Global Biodiversity Conference 2022 (CBD COP15)
Disclaimer:The views and information presented here are the author’s personal opinion. It is not endorsed or represented in any way by his current or past employer, the CBD and its Parties, or any other organization affiliated with him.
Read Diary Entries from the CBD COP 2022
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6 December Montreal
Canada – Opening Session
Part II of the fifteenth session of the Global Biodiversity Conference, also known as the Conference of the Parties for Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 15), opened in Montreal, Canada, today. The fifteenth session of the United Nations global biodiversity conference was scheduled to be hosted in Kunming, China, in 2020 but had to be delayed due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Subsequently, the first part was held in a hybrid setting, online and in Kunming, China, from 11 to 15 October 2021. Part II of the meeting is in person in Montreal, Canada, from 7 to 19 December 2022. The associated meetings to be held concurrently with the conference are the meeting of the Parties to the Cartegena Protocol relating to Biosafety and the Nagoya Protocol relating to Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS). The welcoming session of the opening of the meeting was held on the afternoon of 6 December attended by Government dignitaries, top UN officials and state parties amongst others.
Speaking at the conference, the PM of Canada Justine Trudeau reaffirmed Canada’s commitment as a duty to its future generations to conserve, protect and sustainably manage natural resources. “When people think of Canada, they think of our landscapes and the richness of our nature – parts of who we are. Today, we welcome the world to Montréal to continue working together to make sure the planet we leave to our kids and grandkids has clean air, clean water, and an abundance of nature to enjoy.”
“Halt and reverse biodiversity loss. Protect 30% of the planet’s lands and waters. These are two things we need to do, as a world, by 2030. And that’s why we announced more support for international biodiversity today.”The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada (Photo: UN Biodiversity , supplied)
“The fight to protect nature has never been more important than it is right now. With a million species at risk of extinction around the world, COP15 is a generational opportunity to work together to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and create a nature-positive world. Canada stepped up to welcome the world for this conference and sees it as an opportunity to rally federal, provincial, territorial, and Indigenous ambition to protect 30 per cent of our lands and waters by 2030.”The Hon. Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Mr. Trudeau further reaffirmed Canada’s commitment as a duty to its future generations to conserve, protect and sustainably manage natural resources. “When people think of Canada, they think of our landscapes and the richness of our nature – parts of who we are. Today, we welcome the world to Montréal to continue working together to make sure the planet we leave to our kids and grandkids has clean air, clean water, and an abundance of nature to enjoy.”
The Conference of the Parties is a meeting where countries have collectively agreed to work together on halting biodiversity loss based on a multilaterally negotiated set of goals and targets. CBD COP adopts decisions based on a compromise and consensus at its highest decision-making body- the COP Plenary.
My first CBD COP was in Pyeongchang, Korea, as part of a government delegation from Fiji. That was an eye-opener and a learning experience. Since then, I have attended many CBD meetings, including the COP. These meetings are attended by thousands of delegates from different sectors of government, non-government, civil society groups, and UN organizations. Although those attending the COP are of many folds, the Parties of the CBD lead the negotiations and decision-making. In contrast, others have “Observer” status and follow standard UN rules during their engagement and participation at the COP.
This fifteenth session of the CBD COP has not just started today. It is many years of work that will be taking center stage. After the last COP in Sharma El Sheikh in 2018, an Open Ended Working Group was established to begin work on developing a new global biodiversity framework. The current biodiversity framework, Aichi Global Biodiversity Framework, and Aichi Biodiversity Targets were to be achieved by Parties in 2020. I was in Rome, Italy, in 2020 in one such meeting when the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced in the Pacific region as in many other parts of the world. Since then, numerous consultations and discussions have been held virtually until the last few days here in Montreal to conclude that work. We have arrived at the most refined texts from the OEWG that will be presented to the COP Plenary for approval. Even though the OEWG has concluded its work, many critical issues relating to the new biodiversity framework, especially the targets, are still unresolved. In the UN language, these are called ‘bracketed’ texts.
The framework has 22 action-oriented targets for urgent action over the decade to 2030. The actions set out in each target need to be initiated immediately and completed by 2030. Together, the results will enable achievement of the 2030 milestones and of the outcome-oriented goals for 2050. There is an additional target under ‘One health approaches’ – focusing especially on the risks of the emergence and transmission of zoonotic diseases, to avoid or reduce risks to the health of humans, wild and domesticated species, and ecosystems. Of these, my particular interests are target 2, target 3, target 5 , Target 7, target8, target 10, target 11, target 13, target 14, target 15, target 17 and target 18.
