UNEP chief Steiner says finance deal at COP11 still possible

By Tierney Smith
RTCC in Hyderabad

The head of the UN Environment Programme Achim Steiner has called on observers to remain positive about finance discussions at the UN biodiversity talks.

Speaking at a press conference at the Convention of Biological Diversity’s COP11 summit, Steiner dismissed suggestions that there was deadlock, arguing that it was typical of international finance negotiations to run to the last day.

“Negotiations are ongoing. I would not characterise them as stuck, because a COP is there to reconcile different positions’, he said.

“What is happening right now is rational, logical and chronologically correct – I would say this COP is at work and that is exactly what it should be doing.”

He said that every signal so far, from both the Indian Presidency and the regional groupings suggested a deep commitment to resolve outstanding issues before the end of the conference on Friday.

On Wednesday India pledged $50 million to fund biodiversity projects within the country, but wider discussions on finance have proved to be the most contentious issue for parties.

Yesterday saw the contact group on finance mobilisation meet to discuss a draft text. They discussed whether a target to double biodiversity finance from developed to developing countries by 2015 was adequate. Developed countries noted that ‘baselines’ would be necessary to determine if this target was needed. Baselines refer to how much each country needs to achieve its own biodiversity plans.

Developed nations led by the EU argue that baselines must be put in place before discussions can move on to the targets for funding.

EU commissioner for Environment, Janez Potočnik told RTCC: “The condition that was agreed in Nagoya was that we would have a good baseline, that means that we understand what are the needs. We would need to have a good reporting system which means of course we would like to know how that money was spent and for what purpose.

“All of that also makes sense. That is why here in Hyderabad our firm belief in the EU is that until those things are met it is difficult to agree about definite targets. But we are also aware to meet our 2020-biodiversity targets, our Aichi Targets that we agree in Nagoya to be reached, it is coming closer so we need to discuss also how we step up our efforts.”

Developing nations say that to fulfill the mandate set in Japan in 2010 targets must be agreed here in Hyderabad. They say discussions on this should take precedence over those on frameworks and baselines.

Last week one developing nation said countries should start with the targets and then figure out how they will meet them. This sentiment was echoed in the country statements made in the High Level Segment of negotiations yesterday.

A delegate from Mozambique for example reminded the room that “when we adopted the strategic plan and the Nagoya Protocol in 2010 we appealed that only with the financial resources can we avoid repeating the mistakes” of the 2010 targets.

Thailand’s representative concurred, arguing his country: “has already worked to achieve Aichi Target 20 [on finance]. We have set up an environmental fund to support conservation activities.”

With the prospect of angry scenes at the end of COP11 if finance targets are not agreed, Steiner warned that the success of the conference could not be measured by one number.

“If you narrow it down to in Hyderabad you are only negotiating one financial amount and you reduce it to what is the international community willing to pay in order to move forward in the Aichi and Nagoya outcomes,” he said.

“You are ignoring the vast investment and the far larger investment that are part of the national and regional investment in biodiversity already.”

More from COP11

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

Amnesty and Greenpeace call on India to stop coal violations

UNEP: Eight steps to feed a growing world

Video: EU commissioner talks about the need for strong baselines and a reliable framework on finance…

Janez Potočnik, EU Commissioner for the Environment from Responding to Climate Change on Vimeo.

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