Delivering for biodiversity
To protect the world’s natural resources, countries need to work together. Representatives from all over the world used the recent 12th Conference of the Parties ('COP 12') meeting to assess progress.
In October 2014, thousands of people representing parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as NGOs, indigenous peoples, scientists and the private sector met in Pyeongchang, Korea for the 12th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 12).
Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, underlined the economic risk to society of failing to protect biodiversity, warning that inaction would cost the world €11.3 trillion each year by 2050. He also noted the link with sustainable development, reminding the conference that “biodiversity is a powerful engine that underpins the delivery of current and future sustainable development objectives”.
Four years ago, COP 10 adopted the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, an overarching framework to protect global biodiversity by 2020. The Pyeongchang meeting saw widespread acknowledgement of the need for more action to reach those targets, and commitments to act more urgently. With the new Gangwon Declaration, ministers made a formal commitment to ensuring that biodiversity would have a prominent place in the Sustainable Development Goals that are set to replace the Millennium Development Goals agreed earlier.
The meeting took place against the backdrop of the UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 report, which presented a mixed picture regarding progress towards the targets agreed in 2010. While nearly a quarter of countries have already surpassed one of the targets (protecting 17 % of their land for biodiversity), more action will be needed to keep the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity on track. Reaching other targets, such as halving the rate of natural habitat loss and reducing pollution, will require better monitoring and implementation, as well as improved incentives for landowners.
Doubling international biodiversity funding
There were some notable successes at the conference. Parties reiterated a previous commitment made in Hyderabad to double by 2015 the total flow of biodiversity-related international financial resources to developing countries, in particular the least-developed countries and Small Island Developing States, as well as countries with economies in transition, and to at least maintain support at that level until 2020.
The EU is already delivering substantial funds in these areas. By 2012, annual European biodiversity-related finance to developing countries had increased to €289 million, compared to the average of €190 million during 2006-10. Governments also agreed to make greater efforts to integrate biodiversity into other policy frameworks and to increase domestic funding for biodiversity, identifying ways to mobilise more financial resources from other sources.
COP 12 hosted the first meeting of the parties to the Nagoya Protocol, which covers access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilisation, which came into force in October 2014. The Protocol aims to conserve biological diversity by ensuring the sustainable use of its components. This initial meeting took the decisions necessary to get the Protocol up and running, agreeing on how an Access and Benefit-sharing Clearing-house would operate, for example.