GENEVA, Switzerland (PAMACC News) - Experts at the 2020 Global Biodiversity Negotiations in Geneva have slammed particularly developed countries for lacking the will to stem the tide of biodiversity loss, which threatens up to one million species with extinction within decades.
According to Brian O’Donnell, the Director of Campaign for Nature, the progress with the negotiations has been painfully slow, and the level of ambition with financing remains woefully inadequate.
“Unfortunately, the negotiations in Geneva have not reflected the urgency that is needed to successfully confront the crisis facing our natural world," said O’Donnell.
However, he noted that there is emerging consensus in support of the science-based proposal to protect at least 30% of the planet’s land and ocean by 2030, which is encouraging. As well, , there is growing recognition of the need to better safeguard the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, who must be central to achieving the world’s biodiversity goals.
In the same breath, the activist pointed out that there remain serious challenges that will require renewed leadership from governments around the world. "In order for any deal to be meaningful, donor countries must commit to far more ambitious financing targets, and all world leaders will need to more clearly demonstrate that addressing the biodiversity crisis and finalizing a global agreement at COP15 is a priority for their country and for the planet,” said O’Donnell.
While this year's round of negotiations was designed to be the last before a global biodiversity agreement is finalized at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Kunming, China, the overall lack of progress has bogged down the process with too many unresolved issues, requiring another in-person negotiation to be held in June (21-26). The COP15 is scheduled to conclude in September, almost exactly two years after it was initially planned to occur.
Despite these challenges,the meetings in Geneva delivered some positive progress, including on the proposal to protect at least 30% of the planet’s land and ocean by 2030. The following are several takeaways from the Geneva negotiations and the issue that must be resolved in the weeks and months ahead.
Areas of Progress:
An Emerging Consensus on 30x30. The proposal to protect or conserve at least 30% of the planet’s land and ocean - currently Target 3 in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework - continues to be the target with the most overwhelming support. There are now 91 members of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, an intergovernmental coalition that was formed to champion the 30x30 proposal. During the negotiations, several other countries expressed their support for the target for the first time. The target is a global one, not one that every country will be able to meet within their own borders, and countries that had previously questioned the target indicated their comfort with it so long as it remains clear that countries will determine their contributions in accordance with their national circumstances. One country blocked the ambition of 30% and questioned its scientific basis. In response, numerous countries pointed to the overwhelming scientific support for the target, which indicates that 30% is the absolute minimum amount of conservation needed to curb global biodiversity loss. There now appears to be clear consensus on the major elements of this target, which many countries continue to regard as the centerpiece of the overall biodiversity agreement.
New Support for IPLCs Rights and Engagement. For the first time, language was included in Target 3 to better indicate the important role that Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) must play in achieving 30x30 and to more explicitly protect their rights. Countries added the term ‘equitably governed’ in response to requests from Indigenous leaders and added the phrase ‘giving effect to the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities’ at the end of the target in order to underscore the critical point that implementation of this target must not lead to human rights violations. This is progress, but the explicit recognition of ‘free, prior and informed consent’ is what Indigenous leaders have proposed. Elsewhere in the negotiations, countries advocated for more explicit recognition and support for IPLCs, including in the context of financing. Several delegations requested that IPLCs be included as an explicit recipient of increased funding from donor countries in Target 19, alongside developing countries. While Targets 20 and 21 - which specifically address IPLC issues - need to be addressed, and Indigenous leaders are calling for additional improvements to various aspects of the global biodiversity framework, it is evident that there is now better recognition that global biodiversity goals will not be reached without IPLCs and that their rights and engagement must be more directly discussed in key targets and the overall plan.
Concerns and Issues that Must be Addressed:
An Overall Lack of Urgency. Scientific reports continue to highlight the urgency of addressing the biodiversity crisis and the interrelated climate crisis, with the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change serving as the most recent example. Unfortunately, none of this urgency was reflected during the negotiations, and a lack of progress - and in some cases even discussion - on major issues has led to the need for yet another negotiation session later this year in order for Parties to prepare for COP15.
Renewed Leadership is Needed. In order to address this lack of urgency, there needs to be a major push from world leaders to clearly indicate that confronting the escalating crisis facing our natural world is a priority and to empower negotiators to work towards achieving a global agreement. In Geneva, delegations only discussed their government’s positions, and in many meetings did not get to the important process of constructively negotiating or working towards a possible agreement. If the newly added meeting in Nairobi is to be successful, political leadership is needed from all countries and the determination from delegations, the group leads, the co-chairs, the CBD secretariat, and the COP15 presidency to drive through an effective negotiation.
Securing an Ambitious Deal Depends on Financing. Finance is the critical issue in the negotiations. It has become the basis for potential deadlock, and the overall success of the global biodiversity framework will depend on the level of ambition on financing. During the Geneva meetings, leading countries from the developing world, which will be disproportionately responsible for conserving biodiversity, made it clear what needs they have in order to be able to help implement a global strategy and expressed their concerns with the current systems and mechanisms. It is now up to donor countries to urgently rally to find serious solutions to closing the finance gap and to consider reforms and new mechanisms to create trust with developing countries and help solve this existential crisis.