UN biodiversity talks end with finance deal as countries double funding to $10bn

By Tierney Smith
RTCC in Hyderabad

The UN Biodiversity summit in Hyderabad has ended with a compromise on finance that sees developed countries double their funding from $5bn to $10bn.

The agreement came following intense negotiations that lasted until the late hours of Friday night (October 19), well past the 6pm deadline set by the COP.

Developed countries agreed to double their financial assistance to the developing world by 2015 and then keep it steady to 2020, the year the Aichi targets are set to conclude.

Parties also agreed that 75% of the developing countries should integrate biodiversity conservation into their national agendas – with the exception of the least developed countries (LDCs) – and adopt measures for improving financing for conservation and restoration of biodiversity.

Discussions on resource mobilisation went on long into the night, as countries struggled to reach agreement (Source: CBD/Flickr)

Francisco Gaetani, head of the Brazilian delegation to COP11 and Executive Secretary of Brazil’s Ministry of Environment says good progress was made in Hyderabad.

“We are satisfied with the final agreements developed at COP11 and while we believe that the documents could be more ambitious, this conference has facilitated significant progress towards long-term commitments on biodiversity preservation,” he said.

The focal point of the debate had been about setting baselines – how much finance is required for biodiversity protection – in every nation, setting out the starting point for targets on how much should be pledged by richer countries.

Developed nations said these were essential before any concrete pledges were made, particularly as they continued to be restricted by the global financial crisis.

Lasse Gustavsson, WWF International’s Executive Director of Conservation says the $10bn pledge is still insufficient.

“WWF came to Hyderabad asking governments to set the world on a course that would help prevent further declines in some of the world’s most valuable resources, and we have seen some success here,” he said. “But the deal reached on financing at COP11 Hyderabad is a disappointing result, because it is not nearly enough money to reach the ambitious targets to protect biodiversity the world set two years ago in Nagoya.”

WWF estimates that $200 billion needs to invested every year if governments are going to live up to their commitments set out in the Aichi Targets.

Estimates by the CBD given earlier in the conference are even higher at $300 billion per year.

Obstructions

RTCC understands that the UK and Canada were instrumental to blocking talks on finance, causing the discussions to continue after hours. By yesterday afternoon it was the only agenda item left unresolved.

At certain points during the final hours of the talks there were even concerns that no consensus would be reached at all. But countries were able to find an agreement that allowed the final piece of the text to be agreed, completing the Hyderabad outcome.

“This is good but it’s not enough,” says Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group. “If we want to respond to the growing biodiversity crisis, we need more concrete action. We must engage with all levels of society, including the private sector, and look into conserving all levels of biological diversity: the diversity of genes, species and ecosystems. We are two years into the International Decade of Biodiversity now and this is more urgent than ever.”

Despite last minute funding disagreements, COP11 can be seen as a success story in many ways.

Many people have noted during the last two weeks the positive atmosphere of the discussions. While this may not be true in the intense negotiations on finance, in other areas this has certainly been apparent.

“Those meetings are relentless,” Areeba Hamid, Ocean Campaigner at Greenpeace India told RTCC. “[In the oceans discussions] for example, Japan wasn’t happy with a lot of the text, China wasn’t happy with a lot of text.

“But kudos to the chair, she was really, really pushing the countries to find common ground and I think that is great to see. There was generally an acceptance that we need to move forward and not deadlock ourselves over words.”

The phrase “in the spirit of compromise” were often used by countries as they tried to come to some agreement.

Climate change

The outcome sees consensus on several climate change issues that have been discussed over the last two weeks.

Issues in this area were hotly debated, as countries weighed up the potential negative biodiversity consequences of initiatives and the huge climate mitigation benefits they could bring.

The text on biofuels was agreed fairly early on in the conference, acknowledging that they could ‘aggravate biodiversity loss’ while recognising their role in mitigating carbon emissions.

The decision calls on all parties to give biofuels consideration when setting out their national biodiversity strategies.

Geoengineering and REDD+ were both more heavily debated, and additional groups were formed to deal with these issues.

Both were finally agreed yesterday. On geoengineering countries acknowledged the potential cross-border consequences of geoengineering.

The agreement also reaffirmed commitments from Nagoya that called for scientific evidence for the need for geoengineering before any experiments take place.

On REDD+, perhaps the most contentious of the climate issues, countries discussed how far the initiative should be discussed under the CBD and how much they should be left to the UN climate convention, the UNFCCC.

The text went some way to addressing these concerns, laying out the potential synergies between the two conventions.

WWF’s Gustavsson, however, told me that they would like to have seen an even stronger connection made.

“We would like to see a stronger link between he CBD and the UNFCCC,” he said. “Just as we don’t want biodiversity experts to solve climate change, we don’t want climate change experts to solve biodiversity challenges.

“Coherence between different UN processes here is really important. I don’t think we established as strong a link as we need, in order to be as effective as we have to be.”

Oceans

Another area, which saw significant attention at COP11, was oceans, and there were strong signals that this issue is moving up the global agenda.

One of the main decisions agreed in Hyderabad was over Ecological and Biological Significant Areas (EBSAs). Based on agreements made at COP10 in Nagoya, regional workshops over the last two years have collected the best scientific information to identify the most important areas in the oceans.

They are evaluated on such things as their rarity, their productivity, their naturalness and their importance for threatened species.

After a lengthy discussion, across the two weeks of the conference, it was agreed that countries would “take note” of these areas – despite the EU bloc calling for the stronger word “endorse”.

The decision means the CBD will now take the text to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) next year.

“We have got a result which for the time being we can be happy with,” said Greenpeace’s Hamid. “This means the nations have agreed to identify these areas and submit them to the UNGA where there is a deadlock moving forward because there was no scientific information available. If that block has been removed, effectively there is no excuse for inaction now.”

Gustavsson, however, says it is now up to WWF and other organisations to follow the decisions to the UNGA and make sure that what was agreed here is actually taken into account on the ground.

Agreements on marine ecosystems also looked at fisheries management, coral bleaching, ocean acidification and underwater noise.

The next COP meeting of the CBD will take place in South Korea in 2014.

More from COP11

UN biodiversity talks heading to tense final day

UN agreement urges caution over geoengineering tests

UK and Canada win ‘Dodo’ award for blocking biodiversity talks

Video: Head of IUCN’s Global Business and Biodiversity Programme tells RTCC that the lack of public finance will drive more private investment in global biodiversity

 

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