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Resource mobilisation for the CBD: Innovative financial backtracking?

It was clear from the beginning of the biennial United Nations biodiversity conference in Nagoya that money was - and is - a crucial issue. Unfortunately, the conference confirmed a consistent pattern of failure to make sufficient provision for developing countries to enable them to implement their commitments under the CBD.

Antje Lorch

THE Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 report presented at the opening of the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10) admitted that none of the targets with regard to finance that the international community (with the exception of the USA that is not a Party to the CBD) had set itself was achieved.

In 2002, the CBD Parties had formulated Target 11.1: 'New and additional financial resources are transferred to developing countries to allow for the effective implementation of their commitments under the Convention [...]'. In 2010, the conclusion was that this target was not achieved globally and that even though there have been modest increases in official development assistance related to biodiversity, resources continue to be lacking (Secretariat of the CBD, 2010: Global Biodiversity Outlook 3; http://www.cbd.int/gbo3).

It is obvious that financial resources will also be lacking in future: the tasks at hand in order to protect biodiversity are only getting bigger while even some developed countries see cuts in their national budgets. Therefore the agenda of COP 10 showed not only negotiations for a new Strategic Plan 2011-2020 but also an agenda item on Resource Mobilisation Strategy with which financial targets and policy options for so-called innovative financial mechanisms were supposed to be set. Target 20 of the Strategic Plan was supposed to set straightforward financial targets as well. The negotiations however evolved differently than planned.

The draft decision on Resource Mobilisation showed quite clearly that developed countries - after failing to meet their legally binding financial commitments as agreed in Rio de Janeiro at the 1992 Earth Summit - are now turning to vaguely termed 'innovative financial mechanisms', modelled on the carbon market of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol. Currently we can witness how the carbon market has failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but has led to corruption and human rights violations, and social and ecological un-sustainability.

Nonetheless the COP 10 draft decision included a list of mechanisms such as payments for ecosystem services, biodiversity offsets and a Green Development Mechanism. These were vague concepts that seem to be based on the notion that somewhere at the end of the rainbow  there are pots of money that just need to be found and that companies would happily share with developing countries. Vague concepts that could lead to zoning biodiversity into high- and low-value categories, that could cause human rights violation and threaten people's livelihoods when their lands and forests are taken over as assets for conservation financing.

Setting up a process for financial needs

Since the financial issues clearly needed more discussion, a Contact Group was set up to solve the outstanding issues. Contact Groups usually go hand in hand with a shift in political negotiating power by lacking language interpretation services and often running in parallel with other sessions and/or until late into the night (a source of stress, to put it mildly, for small delegations especially those from developing countries).

The draft decision on Resource Mobilisation was one of the papers that came out of the meeting of the Working Group on the Review of Implementation in Nairobi in May 2010 (WGRI 3). While some countries only wanted to work on the unresolved issues in this text, other countries did not want to be restricted in their negotiations by the outcomes of a preparation meeting in which they had not participated - often for reasons of lack of resources.

While this issue of political power in decision-making was raised in other Contact Groups as well, the negotiations about finances were also hindered by the fact that the CBD does not have its own financial mechanism, but relies on the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The fact that the COP therefore cannot take binding decisions on certain financial issues, but only give guidance to the GEF, is a contested issue that came up repeatedly during the negotiations.

With this in mind, the negotiations of the Financial Contact Group first focused on the question of how much money would be needed, or to be more accurate: how to find out how much money would be needed. Interestingly enough the question about which indicators to use took up several sessions of the Contact Group, but then delegates failed to agree on actual targets. For a while ideas for targets ranged from a fixed dollar amount to a percentage of national budgets to the request that subsidies harmful to biodiversity should be turned directly into funds to fulfil commitments under the CBD. For days these targets stayed undecided - in brackets. Instead it was discussed what the procedure should be to find out what methodology should be used to turn the results of the indicators into financial targets. At some stage the European Union negotiator proposed a process by which only at COP 12 - in 2014 or even early 2015 - would Parties decide on the financial targets - targets that are key to enabling countries to fulfil their obligations under the Strategic Plan 2011-2020.

The brackets concerning the process of how to set targets, and the targets themselves, stayed. On the evening of 29 October, while the closing plenary of the COP was already going on and later while the plenary took a break and a closing reception hosted by India (as the host of COP 11 in 2012) took place, negotiations were still going on. The closing plenary continued around 11 pm and at 12.45 am - after the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) and the Strategic Plan had found approval - it was finally decided that  actual financial targets would be set at COP 11 in 2012.

A brief look at the Strategic Plan shows how much easier it seemed to be for countries to come up with targets for the reduction of biodiversity loss than to come up with a financial target. While most of the targets give a somewhat random percentage for the reduction of habitat losses etc., the financial target is the only target that is open to revision, backed up with a separate decision on indicators and based on a process to assess financial needs.

Looking at the whole range of decisions on the COP 10 agenda - from ABS to specific topics such as forests and oceans, biofuels and climate change - negotiations about financial mechanisms and resources might just appear as one of those topics that just needed to be on the agenda every time. However, they lay the basis for a lot of other decisions. In this case it means that before the targets are set, developing countries will not be able to demand from developed countries that the latter fulfil their financial obligations. Add the long time that it can take before countries actually receive money from the GEF, and we could be halfway through the timeframe of the Strategic Plan 2011-2020 before additional funding is available for developing countries to fulfil their obligations under the CBD.

Policy options postponed

So what about the innovative financial mechanisms (IFMs)? The negotiations in the Financial Contact Group showed that differences among Parties were not about details, but about the whole concept as such.

The text soon ended up with brackets around or in every single paragraph, while some paragraphs even had two or three contradictory options. In particular, the ALBA countries represented by Bolivia made a strong stand about the need to establish safeguards before the development of IFMs. And while Parties in general agreed on a need for safeguards, they obviously could not come to an agreement about what they should include or even what should be protected from what. Bolivia's proposal to ensure that IFMs would not lead to a 'commodification of nature' certainly was the most contested safeguard - and the one that shows how far countries differ on the issue. Here the split is not only between developing and developed countries, but also among developing countries that have different interests. Some see options in the 'supply of biodiversity-protected areas' and the possibility of gaining money from a 'market-based institutional framework', while others want a safeguard against the development of any market mechanism (see document UNEP/CBD/COP/10/L.46; http://www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/cop/cop-10/in-session/cop-10-l-46-en.doc).

While Parties could not agree on financial targets or safeguards, some negotiators wanted to move on and to invite other organisations to already develop modalities for a Green Development Mechanism. In the end this discussion was not pursued because it was obvious that no consensus would be found at COP 10. At the recommendation of the chair of the Working Group responsible for financial issues, the paper was not adopted.

However, this does not mean that the issue is closed. Parties interested in making money from biodiversity or finding ways of relieving their financial burdens will continue to develop proposals on their own as well as together with other organisations and business representatives. The issue will certainly be back on the agenda at COP 11 and at the intersessional meetings before that. We have only won time, but the real work still lies ahead of us.                    

Antje Lorch is a biologist who has been working on scientific, environmental and socio-economic impacts of genetically modified organisms in agriculture since the early 1990s. She attended the Nagoya CBD COP 10 finance negotiations.

*Third World Resurgence No. 242/243, October-November 2010, pp 31-32


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