UN Biodiversity Conference Begins, Looking to Set the Stage for Crafting a Post-2020 Strategy

22 November 2018

The UN’s Biodiversity Conference is underway in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, with participants spending the coming week discussing how to finish implementing an existing set of biodiversity targets for 2011-2020 and begin setting the stage for developing a comprehensive post-2020 strategy, in a bid to avert continued biodiversity losses and ensure the provision of essential ecosystem services. 

The event marks the 25th anniversary since the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) took effect in December 1993, just over one year after its adoption at the landmark Rio Earth Summit. The UN Biodiversity Conference has as its theme this year “Investing in biodiversity for people and planet.” 

The CBD’s main objectives, according to the convention’s website, involve “the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity; and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.” 

In the years since, the CBD’s work has been structured around various thematic areas, such as biodiversity in relation to forests, marine resources, mountains, and agriculture, along with cross-cutting issues that range from climate change and biodiversity to economics and trade. 

Eyeing past progress, future needs

More specifically over the past decade, the CBD parties have been working to meet the Aichi Biodiversity Targets set out five “strategic goals” that focus on both tackling biodiversity loss and pressures, while also seeking to ensure that biodiversity and ecosystem services can provide valuable benefits for health and livelihoods. There are 20 related targets spread out across those five goals, with delivery dates of either 2015 or 2020. The bulk of the targets have 2020 as their deadline. 

Meeting those targets, however, has proved challenging, with experts noting that the lack of enforcement mechanisms and more detailed obligations have made it harder to put these objectives into practice. (See Bridges Trade Biores, 30 September 2014

For example, the chair of one of the COP working groups has submitted a draft decision on progress made in meeting the Aichi targets, which notes that “for most of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, there has been limited progress, and, for some targets, no overall progress.” Concerns raised in that draft decision include the fact that many parties have not yet put in place national biodiversity strategies and action plans, and those that have often fail to include key elements such as resource mobilisation and capacity development strategies. 

The draft decision also calls on parties “to strengthen collaboration with indigenous peoples and local communities, civil society organisations and women’s groups, youth, and other relevant stakeholders to implement the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 effectively.” 

The same document also refers to specific steps that CBD parties and others should take in relation to individual Aichi targets. 

“As many of you have heard me say: as a species, we now face a stark choice. We can stay on the path we are currently on: the continued and accelerated destruction of nature,” warned Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the CBD, in opening the meeting, while heralding the many accomplishments in slowing down forest losses and increasing the number and size of global protected areas on land and water. 

She also outlined a set of milestones that parties should aim for to avoid hitting “tipping points that may cause irreversible destruction to nature and ultimately humankind.” By the end of this decade, she said that meeting the “Aichi Targets” and endorsing a framework for the coming years would be essential. By the year 2030, parties must aim to “bend the curve of biological diversity loss,” while by mid-century parties will have to “achieve our vision of living in harmony with nature.” 

The CBD also has two “supplementary” accords, namely the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation. The latter of these has been in effect for the past four years. Parties to these protocols will also be meeting during the course of the Sharm El Sheikh sessions, discussing topics ranging from the nexus between technology, synthetic biology, and genetic resource use, as well as different facets of equitable access and benefit sharing, including a possible global mechanism that would support this objective, according to the IP-Watch news service. 

ICTSD reporting; “Convention On Biological Diversity Biennial Meeting Looks At How New Technologies Will Affect Its Objectives,” INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY WATCH, 20 November 2018.

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