GENEVA—Nearly all the world’s countries kicked off a UN-backed meeting this past week aimed at preventing the loss of biodiversity—seen as critical to avoiding the extinction of many vulnerable species, the emergence of pathogens like the coronavirus, and the damage to both lives and livelihoods of people around the world, Indigenous peoples in particular.
The two-week meeting of over 190 countries on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), that started on March 14, after a two-year delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will be the last gathering of its kind before a major conference in the coming months in Kunming, China, that will try to adopt an international agreement on protecting biodiversity, the Associated Press (AP) reported..
“We have this one goal, which is to bend the curve on biodiversity loss and really to build that shared future to live in harmony with nature in the long term,” CBD Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema told reporters.
Three meetings critical to developing an ambitious and transformative post-2020 global biodiversity framework to safeguard nature resumed in in-person sessions in Geneva, Switzerland, the Canada-based CBD said in a news release sent to the .
“The world is clearly eager for urgent action to protect nature,” Mrema said in the CBD news release. “And we have no time to spare. Together we must ultimately deliver a truly historic agreement that puts us firmly on the path to living in harmony with nature.”
Possible diplomatic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine lurked in the background—potentially denting any prospects of global unity on the issue.
Russian delegates who had planned to attend had their travel plans canceled amid the closure of much of Europe’s airspace to flights from Russia after the invasion, organizers said, expressing hopes that Russian diplomats based in Geneva would nevertheless participate.
An intergovernmental, science-based assessment of biodiversity worldwide three years ago cited a decline of nature at unprecedented rates and an acceleration of the extinction of species—with up to a million species facing possible disappearance in the coming decades.
The US-based Campaign For Nature says a major theme in Geneva will be a target to protect and conserve at least 30 percent of the world’s lands, inland waters and oceans to help stanch habitat loss, the “overexploitation” of nature by people and businesses, and the emergence of pathogens that thrive off upheaval in the environment.
Convention managers point to five drivers of biodiversity loss: Changes to the use of land and sea; unsustainable exploitation through activities like agriculture, and climate change; pollution; and the spread of invasive alien species into new habitats. Indirectly, it says, unsustainable production and consumption also play a role.
Originally scheduled for Geneva from January 12 to 28, the three meetings—of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA 24), the third meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI 3) and the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (WG2020-3)—resumed at the Centre International de Conférences Genève, the CBD said.
SBSTTA-24 will advance discussions on a monitoring approach for the post-2020 framework. This includes marine and coastal biodiversity, biodiversity and agriculture and health, and invasive alien species.
Other issues include synthetic biology, living modified organisms risk assessment and management, and the work programme of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
SBI-3 will complete its work on key inputs to the post-2020 framework and lay a firm foundation for its adoption and implementation at the resumed Conference of Parties-15.
The agenda includes ensuring the framework mobilizes and scales-up finance for biodiversity, better aligned investments with the needs of nature and people and facilitates the disclosure of risks and impacts for nature.
Delegates will also advance work on the mechanisms to monitor, report and review implementation, and to build countries’ capacity to manage and conserve its biodiversity resources, benefit from ecosystem services, and achieve the framework’s targets.
Plans will also be advanced to enhance outreach and public awareness to support biodiversity action, and ensure the framework fully supports rights-based approach and respect gender equality and equal access for women to leadership, participation and decision-making.
WG2020-3 discussions will center on agreeing on actions needed to reach the 2050 Vision of living in harmony with nature, defining how performance will be tracked and reported, and ultimately determining how success will be defined.
This includes addressing the five drivers of biodiversity loss—land sea use change, unsustainable exploitation, climate change, pollution, and invasive alien species—and relevant indirect drivers such as unsustainable production and consumption.
The meeting is also expected to decide and announce the dates of the resumed UN Biodiversity Conference later this year in Kunming, China, at which the landmark blue print post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is due for adoption.
Mrema said one key issue in the conference will be efforts toward repurposing and redirecting harmful subsidies—to the tune of some $500 billion per year currently—and how “these financial flows can move away from nature-negative to biodiversity-positive outcomes,” AP said.
A draft proposal for the framework to be adopted in China would aim to require that $700 billion would be put into sustaining or improving biodiversity.
The issue of reducing pollution from plastics is also part of the draft, she said.
Image credits: Lyn B. Resurreccion