Europe and Central Asia
4 Nov 2014

Homework to do for Europe after CBD COP12

Photo courtesy of Amandar Rogers
By Konstantin Kreiser

After two weeks of intense negotiations at the 12th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 12) in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, the delegations of European Union Member States and the European Commission return with a lot of homework.

Overall the EU, led by Italian Presidency and Commission, performed well in Korea. Under most of the negotiated topics Europe was pushing for the more progressive options, dragging along less motivated governments. Side-events, publications and statements, in particular those of outgoing Enviroment Commissioner Janez Potocnik, demonstrated that the EU collectively is committed to stay the biggest donor of external aid for biodiversity financing and to keep its promises made at COP 11 in India to double its contribution by 2015. After long negotiations the EU also accepted that additional efforts have to be made in the area of capacity building for developing countries, so they can absorb and use the available funds.

However the focus of global attention increasingly moves to action taken at home. Like all other Parties to the CBD the EU agreed to a timetable to eliminate harmful subsidies and to increase domestic funding for biodiversity. BirdLife will remind decision makes of this in the run up to the mid-term reform of the EU budget in 2017 and as part of the Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives. The dramatic lack of financing for the Natura 2000 network has to be addressed as a top priority to save chances of meeting the UN and EU 2020 target of halting biodiversity loss.

While the Commission always supported progress on marine nature conservation, some European governments have caused embarrassment for the EU at COP 12. The meeting adopted a global list of over 150 Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs), however apparent economic and territorial interests lead to a big gap in the North-East Atlantic and the withdrawal of a site in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Finally, the low priority assigned to environment and biodiversity policy by Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker has also been noticed at COP 12. The Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) sent an open letter from Pyeongchang to Martin Schulz. On behalf of 51 member organisations from 86 countries they asked the President of the European Parliament to respect the rights of future generations when approving the future European Commission.  In side talks participants from around the world expressed concerns that the leadership role of the EU might be at risk at the next CBD COP, if Juncker and his team do not clearly demonstrate very soon that they do care about the future of this planet.

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