Biodiversity Convention adopts landmark decisions

Governments that are Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) concluded a two-week meeting in Nagoya, Japan on 29 October by adopting more than 40 decisions, of which a new legally binding agreement to combat biopiracy, a revised Strategic Plan to implement the CBD and a financial mobilisation plan were the centrepieces. Chee Yoke Ling reports.

THE tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held in Nagoya ended at about 3 am on 30 October. The 'Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilisation' was adopted in the early hours of the morning after almost six years of negotiations that culminated in an intense two and a half weeks of marathon sessions. This is the second treaty developed under the CBD, the first being the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety that entered into force in September 2003.

The Nagoya meeting had three major inter-linked components: the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS); the revised and updated Strategic Plan to guide international and national efforts to meet the CBD objectives including a revised biodiversity target for the period 2011-2020; and the implementation plan for the Strategy for Resource Mobilisation in support of the achievement of the three CBD objectives adopted by COP 9 in 2008.

(The three CBD objectives are: conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of the components of biodiversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of such components.)

The President of COP 10, the Minister of the Environment of Japan, Ryu Matsumoto, said in a press release dated 29 October, 'The outcome of this meeting is the result of hard work, the willingness to compromise, and a concern for the future of our planet. With this strong outcome, we can begin the process of building a relationship of harmony with our world, into the future.'

Until the final hours there was still no clear signal that the package of three main decisions would be adopted unanimously as one financial resource mobilisation draft decision was sent to plenary with many brackets (signifying lack of consensus).

Delegates at COP 10 were shadowed by a possible 'Copenhagen' collapse - the 2009 COP of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in the Danish capital had ended in disarray and disillusionment. There was also growing concern that if Nagoya failed to deliver a positive outcome, the multilateral system as a whole would suffer another blow.

Matsumoto was visibly relieved when his gavel came down to adopt the three decisions after more than two hours of post-midnight plenary discussion.

In an unprecedented move in the CBD's history, the COP did not adopt a draft decision that was tabled before it at the final plenary. The controversial draft decision on 'Policy Options Concerning Innovative Financial Mechanisms' sought to introduce, at the behest of developed countries, a range of new and untested market-based mechanisms. The developing-country Group of 77 (G77) and China expressed serious reservations, with Bolivia on behalf of the member countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) taking on the strongest objections.

COP 10 adopted the Nagoya Protocol on ABS and established an Open-ended Intergovernmental Committee to prepare for the first meeting of the Parties to the Protocol. The Committee will meet on 6-10 June 2011 and 23-27 April 2012. The Protocol will be open for signature by governments at the UN headquarters in New York from 2 February 2011 to 1 February 2012. Fifty ratifications are needed for the Protocol to enter into force.

Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela expressed their deep disappointment over the ABS Protocol and put on record their rejection of the document even though they decided not to block its adoption. (See the following article in this issue for a detailed report on the Nagoya Protocol.)

The COP also adopted the updated and revised Strategic Plan that had as its original goal 'to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth'.

The 2010 goal has failed to be realised and the third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook report presented to COP 10 was a bleak one.

There was thus a heightened sense of urgency in adopting a revised plan with new goals and targets. Developed countries, especially the European Union, wanted ambitious numerical targets for biodiversity conservation areas.

On the other hand, developing countries were extremely concerned that since its entry into force in 1993 the means of implementation of the CBD, especially financial resources, have been highly inadequate. They therefore wanted COP 10 to adopt numerical targets for financial flows and provide clear terms of reference for a thorough fourth review of the CBD's financial mechanism, as well as provide additional guidance to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) that is the institutional structure operating the mechanism. One of the points of dissatisfaction of developing countries is that even though the GEF is guided by the CBD COP through regular COP decisions, it has its own governance and accordingly the CBD still does not have an effective financial mechanism.

Bernarditas Muller of the Philippines, who represented the G77 and China at the Nagoya finance negotiations, pointed out that the average cycle for a project to be prepared, approved and funds disbursed by the GEF is about six years. 'It is no wonder that that 2010 goal was missed,' she said.

Another reason for the failure to meet the 2010 goal, according to developing countries, is the failure of the third CBD objective and hence the conclusion of a meaningful ABS Protocol was essential. In retaining a fair and equitable share of the benefits (monetary and non-monetary) from the utilisation of their genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, developing countries would be better placed to meet the other two CBD objectives of conservation and sustainable use within the framework of poverty eradication and sustainable development.

