Closing ceremony of CoP11.
Photo: COP11/Flickr.

25.10.2012

At the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity 11th Conference of Parties (CoP) 2012 meeting, countries agreed to double resources for biodiversity protection by 2015 with special consideration to protect the biodiversity-rich marine areas.

Despite the economic crisis looming large over both developed and developing countries, governments at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 11th Conference of Parties 2012 that concluded October 19th at Hyderabad, India, reached an agreement thanks to much negotiating and a host of regional group-country meetings. The verdict of increasing funding in support of action to halt the rate of biodiversity loss has been termed as “successful” by parties to CBD since this was left outstanding from the Nagoya meet in 2010.

According to CBD Executive Secretary Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, the results “demonstrate that the world is committed to implementing the Convention, and we see that governments looking at biodiversity as an opportunity to be realised more than a problem to be solved”. These sentiments were also echoed by Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of Environment and Forests for India, and President of CoP11, when she said: “We should invest more towards amelioration of the natural capital for ensuring uninterrupted ecosystem services on which all life on earth depends.”

The renewed momentum forged in Nagoya/Japan two years ago is reflected in the decisions taken by the UN Biodiversity Conference. Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UN Environment Programme Executive Director, expressed that “Countries have sent a clear signal and delivered additional commitments underlining the fact that biodiversity and ecosystems are a development priority and central to a transition to an inclusive Green Economy.” He also spoke of “mobilising necessary financial resources from the public and private sector” that are needed to ensure achievement of the 2020 targets. “However, many nations, including developing economies, have signalled their determination and sense of urgency to seize the opportunities by providing much needed additional support,” Steiner applauded.

Resource mobilisation decisions seen as way forward

Key decisions at CBD CoP 11 included that developed countries agreed to double funding to support efforts in developing states towards meeting the internationally-agreed Biodiversity Targets and the main goals of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. This was seen as progressive by all parties.

Agreements on funding were wrapped up after the consensus on using the average annual national spending on biodiversity between 2006 and 2010 as a baseline figure. Developed countries said they would double biodiversity-related international financial flows by 2015, and targets to increase the number of countries that have included biodiversity in their national development plans and prepared national financial plans for biodiversity by 2015 were also set.  All Parties agreed to substantially increase domestic expenditures for biodiversity protection over the same period. These targets, and progress towards them, will be reviewed in 2014.

For the first time, developing countries at COP 11, including India and several African states, pledged additional funds above and beyond their core funding towards the work of the CBD.

The conference also saw the launch of the Hyderabad Call for Biodiversity Champions. The programme will accept pledges from governments and organisations in support of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. The Government of India, During the closing plenary of CoP 11, the Government of India committed a million US dollars as part of the programme.
For the first time, the Global Environment Facility, the financial mechanism of the Convention, was provided with an assessment of the financial resources required to meet the needs of developing countries for implementation.

Marine & coastal biodiversity on high priority

The 193 Parties to the CBD agreed to classify a diverse list of marine areas, some renowned for containing ‘hidden treasures’ of the plant and animal world, as ecologically or biologically significant.

Earlier this week, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched its Protected Planet 2012 report, which found that half of the world’s richest biodiversity zones remain entirely unprotected despite a 60 per cent increase in the number of protected areas since 1990. To meet the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of ensuring that 10 per cent of marine areas are protected by 2020, an additional eight million square kilometers (an area just over the size of Australia) of marine and coastal areas would need to be recognised as protected, according to the UNEP report.

Parties to the Convention also called for more research into the potential adverse effects of underwater noise from ships on marine and coastal biodiversity, and highlighted the growing concern over the adverse effects of marine litter. Furthermore, they recognised the growing challenge of climate change impacts on coral reefs, which, they agreed, would require significant investment to overcome.

New measures to factor biodiversity into environmental impact assessments linked to infrastructure and other development projects in marine and coastal areas received special attention. Areas here included the Saragasso Sea, the Tonga archipelago and important corals sites off the coast of Brazil.  
There was also a call to fisheries management bodies to play a stronger role in addressing the impacts of fisheries on biodiversity.
The series of agreements at COP 11 on oceans and coasts builds on the commitment of countries made at the United Nations Rio+20 summit in June 2012 to protect and restore marine ecosystems and to maintain their biodiversity.

Author: Sangeetha Rajeesh, journalist, Chennai/India

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