Explained: can the global framework for biodiversity really protect it, promote it?
Since its adoption following the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity has urged countries to protect biodiversity and to slow and halt the rapid decline of species and habitats. But these goals remain largely unachieved.
“The criticism of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity has been that although it is a multilateral environmental agreement, with no forum for settling disputes at the international level, it is not enforceable, where you can actually catch countries for non-compliance,” said Shalini Bhutani, a legal researcher and policy analyst who follows agriculture and biodiversity issues in the Asian region.
In 2010, 196 member countries adopted the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which included 20 elements, such as raising awareness of the importance of biodiversity, removing incentives and subsidies harmful to biodiversity, production and sustainable consumption.
But, according to a United Nations Global Biodiversity Outlook report released in 2020, countries fell short of several of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets between 2011 and 2020. Despite progress in some areas, a large Many species remain at risk of extinction and environmentally harmful government subsidies of more than $500 billion have not ended, the report notes.
It is in this context that the post-2020 goals are proposed, and we report on what they must have, as the world celebrates today, May 22, the International Day for Biological Diversity. The 2020 framework sets 21 goals and 10 milestones for governments. meet by the end of this decade. These include protecting at least 30% of the world’s oceans and land, reducing pesticide use by at least two-thirds, eliminating plastic waste and increasing financial resources for biodiversity. to at least $200 billion a year.
“While I agree that there needs to be a Global Biodiversity Framework-like vision in the form of a framework, the question of how feasible this framework is depends on the corresponding national laws and policies. that countries like India initiated once they became members of the CBD, to what extent they have been able to comply and why they have not been able to fully comply Bhutani said.
Scientists around the world have called for an immediate paradigm shift in how we produce our food, consume goods, etc. Such a change is not only necessary to combat climate change, but essential to mitigate the threat of biodiversity extinction, as an increasing number of species of animals and plants are threatened with losing their habitats and their lives.
However, in December 2021, the Indian Ministry of Environment proposed a draft amendment to the Biological Diversity Act 2002. The amendment, if passed, will dilute the 2002 law which seeks sustainable, fair and equitable sharing of benefits among those who use biological resources. , such as companies, and resource providers, such as local communities, who hold the associated traditional knowledge, we reported in February 2022.
What is the Global Biodiversity Framework?
The post-2020 global biodiversity framework builds on the Aichi targets and sets out four overarching goals, including slowing species extinction, and 21 mainly quantitative goals, such as protecting at least least 30% of the world’s land and seas.
Reports have shown that the world is on track for a biodiversity collapse. For example, a United Nations report released on April 27 found that more than 70% of Earth’s land has already been altered by human activity, mostly due to the expansion of agriculture. Another World Resource Institute report published in 2021 found that the world had lost 3.8 million hectares of tropical forests in 2021, the equivalent of 10 football pitches per minute.
“The text of the framework, as it stands today, mentions that we cannot achieve the targets if we continue with the business as usual scenario,” Bhutani said. “So we really need transformative change in everything we do. This includes involving indigenous communities and their ideas of diversity, conservation and sustainable use within such a framework.”
Several other biodiversity-related initiatives have been launched which will positively strengthen the framework. For example, in March 2022, 175 countries decided to sign a treaty committing to eliminate plastic waste. The Global Ocean Alliance, an alliance of 72 countries, has also advocated for at least 30% of the world’s oceans to be designated as marine protected areas by 2030.
At COP26 at the UN held in 2021, the European Union and 11 countries, including Canada, Belgium and Japan, pledged $12 billion over the next five years as part of the Global Forest Finance Pledge to reverse forest loss and land degradation.
In addition, leaders from 137 countries, which collectively represent 90% of the world’s forests, also signed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use which aims to halt deforestation.
India, which owns 1.75% of the world’s forests, has not signed this pledge, however, it was reported in November 2021.
Disagreements on several points
The Covid-19 pandemic had slowed down the discussion on the post-2020 framework that was to be adopted last year. For the past two years, discussions have taken place virtually. The framework is still under negotiation and some countries did not agree to certain points, notably those concerning how to monitor the progress and financing of developing countries.
Funding: Disagreements over funding for biodiversity conservation have been one of the main stumbling blocks in the negotiations, as reports claim. Studies (here and here) have shown that the consumption habits of rich countries are among the main drivers of biodiversity loss, and that poor countries that are home to rich biodiversity have fewer means to conserve it.
The draft agreement therefore proposed that $10 billion in funding be allocated by developed countries to low- and middle-income countries to help them implement the biodiversity framework.
“The big elephant in the room, when it comes to funding and fair accountability, is that developed countries like the United States have yet to ratify the CBD,” Bhutani points out. “So they are outside the 196 member nations.” This means that rich countries have failed to commit to the proposed $10 billion in funding, putting the proposal in financial jeopardy.
A group of conservation organizations say even the proposed level of funding is insufficient and have called for at least $60 billion a year to be given to the poorest countries, six times what has been proposed. Another study, by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), said total investment in nature will need to triple by 2030, and almost quadruple by 2050, to reach 8.1 trillion. of dollars.
Digital sequence information: The debate over who will have access to digital sequence information (DSI), which is genetic data stored on computers, is one of the long-standing points of contention.
Biodiversity-rich developing countries argued that more developed countries have exploited their traditional resources for commercial purposes, without sharing the revenues or benefits.
Biopiracy occurs when organizations or researchers use indigenous biological resources for commercial purposes, often based on people’s traditional knowledge, without official authorization or sanction. This leads to the exploitation of crops from which bioresources are derived. Examples are attempts by foreign companies to obtain patents on products long used in India, such as neem, Basmati rice, turmeric and Darjeeling tea.
A Mongabay report, based on unnamed sources, asserted that several of the protocols defined under digital sequence information are subject to a variety of interpretations that can compromise access and benefit-sharing, and lead to the biopiracy.
Monitoring: Countries have also yet to decide on the monitoring framework that will track progress towards achieving the targets of the global biodiversity framework.
Several non-governmental organizations have warned that without a strong monitoring framework, we will see a repeat of the Aichi Accord, with several goals not achieved.
“Although the convention is legally binding, which means that sovereign countries must develop laws and policies that comply with the convention, the extent to which these laws are implemented falls outside the scope of the convention,” said Neema Pathak. Broome, coordinator of the Conservation and Livelihoods Program of Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group, based in Pune.
“This kind of monitoring can only be done by civil society organizations,” Broome said. “And unfortunately, there are very few organizations that engage in international conventions in India and hold the government accountable for the commitments it has made under the convention.”
Demand to include gender in the biodiversity framework: There is growing evidence on the roles and contributions of women in sustainable resource governance and conservation outcomes. However, there are limited mechanisms in place to systematically map, collect and analyze their roles and activities regarding biodiversity conservation, use and access, and benefit sharing.
Among the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, Target 14 was the only one to openly address gender issues, calling for the needs of women, indigenous peoples, local communities, the poor and vulnerable to be taken into account. account in the restoration and safeguarding of ecosystems. No other provision is contained in the Strategic Plan on how gender should be mainstreamed.
The 2015-2020 Gender Action Plan of the Convention on Biological Diversity also included mainstreaming gender into National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) as one of the possible actions to incorporate a gender perspective.
At the Geneva session in March 2022, thirteen parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, including Costa Rica, Chile, Guatemala, Tanzania, as well as several non-governmental organizations from around the world, supported the call for a stand-alone gender equality target in the post 2020 global biodiversity framework. What, if any, stems from the demand is still unknown.