COP 12 Indicates More Funds, Capacity Building Needed For Biodiversity

Maggie Comstock

Resource mobilization was a key issue in last week’s biodiversity talks as the Convention on Biological Diversity estimated much more finance needs to flow to biodiversity conservation in order to achieve the Aichi Targets. Here, Maggie Comstock of Conservation International provides an analysis and overview of COP 12.

24 October 2014 | |On 17 October, the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Twelfth Conference of Parties (COP 12) came to a close with some hard-won advances with respect to financing for biodiversity conservation, integrating biodiversity into the Sustainable Development Goals and recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Securing Success

One of the most contentious negotiations at COP 12 was over the appropriate level of financial commitments needed from developed and developing country Parties in order to support the achievement of the twenty Aichi Biodiversity Targets. The High-Level Panel’s Report estimates that it will cost between US$150 billion and US$440 billion per year to achieve the Aichi Targets by 2020, several magnitudes higher than current expenditures.

At the previous COP in 2012 in Hyderabad, India, countries agreed to double international financial flows for biodiversity conservation by 2015 and at least maintain this level by 2020. This decision was reached despite challenging global financial circumstances, a lack of country-specific data on financial needs and fundamental disagreements regarding the respective responsibilities of developed and developing countries in contributing to these efforts. This time around, the Africa Group reopened this fragile agreement early in the negotiations by proposing to double the Hyderabad commitment by 2017, and to at least maintain this higher level of funding until 2020. Effectively, the proposition called on developed countries to quadruple international financial flows to biodiversity conservation by 2017. When met with immediate opposition by developed country Parties, the Africa Group offered reducing the number of Aichi Targets to be implemented by 2020 as an alternative. Developed country Parties countered that if the target agreed in Hyderabad were to be reopened, then the negotiation on financial targets would restart from scratch, with the possibility of a lower target than what was agreed in India.

On the last day of COP 12, after 10 days of long and difficult negotiations on this issue, Parties agreed to maintain the COP 11 target, with developed countries reaffirming the commitment that they made in Hyderabad. Additionally, for the first time, all governments committed to find ways to increase domestic resources for effective implementation of the Aichi Targets. Countries also encouraged any with the means to do so to provide additional financing for capacity building to enable developing countries to catalyze new financial resources from all sources. Finally, countries agreed to fast-track efforts to remove or reform subsidies that are harmful to biodiversity as a cost effective and impactful measure for biodiversity conservation.

In preparation for CBD COP 12, Conservation International (CI), in partnership with BirdLife International, The Nature Conservancy and WWF developed a joint position paper on mobilizing the financial resources necessary to implement the Aichi Targets by 2020. Specific language recommended by the four NGOs on domestic targets and capacity building was largely incorporated into the final text, facilitating a modestly positive outcome of the negotiations on financing at the eleventh hour.

A Fitting Theme

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are set to take the place of the Millennium Development Goals in the post-2015 development agenda will be considered by the United Nations General Assembly over the next year. Consistent with the theme for CBD COP 12, “Biodiversity for Sustainable Development, Ministers of Environment in attendance underscored the foundational role of biodiversity in sustainable development and the mutually supportive nature of the Aichi Targets and the SDGs. They conveyed these messages to the international community through the Gangwon Declaration. CI supports the content of the declaration and urges decision makers to consider its content as they finalize the post-2015 development agenda in the coming months.

Indigenous Recognition

CBD COP 12 made the historic decision to fully respect the rights of indigenous peoples by deciding to use the terminology “indigenous peoples and local communities as opposed to the term “indigenous and local communities in future decisions and documents related to the Convention. This revised wording respects the fact that indigenous peoples are distinct peoples, with their own customs, laws and governance systems, all of which often maintain the biodiversity of their land more effectively than other methods. The COP also made several decisions related to Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices of Indigenous Peoples. Notably, the Secretariat agreed to create voluntary guidelines on Prior, Informed Consent for use by the Parties. CI’s guidelines on Free, Prior and Informed Consent and experience on this subject will be considered by the Secretariat for ways to complement their work. Additionally, countries were directed to incorporate the customary sustainable practices of indigenous peoples and local communities into the national biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs), as a strategic way to maintain bio-cultural values and achieve human well-being. This ties closely with CI’s Rights-based Approach to Conservation, as well as its mission.

A Significant Milestone

The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), a binding treaty first agreed in 2010 at COP 10, entered into force on 12 October 2014 after receiving its 50th ratification. Its purpose is to ensure that the stewards of genetic resources are fairly compensated for any commercial exploitation of those resources.

For example, genetic resources are used extensively by academics and the bio-industry for everything from medicine to anti-aging creams. Under the rules of the Nagoya Protocol, when companies and organizations seek access to genetic resources, they must first ask for the consent of the country from where the resource originates. The two parties must negotiate a benefit-sharing agreement, which may include actions like payment of royalties, sharing of technologies, improvement of infrastructure, direct actions to conserve biodiversity, etc. The same principle applies to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources (such as traditional medicine) and genetic resources held by indigenous peoples and local communities whose rights over said resources have been recognized.

The third objective of the Convention is the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources, so entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol is a significant milestone. It is also an important step in advancing the concept and practice of Access and Benefit-Sharing.

CI currently engages with several European partners on ABS, as the European Union is Party to the Protocol. As the largest group (29 Parties) of developed or user countries under the Protocol, the EU compliance regime will likely set a de-facto global standard that may have an influence on other countries, including on those who did not ratify it.

Other Matters

Parties also touched on a variety of issues related to climate change and the marine and coastal environment. Of particular note, Parties welcomed the results of seven regional-scale efforts to identify Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) through scientifically-agreed criteria. CI’s global seafloor mapping project can be applied to aid the identification of EBSAs in the marine and coastal realm. Parties also welcomed the Warsaw Framework on REDD+ and urged countries to make use of the Framework and other ecosystem-based approaches to climate change to support achievement of the Aichi Targets.

In Conclusion

As reported by the Fourth Global Biodiversity Outlook, the flagship publication of the Convention on Biological Diversity launched on the opening day of negotiations, some progress has been made toward the achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets adopted in 2010; however, the world will not meet the Aichi Targets by 2020 if it continues on its current trajectory. To this end, Parties noted the need to increase efforts, which they noted will require additionally financial resources, capacity building and information sharing. While positive progress was made on each of these issues, the level of ambition agreed upon falls short of what is necessary to halt biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.

Conservation International worked with Parties and partners in the lead up to the negotiations through their conclusion to positively affect the policy outcomes at CBD COP 12. This work is most directly apparent in the final language adopted on resource mobilization on domestic targets and capacity building. Additionally, CI participated in several key side events and high-level programs throughout the two weeks, raising the visibility of the organization and its subject matter experts in attendance.

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Maggie Comstock is the Senior Manager of Climate and Biodiversity Finance Policy at Conservation International. She can be reached at [email protected].

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CI’s Statement on COP 12

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