Wildlife & Biodiversity

Over 10,000 to attend UN biodiversity convention next month

Clear mandates needed from delegates for a biodiversity framework that is strong and yet implementable  

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Friday 11 November 2022

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has garnered huge interest from stakeholders and more than 10,000 delegates are expected to attend the conference. The event is less than a month away and will be held in Montreal, Canada.

Of these 10,000 people, 2,400 delegates are government representatives of countries, according to the preliminary data on registration. Africa — one of the most biodiverse continents — has the biggest contingent consisting of 1,040 delegates from the government.

However, other biodiversity-rich areas, such as Latin America and the Caribbean, are sending just 284 delegates. 

The rest of the registrations are made up of stakeholders from non-governmental organisations, groups representing indigenous people and local communities, youth groups and businesses. The United States still needs to ratify CBD but will also send a team to the meeting.

Heads of state are not going to be part of the meeting despite the interest in the convention and the critical importance of biodiversity. The secretariat hopes that the governments will send the negotiators with a clear mandate so that the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) will be finalised.

Read more: Convention on Biological Diversity: Draft recommendation to focus on One Health approach, COVID-19

GBF text is full of square brackets at present, indicating that negotiators still need to come to come to consensus on the framework — only two of 22 draft targets are clean.

The negotiators would need to decide on the targets’ numerical values. For example, some targets call for protecting 30 per cent of land and sea by 2030 (30 x 30 target), reducing pesticide use by half and the rate of introduction of invasive species by half. These numbers have to be finalised.

The numbers remain in square brackets even after multiple discussions over the last few years — the decision to prepare a global framework was taken at the 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) to the UN CBD in 2018 and the zero draft was ready before the pandemic.

The 30x30 target is likely to go through, said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the CBD, at a press meet. 

This target was set by the High Ambition Coalition, which has more than 100 countries as members. These countries are members of CBD as well.

The acceptance of the target at the conference depends on the willingness of the negotiators to put safeguards in place, which include that the rights of indigenous people, to whom this land belongs, will be protected, said Mrema.

Focus is also needed on the management of these protected areas. While the world was close to meeting the Aichi Target for protected areas, biodiversity loss continued.

The issue of resource mobilisation would be discussed at the meeting, too, and there are more serious efforts to raise funds than those made in 2010 when the Aichi Targets were set. It is estimated that some $200 billion are needed by 2030 to protect biodiversity.

Increased pledges made so far amount to just $20 billion by 2025. While domestic funds would add to this number. A special forum for finance will be organised at the conference, which would give businesses and governments a chance to negotiate funding.

Access and benefit sharing (ABS) on digital sequence information (DSI) from genetic resources could be a flashpoint in the meeting. ABS is one of the key goals towards 2050 set in the framework, which also has a specific target of fair and equitable benefit sharing.

Making the issue of ABS more prominent in the framework is expected to help. The benefits are mostly non-monetary at present.

Read more: International Day for Biological Diversity 2020: Spotlight on nature-based solutions

There have been collaborations between developed and developing countries over research, but we are yet to see monetary benefits as much as negotiators of Nagoya Protocol had expected, said David Cooper, deputy executive secretary of CBD, at a press meeting.

There is frustration that the ABS system has not worked as well as it should, Cooper said. DSIs have complicated the issue. Recent experience with using DSI to develop drugs and vaccines for COVID-19 showed a lack of equity when it came to sharing these products.

The framework has taken conscious steps to strengthen the mechanism to monitor and review progress towards meeting the targets. Countries should not consider monitoring as a surveillance system but use this to see what works and what does not, Mrema said at the press meet.

The conference has a busy schedule and there is a fear that decisions will be derailed. “We need to be optimistic. The science is clear that the planet is in crisis and the framework has to be in place,” says Mrema.

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