 Meanwhile, the 131 members of the G77 and China adopted a Multi-Year Plan of Action on South-South Cooperation on Biodiversity for Development on 17 October on the margins of COP 10. The COP welcomed this in a formal decision, as an important contribution to the CBD Strategic Plan for 2011-2020.

Strategic Plan and targets (2011-2020)

COP 10 adopted the updated and revised Strategic Plan that includes a shared vision, a mission and 20 targets, organised under five strategic goals that address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, reduce the pressures on biodiversity, safeguard biodiversity at all levels, enhance the benefits provided by biodiversity, and provide for capacity-building.

The vision is a world of 'Living in harmony with nature' where 'By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.'

The mission was agreed upon only in the final hours of the last day:

'Take effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity in order to ensure that by 2020 ecosystems are resilient and continue to provide essential services, thereby securing the planet's variety of life, and contributing to human well-being, and poverty eradication.

'To ensure this, pressures on biodiversity are reduced, ecosystems are restored, biological resources are sustainably used and benefits arising out of utilisation of genetic resources are shared in a fair and equitable manner; adequate financial resources are provided, capacities are enhanced, biodiversity issues and values mainstreamed, appropriate policies are effectively implemented, and decision-making is based on sound science and the precautionary approach.'

The contentious point was whether to include the phrase 'tipping points are avoided' in the second paragraph above, with most developed countries wanting to include it and developing countries concerned as to how 'tipping points' could be determined and doubtful that the means to do so are available.

Parties debated the necessity to take into account the diversity of national circumstances, and accordingly the Strategic Plan is a 'flexible framework' that will apply to the entire UN system.

Under the section on 'Strategic Goals and the 2020 Headline Targets', Parties are invited 'to set their own targets within this flexible framework, taking into account national needs and priorities, while also bearing in mind national contributions to the achievement of the global targets. Not all countries necessarily need to develop a national target for each and every global target. For some countries, the global threshold set through certain targets may already have been achieved. Other targets may not be relevant in the country context.'

Parties agreed to translate this overarching international framework into national biodiversity strategy and action plans within two years.

Among the 20 targets, Parties agreed to, by 2020:

*          Eliminate, phase out or reform incentives, including subsidies, harmful to biodiversity, and develop and apply positive incentives consistent with the CBD and other international obligations, taking into account national socio-economic conditions;

*          (With business and stakeholders) take steps to achieve or implement plans for sustainable production and consumption and keep the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits;

*          At least halve and where feasible bring close to zero the rate of loss of natural habitats including forests, and to significantly reduce degradation and fragmentation of those habitats;

*          Identify and prioritise invasive alien species and pathways, control or eradicate these, and to put measures to prevent their introduction and establishment;

*          Establish a conservation target of at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of marine and coastal areas;

*          Enhance ecosystem resilience and the contribution of biodiversity to carbon stocks through conservation and restoration, and restore at least 15% of degraded areas, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to combating desertification;

*          Respect the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and their customary use of biological resources, and fully integrate and reflect this in the implementation of the CBD with the full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities.

An earlier target year of 2015 was agreed for special efforts on coral reefs so as 'to minimise multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning'.

Target 16 aims at the Nagoya Protocol on ABS to be 'in force and operational' by 2015. The original year was 2020 and Brazil requested that this be changed at the final plenary.

Parties also agreed in the last, Target 20 that 'the mobilisation of financial resources for effectively implementing the [Strategic Plan] from all sources and in accordance with the consolidated and agreed process in the Strategy for Resource Mobilisation should increase substantially from the current levels. This target shall be subject to changes contingent to resources needs assessments to be developed and reported by Parties.'

Battle over finance mobilisation

One of the most heated and longest negotiations at COP 10 centred on the mobilisation of financial resources to support achievement of the CBD objectives.

The G77 and China led by the Philippines, Brazil, Bolivia and Kenya strongly represented the interests of developing countries. They insisted in particular on specific targets for financial flows on the basis of the legal obligation of developed countries to provide new and additional finance for agreed full incremental costs under Article 20 of the CBD.

Considerable time was spent on the COP decision related to 'Concrete activities and initiatives including measurable targets and/or indicators to achieve the strategic goals contained in the strategy for resource mobilisation and on indicators to monitor the implementation of the Strategy'. The Strategy was adopted by COP 9 in 2008. The preamble of the adopted decision states that 'any new and innovative funding mechanisms are supplementary and do not replace the financial mechanisms established under the provisions of Article 21 of the Convention'.

