21 Oct 2014

BirdLife’s views on the outcomes of the 12th Conference on Biological Diversity in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Governments need to increase efforts to reach the 2020 Biodiversity goals (rspb-images.com)
By Carolina Hazin

BirdLife International is broadly positive about the outcomes of the CBD COP12 that ended last Friday in South Korea. Governments approved 33 decisions with the aim of improving their national actions towards conservation, sustainable use and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources. All participating governments have admitted that they have to substantially increase their efforts and financial resources if they are to reach the 2020 conservation goals agreed by them in 2010 at COP12. In some areas there were tangible progresses, no so much in others.

Some important decisions in detail:

  • Fourth Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO4): reported the international community is not on track on achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

The GBO4, a flagship publication of the CBD, launched at the first day of the COP, offered a mid-term review of implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. Results are really disappointing:  for only 5 out of 55 targets elements there has been sufficient progress (BirdLife data contributed to 22% of the indicators used to measure progress). In many areas of the world progress is moving even in reverse. Some government representatives in Pyeongchang attempted to hide these findings, but pressure from other governments and NGOs resulted in these findings being explicit in various COP decisions as well as in the ‘Gangwon Declaration’ of COP12.

Countries will need to speed up the pace in conservation measures before gathering again in Mexico where the next conference will take place in 2016.

  • Resource Mobilisation for biodiversity: small steps to better nature conservation financing.

BirdLife welcomes the compromise reached at COP when it comes to financing. Albeit small, there were some steps taken in the right direction. Developed and developing countries were involved in a dispute to whether the financial assistance for conservation to those latter countries should be further increased. Although the initial calls from governments of Africa, Latin America and Asia thus could not prevail, there is now an increased commitment compared to COP11. This last conference had provisionally agreed a target to double the aid for developing countries by 2015 and at least keep this level until 2020. Now, they have agreed for additional funds, beyond the doubling, for specific projects related to capacity building and to reach the other finance related targets, such as building national biodiversity finance plans.

BirdLife also commend other decision on domestic financing. For the first time, all governments decided to increase efforts to close the financial gaps, as well as to work hard to reform subsidies that are harmful for nature.

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  • Marine conservation: important progress, but Europe is still lagging behind.

Parties to the Convention confirmed a list of over 150 important areas for marine biodiversity (Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas, EBSAs), meaning increased chances of their future protection. Any decision in this regard will depend on governments themselves, and should be taken under agreements within other United Nations bodies. An atmosphere of distrust by some countries seems to prevail still, and a dozen of areas were withdraw from the reports assessed by the Conference, political and territory matters being the real drivers of decisions. EU, which had always been engaged in this process, remains the big gap and demonstration of how political matters can dominate conservation fora.  For the North-East Atlantic area, no proposals were put forward.

  • Biodiversity in global development goals: Sustainable development.

In Pyeongchang, ministers and heads of delegation adopted a "Gangwon Declaration", recognising the relevance and key contributions of biodiversity to development and the need to keep on efforts to integrate the Aichi Targets in the post-2015 development agenda at all levels, particularly the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Declaration raises that fight against poverty and climate change, sustainable economic development and, ultimately, peace will only be possible with nature.

  • Nagoya Protocol in force: milestone against biopiracy.

The 50 Parties of the Nagoya Protocol also met in Pyeongchang for its first Meeting of the Parties (MOP). This binding agreement governs access to and the sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of biological resources. This applies, for instance, on profits of pharmaceutical or cosmetic companies when using ingredients from plants and animals for their products. With the Protocol into force, countries of origin of genetic resources should have a say in the future, determining who can use their material as well as they will be involved in the profits. It is hoped that implementation of the Protocol should be a conservation incentive for developing countries.

  • BirdLife could influence: new initiative for coastal wetland protection.

The inclusion of the ‘Caring for Coasts Initiative’, a global movement to protect and restore coastal wetlands, in a COP decision was certainly a major success of BirdLife participation at the Conference. With collaboration from partner organisations, BirdLife suggested that Parties recognise the critical importance of coastal wetlands for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services and to welcome this initiative as an option for future work.

  • Information sharing: BirdLife support to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

BirdLife was represented as part of the 24-member delegation of its global Partnership at COP12. In addition to organising a variety of special activities, the delegation engaged in negotiations by presenting background information and calling for Parties to make compromise proposals. In the total of 15 side events, the BirdLife team shared experience in a variety of conservation actions on the ground and policy making processes, ranging from mainstreaming biodiversity, migratory birds and vulture conservation, NBSAPs implementation, contributions of local communities to conservation, just to mention some. Sharing a collection of BirdLife-developed support tools for Parties was also a welcomed initiative at this CBD COP.