Speaking at the opening of the conference the UN Secretary General called urged leaders to deliver an ambitious peace pact with nature.
With our bottomless appetite for unchecked and unequal economic growth, humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction. At COP15 I am urging leaders to adopt and deliver an ambitious peace pact with nature — and deliver a green, healthy future for all.Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General (Photos : UN Biodiversity, supplied)
Backdrop of GBF negotiations
=> Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, 17-29 November 2018 – Adopts the preparatory process for the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework
=> Note by Chairs in August 2020- zero draft of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework
=> WG2020 in Rome, Italy in February 2020 – Second OEWG pencils in the zero draft.
=> Online, 23 August – 3 September 2021 – Third meeting of the OEWG produces the first draft of the post 2020 global biodiversity framework.
=> Fourth meeting in June 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya – recommends draft elements of a decision to the Conference of the Parties, as well as an annex containing the draft text of the global biodiversity framework resulting from the negotiations in the Working Group.
Fourth meeting in June 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya – recommends draft elements of a decision to the Conference of the Parties, as well as an annex containing the draft text of the global biodiversity framework resulting from the negotiations in the Working Group.
The OEWG held its last meeting, the fifth session in Montreal, December days before the COP to finalise the GBF and decision documents to be considered by the Plenary at COP 15.
As I had stated above, there are a number of targets that are of my interest. Target 2 is about degraded terrestrial, inland waters, coastal and marine ecosystems are under restoration. There is a numerical value in this target that are all bracketed. The disagreement is on the numerical value of either 20 or 30 per cent / at least  billion ha.
Target 3 is also on numerical value for conserved areas. However there appears a much larger and complicated debate on where any such values of conservation should be nationally or globally. There are other elements within the text that are not yet agreed such as whether conservation of ecologically or biologically significant areas, threatened ecosystems and ecosystem functions and services shall be included in the texts. These texts can even change as proposed. The positive thing is that Parties have already agreed on including areas of particular importance for biodiversity and texts on managed, ecologically representative, well-connected and equitably governed. For protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures the disagreement is to whether consider landscapes or not. The text on seascapes is already being agreed while texts on inclusion of national and regional ecological networks in accordance with national priorities and capabilities is yet to be agreed.
Target 5 is on bracketed texts about ‘exploitation’ and ‘ harvesting’ of trade and use of wild species in a sustainable, safe and legal way. Biopiracy is a well known thing in the Pacific and this has yet got any traction in discussions. Biopiracy is bracketed under this target. Strong texts such as ‘eliminate all harvesting, trade and use of wild species that is illegal unsustainable or unsafe and preventing overexploitation are currently bracketed. The one that I am particularly keenly looking at what evolves in the current brackets around “by at least half]/[ [by at least two thirds], [taking into account food security and livelihoods] and [preventing[, reducing and eliminating] plastic pollution] [eliminating the discharge of plastic [and electronic] waste.]”
Target 7 is so important for the Pacific as an island state. It deals with pollution and the bracketed texts ‘polution from all sources [ and pollution risks]/[[emissions and deposits of pollutants [including light and noise]] and plastic pollution]. It is about reducing pollution to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity and ecosystem functions with no agreement yet on inclusion of ‘human health’. Surprisingly use of plastics, pesticides and hazardous chemicals are a big problem but still bracketed. Most likely they will be accepted on compromise texts as it is scientifically known that plastics are a big problem.
Target 11 is about restoration, maintaining and enhancing nature’s contributions to people, including ecosystem functions and services, such as regulation of air, water, soil health, and pollination, as well as protection from natural hazards and disasters. The big watch out on this target is if ‘nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches], [and Mother- Earth centric actions] that are currently bracketed accepted or not as a medium to restore, maintain and enhance natures contribution. The idea of payment for environmental services is proposed but remains bracketed. I am wondering how different or similar is the proposed text to payment for ecosystem services.
Target 13 on developing effective legal, policy and administrative measures on the implementation of the access and benefit sharing under the Convention. The additional elements of including digital sequence information (DSI) and benefit sharing around that be it bilateral or multilateral will also be negotiated.
The Pacific is supported by Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme at the COP. The Pacific meets early morning as a regional bloc to discuss priorities and for organisation of the work at the COP as negotiations unfold.