Parties adopted 15 indicators for monitoring the implementation of the Strategy for Resource Mobilisation, based on its mission and eight goals. These included:

* Aggregated financial flows, in the amount and where relevant percentage, of biodiversity-related funding, per annum, for achieving the Convention's three objectives, in a manner that avoids double counting, both in total and in categories including official development assistance (ODA), domestic budgets, private sector, NGOs and foundations, UN system, non-ODA public funding, South-South initiatives etc.;

* Number of countries;

* Amount of funding provided through the Global Environment Facility and allocated to biodiversity focal area;

* Level of CBD and Parties' support to other financial institutions that promote replication and scaling-up of relevant successful financial mechanisms and instruments;

* Number of international financing institutions, UN organisations, funds and programmes, and the development agencies that report to the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD/DAC), with biodiversity and associated ecosystem services as a cross-cutting policy;

* Number of South-South cooperation initiatives conducted by developing-country Parties and those that may be supported by other Parties and relevant partners, as a complement to necessary North-South cooperation;

_ Amount of financial resources from all sources from developed countries to developing countries to contribute to achieving the Convention's objectives;

_ Amount of financial resources from all sources from developed countries to developing countries towards the implementation of the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan of the Convention;

_ Resources mobilised from the removal, reform or phase-out of incentives, including subsidies, harmful to biodiversity, which could be used for the promotion of positive incentives, including but not limited to innovative financial mechanisms, that are consistent and in harmony with the Convention and other international obligations, taking into account national social and economic conditions.

There was no agreement to establish specific targets for resource mobilisation even though the G77 and China had proposed specific figures with time lines. The European Union proposed instead to develop a methodology for assessing needs. Parties finally agreed to apply the methodology during 2011-2012 to measure gaps and needs as well as progress in the increase in, and mobilisation of, resources against the adopted indicators, most of which were proposed by developing countries.

When asked by the G77 and China spokesperson whether COP 11 in 2012 will see developed countries agree to numerical financial targets, the EU responded that this would depend on the outcome of the methodological study.

'Innovative financial mechanisms' rejected

Bolivia on behalf of the ALBA countries (including also Ecuador, Venezuela and Cuba) was particularly focused on the policy options concerning innovative financial mechanisms that are mostly private-sector-oriented and market-based. This was originally section B of the first draft of the COP decision on the Strategy for Resource Mobilisation.

The proposals put forth by developed countries essentially emerged from the International Workshop on Innovative Financial Mechanisms organised by the CBD secretariat in collaboration with the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity secretariat (UNEP-TEEB) and financed by the German government, which observers said was 'dominated by OECD participants'. These were so contentious that they were separated into another draft decision.

At the COP 10 negotiations Bolivia inserted safeguards stating that the innovative financial mechanisms:

_ Must not provoke financial speculation;

_ Must not provoke commodification of nature;

_ Must not result from actions that could undermine the achieving of the CBD's three objectives;

_ Must incorporate the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, including their full and effective participation;

_ Must not provoke any additional burden for developing-country Parties.

There was no time to discuss this draft decision that was ridden with brackets and delegates were taken by surprise when Damaso Luna of Mexico, the chair of Working Group II that was responsible for this issue, recommended to the COP to withdraw the document. With no one objecting, the contentious document was withdrawn.

Finance in support of implementation of the Convention was announced. The Prime Minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, announced $2 billion in financing, while the Japanese Environment Minister announced the establishment of a Japan Biodiversity Fund.

Additional financial resources were announced by France, the EU and Norway. About $110 million were pledged in support of projects under the CBD LifeWeb Initiative aimed at enhancing the protected-area agenda (this was launched at COP 9 in Bonn, Germany).

Several developing-country delegates remarked that the pledged funds were aimed at conservation projects and that there continues to be a bias by developed countries towards the first CBD objective. There was a large number of conservation organisations lobbying at the COP 10 meeting.

The high-level segment of the Nagoya COP was held with the participation of 122 ministers and five heads of state and government, including the President of Gabon, the President of Guinea-Bissau, the Prime Minister of Yemen representing the G77 and China, as well as Prince Albert of Monaco.

The next COP in 2012 will be held in India.                                            

Chee Yoke Ling is Director of Programmes at the Third World Network. The above is an edited version of an article which was first published in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS, No. 7031, 2 November 2010).

*Third World Resurgence No. 242/243, October-November 2010, pp 12-15