India pledges $50 million to environment

By Tierney Smith
RTCC in Hyderabad

Singh reminded delegates that it is often the poorest who are hardest hit by biodiversity loss (Source: World Economic Forum/Creative Commons)

India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says parties to the UN biodiversity talks must demonstrate their commitment by agreeing a financial framework at COP11 in Hyderabad.

Addressing the opening plenary session of the high-level part of the talks, Singh said his government had already “earmarked” $50 million to deliver strong institutional mechanisms for conservation in India.

The Prime Minister also called on attending states to follow India’s lead in ratifying the Nagoya Protocol, which was agreed in 2010 and focuses on sharing exploitation benefits of biodiversity with local communities.

Ninety-two countries have signed the protocol, but only six ratified it ahead of this year’s conference.

Taking the podium after a series of long and often rambling speeches by various dignatories, Singh said that despite being a developing country, he had set an example, and it was now up to others to follow.

“India has recently ratified the Nagoya Protocol and formalised our commitment to it. I would urge all the Parties to do likewise because concerted global action is imperative and cannot brook any further delay,” he said.

“Despite global efforts, the 2010 biodiversity target that we had set for ourselves under the Convention on Biological Diversity was not fully met. This situation needs to change.”

Local pressure groups were quick to point out that the $50 million pledged was tiny compared to what is required, amounting to just 0.1% of what is called India’s coal scam, where coal fields were allegedly handed to public and private groups for a fraction of their true price.

Brij Mohan Sing Rathore from the Ministry of Environment and Forests told RTCC that the $50 million is a symbolic sign of the government’s support for this conference, and would be used to drive further investment in India.

“It is an upfront pledge – this is very, very upfront support – and through other kinds of schemes and programmes there would be other money given but this is upfront support. It is a very, very useful thing saying, ‘here we are committing for biodiversity conservation, supporting the institutions which actually help’,” he said.

“It is hugely symbolic and it will inspire actions in many other countries like ours as well as commitments from the state governments and many stakeholders including the private sector. When a government comes in upfront and puts up the money on biodiversity it sends the signal that this is important.”

The pledge was greeted with thanks from the CBD Executive Secretary Braulio Dias who said India would become the first ‘Green Champion’ of the conference.

Resource mobilisation

While many texts at COP11 have already been agreed, some issues remain contentious, notably financing biodiversity initiatives over the coming decade.

Speaking alongside Singh, Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister for Environment and Forests in India and Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme called for movement on finance before the end of the week.

“If we are not able to agree on resource mobilisation, four years of the decade long plan would have been gone already and we will not be able to meet the Aichi Targets,” said Natarajan. “This will be our collective failure. We have already failed on biodiversity in 2010, future generations would not forgive us if we failed again.”

Steiner added that it was too easy for countries in economic crisis to see biodiversity as a distraction, but that they should come to a consensus in India.

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