A breakthrough in the conservation of biological diversity
At the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, the international community has launched the long overdue trend reversal to halt the ongoing destruction of nature.
The meeting adopted ambitious decisions in three key areas: participants agreed on a new global biodiversity target and an ambitious strategy on the global conservation of biological diversity from 2011 to 2020, set binding financing targets for its implementation and adopted an ABS Protocol – internationally binding regulations for access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their utilization. This means that the international community now has an effective instrument at its disposal to prevent biopiracy that provides both developing countries and user countries, especially developed countries, with a reliable framework for the use of genetic resources.
A positive signal for further processes
The outcomes of the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD can be considered a great success for international biodiversity policy. After 20 years, it has finally been possible to reach a binding agreement on the third objective of the Convention – fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources – and set this out in concrete terms. With the adoption of the new Strategic Plan, the international community has shown that it is capable of agreeing on measures to halt the ongoing global loss of biodiversity. The successful outcome to the meeting in Nagoya also sends out a positive signal for addressing environmental issues in other international processes.
This very successful meeting was also the culmination of the German CBD Presidency from 2008 to 2010. Germany has been successful in raising the profile of biodiversity policy in the international arena and set the course for a successful outcome to the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Nagoya. Germany has thus underlined, once again, its strong credentials in global biodiversity policy.
The most important decisions
ABS stands for access and benefit-sharing and means that the access to the genetic resources of a country is securely regulated and that the countries from which these resources originate will receive an equitable share in the benefits arising from their use. One example of this is the development of drugs or breeding of varieties (benefit-sharing).
At the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Japan, participants finally reached agreement, after a very complex negotiating process, on a Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of the Benefits Arising from their Utilization. This means that after 20 years, it has finally been possible to set out the third objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity in concrete terms. The international community now has an effective instrument at its disposal to prevent biopiracy that provides both developing countries and user countries, especially developed countries, with a reliable framework for the use of genetic resources. The possible establishment of a multilateral fund was laid down in the Protocol for cases that cannot be unambiguously clarified in the framework of the new instrument.
The follow-up process will focus on the detailed elaboration and implementation of the international ABS Protocol.
The Strategic Plan of the CBD lays down specific medium- and long-term goals and priorities of international biodiversity conservation for a decade at a time. In Japan, the international community had the task of deciding which targets of global biodiversity policy are to be pursued from 2011 to 2020.
After long and difficult negotiations, delegates adopted a comprehensive document which sets out a long-term vision (to 2050), a medium-term mission (to 2020) and a total of 20 specific medium- to long-term sub-targets and milestones necessary for the attainment of the CBD’s overarching goals. The new global target is to adopt effective and urgent measures to halt the loss of biological diversity worldwide by 2020. An ambitious strategy to mobilize the requisite financial resources will accompany its implementation.
The key targets, from Germany’s perspective, were Target 5 concerning the rate of loss, degradation and fragmentation of all natural habitats, and Target 11 on the expansion of the global system of protected areas. A very ambitious Target 5 was agreed: it includes a commitment to at least halve the rate of loss and where feasible to bring it close to zero, as well as a reference to forests. Target 11 on the expansion of the global system of protected areas is less ambitious: a target level of protection of 20 per cent of terrestrial areas by 2020 failed to secure the requisite support. Instead, the figure of 17 per cent was agreed (currently, protected areas cover nearly 13 per cent of the world’s terrestrial surface). For the marine protected areas, agreement was reached on 10 per cent of total coastal and marine habitats, including the high seas (at present, less than 1 per cent of marine areas is designated as protected areas).
Agreement was also reached on measures to combat the causes of biodiversity loss (for example environmentally harmful subsidies, non-sustainable production and consumption, destructive fishing practices and overfishing, pollutant inputs, climate change), targets for species conservation and the protection of genetic diversity, and consideration and integration of the value of biodiversity and its services in national planning processes, national accounts and reporting systems.
Lack of financing is one of the main reasons why the loss of biodiversity continues. This applies in particular to the poorer countries of the south which are home to a large share of global biodiversity but which do not have adequate means to ensure biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. The two most important aspects of this topic were therefore the decision on targets and indicators for the mobilization of resources, and a review of innovative financing mechanisms.
As anticipated, the negotiations proved extremely difficult, as the G77 and China argued that a decision on ambitious targets in the new Strategic Plan should be linked to a credible commitment from donor countries to provide greatly increased financial resources. After initial demands for a substantial financial commitment to be made at this meeting of the Conference of the Parties, agreement was finally reached on a process whose aim is to set targets at the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties. In general terms, a substantial increase in financial resources from all sectors (public and private funds) was pledged. Indicators were agreed for the setting of more specific targets, and a two-year data collection process was initiated, which will begin by providing a more precise overview of existing financial flows and funding requirements. This will then establish a baseline for the setting of targets in 2012.
Although a global network of marine protected areas is supposed to be established by 2012, only around 1 per cent of marine areas has so far been designated as protected areas.
