environmental issues

[OPINION] Ambitious global plan to save nature adopted, and the many ways it may unravel

Elpidio Peria

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[OPINION] Ambitious global plan to save nature adopted, and the many ways it may unravel
Will things be different this time?

Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity went home extremely satisfied after its final plenary last December 19, 2022 in Montreal, Canada, achieving after four years of hard work in the middle of the pandemic, a better organized, compactly-written, and more purposeful global plan whose mission is “to take urgent action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss to put nature on a path to recovery” by 2030, which should eventually pave the way for realizing the 2050 Vision of Living in Harmony with Nature.

The Conference President, China, identified a six-pronged approach to achieve this, among which are :

– the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework with four goals and 23 targets;
– the monitoring framework for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework;
– the mechanisms for planning, monitoring, reporting, and review;
– capacity-building and development and technical and scientific cooperation;
– resource mobilization and
– digital sequence information on genetic resources 

We’ve seen this picture of delegates making heady speeches in a bouyant, expectant mood before, back in Nagoya, Japan in 2010, in the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 10), when the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Nagoya Protocol were adopted; or perhaps in 2002, when the Strategic Plan for the Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted, and we all know not much really happened to substantially minimize biodiversity loss from those eras. 

Will things be different this time? Let’s examine the key decisions at COP 15 that may be a cause of loss of will by the Parties to be diligent in implementing what they have adopted. 

From a developing country perspective, the deal linking the adoption of effective action on digital sequence information on genetic resources or DSI to the adoption of an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework (now the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework), happened, and both outcomes are what developing countries consistently asked for during the negotiations.

What needs to happen though is that this global mechanism on DSI, agreed to be “finalized” at COP 16, in 2024, will have to be truly up and running by that time and not held up by any procedural requirement, especially when the term “digital sequence information” will still be subjected to further discussions.

This lack of conclusiveness in the terminology for DSI may result in something that may be pn a different subject matter at COP 16 especially so when Japan and Korea have always maintained that DSI is out of the scope and mandate of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

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Now, let’s get an overview of some key targets, and on paper, they are fairly ambitious :

– target 1 seeks to put all areas under spatial planning and/or effective management processes such that the loss of areas of high biodiversity importance, are close to zero by 2030;
– target 2 seeks to ensure at least 30% of areas of degraded terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine ecosystems are under effective restoration by 2030;
– target 3 seeks to ensure that by 2030 at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine areas are effectively conserved and managed;
– target 6 seeks to reduce the rates of introduction and establishment of other known or potential invasive alien species by at least 50% by 2030;
– target 7 seeks to reduce pollution risks and the negative impact of pollution from all sources by 2030.

As these targets are only adopted now at the close of 2022, countries will have to start working on these targets from January of 2023 as they will only have eight (8) years to do that before 2030.

These ambitious targets were agreed to by developing countries as there was a corresponding exchange of commitments on the resource mobilization side, whereby developed countries, as what they agreed to in target 19, committed to mobilize by 2030 at least $200 billion per year.

There is also in target 18 an eye-popping commitment to identify by 2025, and eliminate, phase out, or reform incentives, including subsidies, harmful for biodiversity while substantially and progressively reducing them by at least $500 billion per year by 2030. 

Will this really happen? Let’s hope developed countries will deliver, especially when they have diminished specific references to common-but-differentiated responsibilities as a principle and guideline that they will have to adhere to, even as it is now just generally referenced as part of the principles of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (of which it is principle 7).

There is also the key achievement in this COP of having a Global Biodiversity Framework Fund, or a GBF Fund, though it will be the current Global Environment Facility that will still manage it in its initial stages until it can come up with its “own equitable governing body.” Whether this GBF Fund will radically deviate from the practices of GEF which may embed its technocratic culture into the GBF Fund while creating it or it may just become a subordinate institution of the GEF that will also make access difficult to developing countries, remains to be seen.

There is also another fund established, in the context of the DSI decision, called the global fund, and a key question on this fund is whether users would rather give to that fund so that they may be exempt from any benefit-sharing obligations tied up to the global mechanism. 

Another area where the global deal may unravel is in the issue of actually mobilizing cold hard cash in the funding commitments of developed countries agreed in target 19.1 to the tune of least $20 billion per year by 2025, thus in the next 3 years, global funds for the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework should reach a minimum of $20 billion per year.

Developed countries in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) also made a similar commitment for actual money called the Fast Start Fund to the tune of $100 billion back in 2010, but until now the money there has not materialized, and the running joke on it is perhaps it went by too fast that nobody noticed it existed.

Assuming things will go on as agreed, with the right amounts of money available, Parties to the Convention are now supposed to update their respective NBSAPs or national biodiversity strategy and action plan in accordance with the guidance provided on the COP decision on planning, monitoring, reporting, and review, and be ready with it by next COP in the last quarter of 2024. What may hold this up is the timely release of funds from all donors mentioned in the means of implementation paragraph on this COP decision in order that Parties can now start their process of updating their current NBSAPs, and depending on the national circumstances, this may take longer to be completed by COP 16.

One other item that may  generate variance between national and global targets is the degree of alignment of national targets to the Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework given that the template allows a range of alignment from high, medium, low; suppose most alignments submitted by Parties are low, how then will the global review, set in 2026, only four years from now, address this? We will find only find out at the global review, with only four years left to 2030.

Finally, on capacity-building and technical and scientific cooperation, there was an agreement to create a network of regional, and/or additional subregional technical and scientific cooperation support centers to be coordinated at the global level by a global coordination entity. Whether this will already be operational by COP 16 remains to be seen. We’ll just have to wait by then. – Rappler.com

Elpidio Peria was a member of the Philippine delegation to the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, from its 4th to 13th meetings. At COP 14, he attended as a member of the delegation for the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity. He is a practicing lawyer based in General Santos City, advising government agencies, NGOs, and IGOs on various environmental issues and other concerns. His Writ of Kalikasan win-loss record before the Supreme Court is 1 win-1 loss.

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