor biodiversity into environmental impact assessments linked to infrastructure and other development projects in marine and coastal areas.

"These results, coming in a period of economic crisis, demonstrate that the world is committed to implementing the CBD. We see that governments are moving forward in implementation and seeing biodiversity as an opportunity to be realized more than a problem to be solved," said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, CBD Executive Secretary.

"We now need to move forward in the next two years, under the able leadership of India, the COP 11 president, to consolidate this work and to advance further. I look forward to other pledges in support of the Hyderabad call for Biodiversity Champions that will allow us to realize our goals," he said.

Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of Environment and Forests for India, and president of the COP said: "The present economic crisis should not deter us, but on the contrary encourage us to invest more towards amelioration of the natural capital for ensuring uninterrupted ecosystem services, on which all life on earth depends."

Nagoya Protocol

Agreeing in general with the official view, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: "The UN biodiversity conference in Hyderabad has taken forward the renewed momentum, forged two years ago in Nagoya."

COP 10 in Nagoya, Japan, agreed on "the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity".

According to CBD, the Nagoya Protocol is "an international agreement which aims at sharing the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies". And this by "taking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies, and by appropriate funding, thereby contributing to the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components". I

The Nagoya Protocol is scheduled to enter into force 90 days after the date of deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification. Until now, the Protocol has been signed by 92 countries but ratified only by seven: Gabon, India, Jordan, Laos, Mexico, Rwanda, and Seychelles,

Steiner said: "Countries have sent a clear signal and delivered additional commitments underlining the fact that biodiversity and ecosystems are a development priority and central to a transition to an inclusive Green Economy."

He added: "Mobilizing the necessary financial resources from the public and private sector needed to ensure achievement of the 2020 targets remains a challenge – but here in India, many nations including developing economies have signalled their determination and sense of urgency to seize the opportunities by providing much needed additional support."

Developed countries agreed at the conference to increase funding to support efforts in developing states towards meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, named after the Aichi Prefecture of Japan located in the Chūbu region. The region's capital is Nagoya, where COP10 was held in October 2010.

The Aichi biodiversity targets comprise five strategic goals: address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society, reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use; to improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity; enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services; and enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building.

Using a baseline figure of the average annual national spending on biodiversity between 2006 and 2010, developed countries said they would double biodiversity-related international financial flows by 2015.

An official media release said: "The COP also set targets to increase the number of countries that have included biodiversity in their national development plans, and prepared national financial plans for biodiversity, by 2015. All Parties agreed to substantially increase domestic expenditures for biodiversity protection over the same period.

"These targets, and progress towards them, will be reviewed in 2014. For the first time, developing countries at COP 11, including India and several African states, pledged additional funds above and beyond their core funding towards the work of the CBD.

"The conference also saw the launch of the Hyderabad Call for Biodiversity Champions.  The programme will accept pledges from governments and organizations in support of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. The government of India . . . committed over US$ 50 million as part of the programme." [IDN-InDepthNews – October 20, 2012]

2012 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

Image credit: CBD

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