By Tierney Smith
RTCC in Hyderabad
The 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has just opened for business in Hyderabad, India.
The CBD is one of the three Rio Conventions established at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro – the other two are the climate change and the desertification conventions.
But while climate change is making headlines on a daily basis, biodiversity has struggled to break into the mainstream – and this is one of the main questions delegates here will be discussing.
The 2010s have been designated the UN’s decade on biodiversity, indicating the parlous state of many ecosystems find themselves in. Species are disappearing at an astonishing rate, forests are being cut down for fuel and crops while the oceans are becoming increasingly polluted, and devoid of fish.
Two years ago in Nagoya, Japan, members of the CBD took the first steps towards a global biodiversity agenda, with a set of clear targets to implement the convention.
Over the next two weeks the real work begins to make sure these targets are implemented and that biodiversity issues are mainstreamed both nationally and internationally – and RTCC will be here reporting on events.
Below I’ve curated some of the talking points you might want to look out for over the coming weeks.
Agreed upon in Nagoya in 2010, the protocol focuses on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits under the convention.
This is about making sure countries which have natural resources – in terms of food, medicines etc – are given financial incentives to protect them. This allows for the fair and transparent exchange of these resources and well as encouraging the conservation and sustainable use of them.
When countries agreed to this in COP10 it was seen as a major breakthrough, but so far only six parties under the convention have ratified the protocol. The working group set up to focus on the protocol met earlier in 2012 – its recommendations will be taken on board here in Hyderabad.
The Aichi Targets
One of the central outcomes of COP10 in 2010 was the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. Aimed at halving the loss of biodiversity by 2020 and expanding nature reserves by 17% in the same period.
The Aichi Targets – also set out at COP10 – offer the framework for countries to achieve this. The 20 targets, set out across five broad areas focus on mainstreaming biodiversity, promoting sustainable use of ecosystems and enhancing the benefits of those services to all.
WWF have commended the effort made to create what they call a roadmap on biodiversity but say they are “concerned that almost two years later there is little evidence of progress in meeting these commitments.” So what needs to be done in Hyderabad?
WWF have called for a review of how the plan would be implemented – including the establishment of national targets or in the case where existing national strategies (National Biodiversity Action Plans) are in place, updating these to bring in the next agenda.
Some countries’ national plans are now 10 or 15 years old, and one member of the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre told me that the current conference will have ensure every region of the world can update their plans – interpreting the new targets on a national basis.
Money will also have a key role in implementing this strategy. One member of the IUCN delegation told me that developing countries need more funding to be able to implement the Aichi targets into their national policies.
This is never an easy task and where this money will come from will be a tricky area of focus over the next two weeks.
At COP10 developed countries asked poorer countries to put forward a clear idea of how much money will be needed to implement their Aichi targets nationally, but some have yet to do this. It is unlikely richer countries will pledge funds unless improvement is seen in this area.
Another option is innovative sources of finance, and the involvement of the private sector. This was a strong theme at the Rio+20 summit in June. Valuing ecosystems in financial terms will be an issue in Hyderabad – although countries like Bolivia and Ecuador are likely to oppose it.
At COP10 two years ago, a draft decision in the text specifically looking at innovative finance options was opposed and withdrawn, and instead the outcome said the Strategic Plan should be financed through existing channels and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
There are a few key areas where the biodiversity agenda is likely to overlap with the climate change agenda – although judging by official documents and publications it is the unmentioned ‘c’ word here.
One of the key focuses for the UNFCCC in November will be moving the REDD+ initiative forward, and this is also likely to be an area of interest over the next couple of weeks – particularly focusing on biodiversity safeguards.
The draft outcome document to be discussed at the conference also highlights how REDD+ could be used to help achieve the Aichi Targets.
Biofuels will be another area of cross-over. Policy analysts say while it is unlikely countries would openly object to biofuels (even if they may want to) they will call for biodiversity to be taken into account in all decisions in this area.
Finally biodiversity as resilience to climate change will be a key theme. More and more scientists and policy makers are realising that a more biodiverse environment is more resilient to the impacts of global warming.
A running theme in the Aichi Targets, creating strong and resilient ecosystems from the oceans to the rainforests will be an area addressed not only by the CBD, but also at the UNFCCC meeting later this year.