Long road ahead to hammer out UN biodiversity blueprint
Delegates from nearly 200 countries have made little progress in developing a blueprint for a global pact to protect nature from human activity after nearly a week of difficult talks in Nairobi.
The meetings that ended Sunday were intended to iron out differences among the 196 members of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with just six months left before a pivotal COP15 summit in December.
The ambitious goal is to prepare a draft text outlining a global framework for “living in harmony with nature” by 2050, with key targets to be achieved by 2030.
Many hope that the landmark agreement, when completed, will be as ambitious in its goals to protect life on Earth as the Paris agreement on climate change.
A closing press release from the CBD said the delegates had “reached consensus on several goals”.
Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the CBD’s executive secretary, acknowledged at the closing press conference that progress was “limited”.
But she added: “We cannot afford to fail.”
“There is a lot of work to be done – a lot more than we thought,” said Basile van Havre, co-chair of the CBD. But he added: “That work can be done.”
—”Security Matter for Humanity”—
“Most of the time was spent on technical bickering, with important decisions left unresolved and postponed before the COP,” Brian O’Donnell, director of the Campaign for Nature, previously told AFP.
“It is now crucial that environment ministers and heads of state commit, take responsibility and save this process.”
Delegates in Nairobi spent hours discussing formulations or trying to introduce new elements rather than reconciling differing points of view and refining rather than revising the text.
A deputy on Saturday night said he felt “desperate”. Another described the Nairobi round as “a step” and expressed hope for further informal meetings before December.
“We must continue the dialogue with the intention of simplifying and narrowing the brackets (on the disputed issues) and alternatives,” said Vinod Mathur, head of India’s National Biodiversity Authority.
For that to happen, Francis Ogwal of Uganda, one of the two co-chairs of the Kenyan negotiations, warned, “There needs to be a very big change of mind in the way we negotiate”.
Proposals include a global commitment to set aside at least 30 percent of both land and oceans as protected areas by the end of the decade, as well as efforts to reduce plastic and agricultural pollution.
But time is running out.
One million species are threatened with extinction and tropical forests are disappearing, while intensive agriculture depletes the soil and pollution affects even the most remote areas of the planet.
“It’s no longer just an environmental issue… It’s increasingly an issue that affects our economy, our society, our health and our well-being,” Marco Lambertini, WWF International Director General, told a news conference.
“It’s a security issue for humanity.”
—’Critical’ to solve food system—
Lambertini accused some countries of using a “delay tactic”, pointing the finger at Brazil in particular. Behind the scenes, Argentina and South Africa were also blamed.
One of the major stumbling blocks concerns agriculture, in particular the reduction targets for pesticides and fertilizers.
The European Union wants the pesticide issue to be specifically mentioned in the text, but “there is little support” for that position, one MEP said.
Delegates from the South have emphasized the need to increase production as much of the planet is experiencing a major food security crisis, rejecting any reference to agroecology, the use of ecological principles in agriculture.
“Agriculture is currently responsible for 70 percent of biodiversity loss,” said Guido Broekhoven of WWF International, adding that it was “absolutely crucial” to solve a system where 30 percent of food is lost.
Countries are also divided on the funding needed to achieve the biodiversity goals.
Brazil, backed by 22 countries including Argentina, South Africa, Cameroon, Egypt and Indonesia, renewed calls for rich countries to provide at least $100 billion a year until 2030 to help developing countries conserve their rich biodiversity.
According to a country delegate, the African bloc is also asking for a biodiversity fund.
Although leaders from 93 countries committed to ending the biodiversity crisis in September 2020, the issue struggles to get as much attention on the international political agenda as climate change.
“It is also necessary to look at where our political leaders want us to be,” said Van Havre of Canada.
“We’re looking to see who’s going to stand up and pick up that ball.”
UN in talks on biodiversity over deal to prevent mass extinction
© 2022 AFP
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