Compromise on resources salvages CBD conference; marine protection gets big boost
Hyderabad could not have matched Nagoya. Not in the arrangements, not in the participation and certainly not in the outcome that the 10th Conference of Parties (CoP-10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) achieved in the Japanese city in 2010. That was the big bang moment in CBD’s progress since 1993, setting in place the much-needed third pillar of its objective: the eponymously named Nagoya protocol to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.
CoP-11 in Hyderabad was clearly meant to be a hard slog over the nitty-gritty of implementation of the earlier CBD decisions, and missed targets, on conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, the other two pillars. And that’s what it turned out to be—tough negotiations aimed at wringing the required funds from developed countries to preserve the planet’s fast depleting biological wealth. As CBD executive secretary Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias had emphasised in the run-up to Hyderabad, the nub of the issue was implementation, and implementation clearly needs generous resource flows. But, overhung by the economic crisis in the major economies of the world and Japan’s tsunami-hit budget, the fight for resources was marked by painful negotiations over the strategies and mechanisms to raise the required funds. One estimate by a high-level panel set up by the UK and India says that between $150 billion and $440 billion would be needed annually over the next eight years just to meet the set of 20 Aichi targets of biodiversity conservation agreed upon in 2010.
A hard-fought compromise that was announced at 2 am on October 20 came after seven hours of negotiations as weary negotiators from regional blocs, individual nations and Indian facilitators thrashed out at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre, CoP-11 venue. The climax, perhaps, made up for the disappointing turnout said to have drawn no more than 6,000 participants. High-level participation comprised 77 ministers, mostly holding the environment portfolio, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who pledged $50 million to kick off the Hyderabad call for biodiversity champions.
The Hyderabad conference, which kicked off on October 1 with Meeting of Parties on biosafety issues, came against the backdrop of yet another bad news report on the unfinished agenda of biodiversity conservation. An analysis by the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP’s) World Conservation Monitoring Centre, its specialist biodiversity assessment centre, found the world needs to designate an additional six million square km of terrestrial and inland water areas as national protected areas, which is 10 times the size of Madagascar. UNEP-WCMC’s Protected Planet Report 2012 also noted that an additional eight million square km of marine and coastal areas, an area larger than Australia, would have to be tagged protected area to meet the Aichi targets of having 17 per cent land and 10 per cent marine area under protection. Distressingly, the report stated about half the world’s richest biodiversity zones are unprotected despite 60 per cent increase in protected areas since 1990.
It is not that 193 parties to CBD are unaware of the magnitude of the task before them. The problem is finances, negotiations over which have reflected the customary north-south divide. The unresolved issues from Nagoya were carried over to Hyderabad. During CoP-10, developing countries had sought specific targets on new and additional financial flows under Article 20 of CBD, the rich countries failed to come up with any despite promises. Instead, they called for a methodology to assess funding requirements during 2011-2012 and put off adoption of targets on resource mobilisation to CoP-11 on the condition that “robust baselines” and a reporting framework are set in place.
In Hyderabad, the Philippines, which emerged as a spokesperson for developing countries, summed up their disquiet when it said the various draft decisions of CoP-11 sought to ask the developing countries to do more “while we are getting deeper and deeper into an eternal mobilisation process that produces nothing but the same old recycled ODA (official development assistance)”. This was echoed by other countries speaking for different regional blocs.
A statement by G77 and China noted: “We expect the developed country partners would reciprocate our compromise by agreeing to specific targets and commitments while at the same time working on a roadmap that would fix time line for adoption of the final financial targets”. The overriding concern was that lack of accord would mean loss of four years and dissipate momentum on the Aichi targets. As the largest grouping of developing countries noted: “We hope this is also not the intention of our developed country partners”.
Ultimately, it was India’s insistence on reaching an interim agreement that paved the way for the agreement: a doubling of resource flows from developed nations, while also putting forward a preliminary reporting framework to monitor resource mobilisation. Hopefully, specific targets will be adopted at the 2014 session—the parties meet every two years—of CoP-12 in South Korea.