In Nagoya, the aim was to adopt a decision so that, using the criteria to identify ecologically or biologically significant areas on the high seas adopted at the 9th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD in Bonn, the selection of areas on the high seas in particular need of protection could now take place and a global database-supported list could be drawn up.
Although some parties to the CBD argued – with reference to the United Nations General Assembly’s central role in addressing issues relating to the conservation of biodiversity in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction – that there was no mandate to engage in activities to protect biodiversity in these marine areas, it ultimately proved possible to adopt decisions on both the identification of areas and the database.
It was agreed, for example, that a series of regional workshops would be organized, the primary objective being to facilitate the description of significant marine areas beyond national jurisdiction in need of protection, involving all relevant stakeholders (Parties, governments and relevant international and regional organizations and initiatives). The areas identified within this framework should then be submitted to the 15th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) and the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention in 2012. Information about the areas identified is to be collected in a database, yet to be established. It was also agreed that the United Nations General Assembly as well as competent international/multilateral and regional organizations should be informed of progress in this regard. Voluntary guidelines for the consideration of marine biodiversity in environmental impact assessments should be developed.
The establishment of a global network of protected area systems on land and at sea plays a central role in the conservation of global biodiversity. One of the tasks on the agenda at Nagoya was to review the ambitious CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas and to adopt recommendations on ways of improving its implementation at national and international level. To that end, 10 issues were identified that need greater attention and action in future.
These are: sustainable finance of protected areas (including through the CBD’s LifeWeb Initiative); addressing impacts of climate change on protected areas; improving management effectiveness (also through enhanced efforts to carry out evaluations of protected areas); improving invasive alien species management; enhanced efforts towards the establishment of marine protected areas, also on the high seas; increased coverage, quality, representativeness and connectivity of inland water protected areas; restoration of ecosystems and habitats; valuing the ecosystem services of protected areas; governance, participation, equity and benefit-sharing; and reporting.
Biodiversity conservation and climate protection are two sides of the same coin. Aspects of climate change are considered in numerous topics covered by the CBD, such as biodiversity in forests, mountain regions, the marine and coastal environment, and dry lands.
The question whether, and to what extent, the CBD should contribute to the development of biodiversity safeguards in the negotiations on the REDD mechanism (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aroused controversy in the negotiations among the Parties up to ministerial level. Some countries are calling for a strict separation between the CBD and UNFCCC agendas, their main argument being the concern about pre-empting negotiations on the REDD mechanism under the UNFCCC.
These concerns were taken into account in a compromise text which now permits work on relevant safeguards for biodiversity to take place within the CBD framework provided that the outcomes are presented for approval by the Conference of the Parties to the CBD at its 11th meeting in October 2012, without pre-empting any future decisions taken under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The consideration of conservation and sustainable use activities and of the rights of participation of indigenous and local communities (land use, land tenure) in the development of the REDD mechanism was enshrined in the outcome document with reference to the relevant national legislation. Furthermore, the Secretariat of the CBD was requested to produce a proposal to develop joint activities between the three Rio Conventions. The proposal is to be discussed by the Joint Liaison Group of the three Rio Conventions and made use of, if appropriate, in the preparatory work in connection with Rio+20.
At the 9th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bonn, recommendations on the issue of biofuels and biodiversity were adopted for the first time. In Nagoya, the task was to develop and adopt general sustainability criteria for biofuels, including production guidelines, for example. The overarching goal was to keep the issue of biofuels on the CBD agenda and thus ensure that influence could continue to be brought to bear, as the main actors in this arena are the UNFCCC and, above all, the WTO.
The decision on biofuels adopted in Nagoya contains advice on measures to promote the positive and minimize the negative impacts of biofuels on biodiversity. The Parties also succeeded in including references to the impacts on socio-economic conditions such as land tenure, food security and access to water. From a German perspective, it is particularly important that the Parties are invited to develop national inventories so as to identify areas of high biodiversity value and critical ecosystems which are not suitable for the production of biofuels, as well as to identify areas that are particularly suitable for the production of biofuels.
The declaration of a moratorium on "synthetic biology" demanded by a number of NGOs and developing countries and the establishment of an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) and/or an Internet dialogue forum were unable to achieve a consensus, but the topic has been referred to the "new and emerging issues". The decision also underlines the need to apply the precautionary approach, in accordance with the Cartagena Protocol, to the introduction of genetically modified organisms.
In Nagoya, a decision was taken on the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), whose establishment was agreed by the international community at a UNEP conference in Busan, South Korea, in June 2010.
During the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Parties welcomed the outcome document of this conference (Busan Outcome) and emphasised the need for close cooperation, seeking complementarity and avoiding duplication, between the work of IPBES and the Convention, in particular the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA).
The meeting also noted that 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity and encouraged the United Nations General Assembly at its 65th session to consider the decision and outcomes of the IPBES conference in Busan and take steps for the establishment of IPBES at the earliest opportunity.