By Ana Di Pangracio, environmental lawyer. She works at FARN, a Drynet member.
From March 14 to 29 in Geneva, Switzerland, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held the meetings of its Subsidiary Body for Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, its Subsidiary Body for Implementation and the Working Group on the framework Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Fund (SBSTTA, SBI and WG2020 respectively). They were the first face-to-face negotiations since March 2020, when they were paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Parties to the CBD were finally able to resume work to lay the foundations of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) later this year in the Chinese city of Kunming.
With two and a half weeks in a row and three negotiation sessions per day, the Geneva meetings were long and exhausting. Although they started enthusiastically, as days went by progress began to elude, consensus became difficult and the text of the future post-2020 global biodiversity framework (hereinafter the post-2020 GBF), particularly the targets, began to filled with square brackets (sign of lack of agreement between the Parties). Instead of negotiating and reducing the options to reach an agreement, Parties suggested more and more text or questioned another, making difficult to understand or contradictory.
The division between the global North and South became very evident. Among the more contentious issues were biodiversity mainstreaming, access and benefit sharing derived from digital sequence information, and financing and resource mobilization. On this last matter, a group of developing countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Pakistan, Venezuela and the African Group) demanded in the final plenary that rich nations provide at least $100 billion a year for biodiversity, increasing to $700 billion by 2030, and that these funds must be new, additional and different from those linked to climate negotiations. They stressed that, in light to what happened with the Aichi Targets, without the corresponding cooperation and means of implementation, their chances of making the post-2020 GBF a reality will be very limited.
The human rights agenda made some progress in Geneva with the express support of many Parties; although a handful of them were very vocal against including this language in the text, while others called for bringing it into the cross-cutting issues section of the framework, but not into the targets. In this line, Goal 21 and 22 stand out. The first one refers to participation -including FPIC- and the rights to land, territories and waters of IPLCs, women, youth and groups in a situation of vulnerability, including environmental defenders. Target 22 would be a new one, proposed by Costa Rica and supported by GRULAC and African Parties, to guarantee equitable access and benefits of women and girls from conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity, as well as their informed and effective participation at all levels of policies and decision-making related to biodiversity. However, it will be imperative that robust human rights provisions are also incorporated into other key targets such as those on spatial planning, protected areas, climate change, biodiversity mainstreaming, business and private sector, consumption, and financing and resource mobilization. This is a highly relevant since the Aichi Targets, with the exception of a few passages, were practically blind to human rights.
The natural systems that make life possible on Earth, including humans, are in danger. IPBES (2019) is clear when it indicates that, if we want to meet the biodiversity, climate and sustainable development goals for 2030, business as usual will not work. On the contrary, it will lead societies and economies to more risks.
The slow progress in Geneva may have been due to the long pause in negotiations over COVID-19, and the historic lack of public visibility and high-level political will at the CBD, compared to what it happens in the climate arena, persists. Pressure to reach a consensus by the end of 2022 might lead to a washed-up post 2020 GBF, and hence, goals and targets not in line with what is required to stop and reverse biodiversity loss.
The shadow of the Russian invasion of Ukraine laid over the conference centre. Uneasiness was in the air. In plenary Ukraine took the floor, detailing the social and environmental impacts of the invasion, including on areas important for biodiversity. The JUSCANZ group and the EU and its 27 Member States made expressed calls to the Russian Federation to put an end to its war on Ukraine. Russia demanded not to politicize the CBD nor “cancel”/discriminate its delegation, and that a special operation is being carried out in Ukraine to protect their country.
As civil society, it is important that we are bold and vocal when there is an injustice. It is our role to speak up every single time and express our solidarity with civilians whose lives are utterly altered by armed conflicts. If we want to protect the environment, tackle climate change, land desertification, and halt extinctions we do need peace. There is abundant literature on the severe social and environmental impacts of wars and armed conflicts. Let us remember that the rampant destruction of nature endangers the well-being of the global population and the realization of fundamental rights. Human rights must be at the centre of all actions to effectively, efficiently and justly address the climate, ecological and inequality crises to save the planet and ourselves. TIME IS RUNNING OUT.
Geneva meetings: www.cbd.int/conferences/geneva-2022
CBD´s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/c/ConventiononBiologicalDiversity
Post 2020 GBF website: https://www.cbd.int/conferences/post2020 A new inter-sessional meeting will take place from June 21 to 26, 2022, in Nairobi, Kenya. The date of COP 15 in Kunming, China are still to be confirmed.
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