Elpidio V. Peria
13 October 2012

Miles away from the Philippines, the current 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) happening in Hyderabad, India from 8 to 19 October might appear to be so far removed from what’s currently going on nationwide- the TRO on the Cybercrime Act, the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement, the Recto turn-around on the sin tax bill.

But the on-going battles for biodiversity in Hyderabad, India, happening on many fronts from the fight to stop synthetic biology, maintain the ban on geo-engineering, ensure further examination of ecologically and biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs) among others, will most likely play a role on how people and planet will survive, given the worsening threat of species extinction and biodiversity loss that is aggravated by the increasing variability of the weather brought about by climate change.

What’s piping-hot news that happened yesterday, a Friday, in Hyderabad, India is the bracketing by the EU of text language on resource mobilization on the agenda item on ecosystem restoration.

When a UN delegation brackets something, like [this], it means they do not approve of the text inside the brackets and they either want it deleted or substituted with words they will like.

The item the EU bracketed, on resource mobilization, UN-speak for fund-raising activities so that the activity in question, in this case, ecosystem restoration, will get underway, but since it has been bracketed, either it indicates that EU will not be funding these activities, or that the EU will like to trade this issue with another one, which is also the case of what’s happening here, delegations negotiating for issues they like, with other countries who may also want the same thing.

The bracketing exercise by the EU is a skirmish, a smaller battle in the bigger battle to secure funding for biodiversity conservation activities worldwide from 2011 to 2020, which is still stuck, since developed countries want some “baselines”, starting figures on the initial conservation activities committed by developing countries in Nagoya, Japan, during the 10th Conference of the Parties, while developing countries want “targets”, hard numbers indicating how much money developed countries will provide, in order that these conservation activities will finally be undertaken globally.

There was a previous Strategic Plan to conserve biodiversity, from 2001 to 2010, but this was not funded, so it failed, which the COP 10 in Nagoya, Japan, admitted, a rare moment of candor for a UN body.

To recover from this, the countries who are members of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, again came up during COP 10 in Nagoya, Japan with another Strategic Plan for biodiversity conservation, for the period 2011-2020, and the specific objectives on what species and ecosystems to conserve, called Aichi Targets, were identified.

Thus, in Nagoya, Japan, there was a package of agreements between developed and developing countries, the developing countries committed to a higher set of biodiversity conservation goals, the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Targets which they will do nationally, and they will get the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing, an international agreement to stop biopiracy and enable developing countries who are rich in biodiversity get benefits from the utilization of their genetic resources and a commitment by developed countries to provide more money by setting targets on the quantity of funds that will be provided so that these conservation activities will get underway.

In the UN system, because of the principle of common-but-differentiated responsibility, which principle is also enshrined in another UN arena on climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), what it means is that countries of the world have a common duty to protect the planet and work towards sustainable development but they have a differentiated set of responsibilities, depending on their economic capacities, to provide support to ensure this duty of protection.

This means that richer countries have to give more money to ensure that poorer countries can undertake conservation work.

There was also a kind of reciprocity established in the CBD and UNFCCC that the extent to which developing countries will undertake their commitments under these treaties will depend on the extent of money and technology that will be provided by developed countries.

For all the twenty-year life span of the CBD and the UNFCCC from 1992 to 2012, this obligation to provide money, (and we’re not even talking of technology transfer here, which should merit a separate discussion in another blog posting), in sufficient quantities to achieve the global aim of conservation, has not been achieved.

Thus, yesterday, in the pitched battle to demand from developed countries to provide money, the “targets”, which demand by developing countries was supported by the Co-Chair of a group discussing this agenda item, Canada, the EU and Switzerland, refused to go along with the Co-Chair, prompting a suspension of the discussion on the agenda item of resource mobilization, to support the entire activities of the Convention.

The coming days will determine how far the developed and developing countries will come to an agreement on this issue of resource mobilization, the host country India was even told by a delegate that perhaps the measure of success of this COP meeting will depend on whether a so-called Hyderabad Biodiversity Bailout Fund might be set up and that hard pledges of money and even actual commitments of funds can be placed in such Fund, this could be one concrete way to ensure that this COP can be considered successful, to really matter in global biodiversity conservation work, in the years to come.


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