So what has been tapped out is the following: developed countries, using a baseline figure of the average annual national spending on biodiversity between 2006 and 2010, will double biodiversity-related international financial flows by 2015. All parties have agreed to substantially increase domestic expenditures for biodiversity protection over the period, while targets have also been set to increase the number of countries that must include biodiversity in their national development plans and prepare financial plans for biodiversity by 2015. These targets and the progress towards achieving these are to be reviewed in 2014.
While the stalemate on resources may have cast a shadow over CoP-11, the meeting did manage to wrest agreement on some significant issues of conservation, notably those related to marine and coastal areas. Many areas that are beyond national jurisdictions and which, therefore, receive little or no protection have been put on the radar. The Saragasso Sea, the Tonga archipelago and key corals sites off the coast of Brazil are among a range of marine areas that will get special attention. CBD agreed to classify a diverse list of marine areas, some renowned for containing “hidden treasures” of the plant and animal world, as ecologically or biologically significant areas, a tag critical towards stemming biodiversity loss. Other decisions include measures to factor biodiversity into environmental impact assessments linked to infrastructure and other development projects in marine and coastal areas. The conference recognised the growing challenge of climate change impact on coral reefs, which would require a significant investment to overcome. The secretariat said the set of agreements on oceans and coasts “builds on the commitment of countries made at UN Rio+20 summit in June 2012 to protect and restore marine ecosystems and to maintain their biodiversity”.
For India’s environment and forests minister Jayanthi Natarajan, fighting a critical battle against her own government on the proposed National Investment Board (NIB) which has serious implications for the environment and biodiversity, the outcome offered some solace. Apart from the compromise on resources, there was a first to celebrate. For the first time, India and several African states, pledged additional funds beyond their core funding towards the work of CBD—an unprecedented offer as commentators noted.
India has taken over the presidency of CBD from Japan and its task will be to streamline the implementation process and consolidate the gains made so far. Not an easy task.
| How much money is enough?
Resource flows continue to be the most vexed issue on biodiversity conservation. Estimates of how much is required can vary hugely. The Little Biodiversity Finance Book puts the cost of protecting biodiversity at $4-13 billion annually for an expanded protected areas (PA) network covering 15 per cent of land area to $355-385 billion a year for ecosystem protection.
Source: Convention on Biodiversity document 2012
With inputs from M Suchitra and Jyotika Sood
Biosafety issues get a push
Author(s): Latha Jishnu
Experts to study socio-economic aspects of GMO release
In the jargon of global conferences on climate change and biodiversity, acronyms familiar to the regulars but puzzling to the outsider need some explanation. In the just-concluded Conference of Parties (CoP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), there was very little coverage of the sixth CoP serving as the Meeting of the Parties, or MoP-6 for short, which preceded the main event or CoP-11.
Participation because of the specialised nature of the issues is lower than at the main event on biodiversity conservation—it was around 1,500—and purveying this to the layperson is not easy for the media. Inside the venue at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre, however, it was another story with a high frisson of excitement marked by a series of riveting but conflicting side events.
If industry had its high-power campaign to show genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture, scientists and activists opposed to GM technology had many more events to demonstrate that it is hazardous and needs to be kept under strict controls if not banned altogether.
Presentations by an array of independent scientists from across the globe put together by the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) revealed how resistance to GM technologies was developing across the world—from South Africa to the US and India. The agribiotech industry on the other hand was pushing it as the poor farmer’s best friend. All this was intended to influence the negotiations in the plenary sessions of MoP-6 which was held from October 1 to 5.
MoPs are devoted to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an agreement under CBD and the only international treaty that regulates GMOs, or living modified organisms (LMOs) as they are known under the protocol. India is one of the 163 parties to the protocol.
In spite of the difficult nature of the negotiations, several key measures were adopted at MoP-6, the most significant being the agreement to advance discussions on socio-economic issues associated with LMOs. This resulted in the setting up of an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) to develop conceptual clarity on the issue, a signal victory since it was thwarted at MoP-5 in Nagoya. The AHTEG report, which will be submitted to MoP-7 in 2014, is expected to help Parties to the Cartagena Protocol to decide upon development of guidance on socio-economic considerations.
Socio-economic considerations have been controversial since developed nations oppose them as unnecessary. Article 26 of the Cartagena Protocol establishes the right of Parties to take into account socio-economic considerations resulting from the impact of LMOs on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. This has special significance in relation to the value of biodiversity to indigenous and local communities and is a factor to be taken into account when deciding to import these organisms. India did not do a socio-economic study when it decided to allow the commercialisation of GM cotton in the country a decade ago.
MoP-6 also reached agreement on other complex issues such as risk assessment and action to be taken in the event of unintentional movement of LMOs across national borders and the kind of documentation that should accompany shipments of LMOs. Transboundary movement of LMOs is cause of concern because few governments are equipped to monitor their movement (see https://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/taking-stock-biodiversity). There was progress on the development of “Guidance on Risk Assessment of LMOs” by a group of experts and Parties have been encouraged to test the guidance in actual cases of risk assessment and share their experiences.
The delegates also agreed on an improved plan on capacity-building to deal with the complexities of the Protocol and adopted further steps to strengthen the Biosafety Clearing House, an online information exchange facility. MoP-6 was a rare instance where all sides cheered the outcome.
Forests brushed aside
Author(s): Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava
CoP-11 fails to finalise guidelines to safeguard forest biodiversity
Forests constitute 80 per cent of the earth’s terrestrial biodiversity. But instead of protecting it, the international community at the recently concluded Conference of Parties-11 to Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) seemed more keen on using it as carbon stock.
In Hyderabad, countries discussed guidelines to safeguard forest biodiversity from the possible adverse impacts of REDD+, a financial mechanism that pays developing countries for managing their forests better. But the countries did not endorse the guidelines and left it to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to take the final decision. It recognises the role of conservation and sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stock in reducing emissions. But the focus is limited to carbon emissions.
Concerns have, therefore, been raised over the possible adverse impact of REDD+ on forest biodiversity and the rights of indigenous communities. It is feared the mechanism may lead to conversion of natural forests to monoculture plantations of little biodiversity value. While there is no guarantee that communities will get equitable share of benefits from the activities of REDD+, rights activists fear the money may encourage governments and conservation organisations to deprive communities of their forest rights.
To counter these threats, in 2010 UNFCCC had adopted safeguards at its 16th CoP in Cancun. “But the safeguards were generic and non-binding. A system for providing information on how the safeguards could be addressed was proposed, subject to the sovereignty of nations. None of the nations took them seriously,” says Simone Lovera of international non-profit Global Forest Coalition. In 2010, CoP-10 of CBD had decided in Nagoya to advise parties on the REDD+ safeguards for their approval in CoP-11 in Hyderabad. After consultations with experts and stakeholder countries, the CBD secretariat prepared a detailed advice in August this year. Key aspects of the advice were: clarifying land tenure issues in forests; land-use planning at the national level; developing and applying national-level REDD+ safeguards and integrating them with national biodiversity laws and policies; providing tangible livelihood benefits to communities and ensuring equitable access and benefit sharing.
“This seemed a positive step. However, there was little hope that the countries would adopt the safeguards. Forest carbon is considered cheap. Applying safeguards would make it costlier and reduce profit margin for countries,” says Swati Shresth, fellow at Ashoka Trust for Research and Ecology and Environment, a Bengaluru-based non-profit. The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of CBD, which prepared the advice, said countries should implement the safeguards as soon as possible because REDD+ is at various stages of implementation in different countries.
The EU supported the advice, saying CoP should consider means of monitoring and assessing the impacts of REDD+ on biodiversity. But developing countries, where the REDD projects will be implemented, did not show interest. Brazil, India and Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries said information on safeguards has to be country-driven, as per UNFCCC decisions. Finally, CoP decided to ask the CDB secretariat to modify the advice taking into account the relevant UNFCCC decisions and report it to SBSTTA before CoP-13.
Groups working on forests criticised parties to CBD for giving too much importance to UNFCCC. “It seems forest is no longer an ecosystem that falls under the mandate of CBD. It is just a carbon stock that falls under the mandate of UNFCCC,” said Lovera. She said other issues on forest diversity were not discussed as enough work could not be done on them due to fund crunch. “All they did was discuss a non-binding advice for non-binding safeguards for an inherently flawed REDD+ regime,” she said.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.