Sunday, October 21, 2012

Can biodiversity be conserved? COP 11 Hyderabad

Dhanesh Wisumperuma
The Nation, 21-10-2012, Fine, p.

A fish made out of plastics, symbolic of plastic polluting oceans and coasts.

Biodiversity is a topic which is discussed at various levels of the global environmental agenda – international, national, regional as well as at community level. Biological diversity itself and the values and uses of biodiversity have been recognized during the last few decades. However, a considerable loss of biological diversity is taking place around the world. The rate of loss of biodiversity is high, and the failure of the various conservation efforts leaves us with the question – can biodiversity be conserved?

In October 2010, the world admitted that the effort to achieve the biodiversity target of the Millennium Development Goals – a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss – was missed. Fortunately, a new target was set at the biodiversity summit held in Nagoya, Japan with renewed commitment. Although it was a postponement of targets to a future date, there was no other way to revive the effort to conserve biodiversity. The main result of that summit was the formulation of ‘Aichi Biodiversity Targets’.

This is the major concern of the global meeting on biodiversity conservation that is currently taking place in Hyderabad, India. It is the eleventh Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 11), which is held once in two years. This meeting could be described as the largest gathering or the key meeting related to biodiversity. It is being held with participation of about 10,000 people around the world, including state delegates, NGO representatives, observers as well as community representatives.

Result of Hyderabad?

Hyderabad summit is the first such meeting of the convention, after the Aichi Targets were agreed upon as well as the first after the Decade of Biodiversity, launched in 2011. This is an opportunity to evaluate the progress of the conservation effort as well as to rethink where the world stands. The discussions on certain issues are ongoing and it is too early to say what the outcome of the summit could be.

Meanwhile, there was a number of burning issues discussed at other forums such as side events, which are held parallel to the meeting, such as threats to biodiversity, difficulty and success stories in achieving some of the Aichi Targets. For instance, it was shown that some developing countries are able to increase the forest cover while it is not the same in other countries. For instance, Costa Rica has been able to increase their forest cover from 21 percent to 52 percent between 1987 and 2012.

A widely discussed topic during the side events was the agro-biodiversity and the threats faced by the sector. Crop diversity and the rights for seeds and commercialization of agriculture could eventually reduce the diversity of crops and thereby diversity of food. The world renowned environmentalist Vandana Shiva pointed out that the monoculture threatens crop diversity as well as food security. She also pointed out that people have to eat food made out of crop to protect the diversity of those crops, as lack of cultivation could cause the extinction.

The COP 11 is a showcase of successful initiatives of sustainable use of biodiversity, some of which are community led initiatives. These success stories included some innovative measures as well as use of traditional technology – some Indian examples were exhibited at the exhibition titled ‘Biodiversity Haat’. Meanwhile the international examples that were recognized by the award of The Equator Prize presented their achievements to a global level audience. Three organizations from Sri Lanka have won the award since 2004.

Funding for conservation

Funding needed for biodiversity conservation is an issue that has been under consideration for a long period. It is among the Aichi Targets as well as among the major causes of the failure in conservation efforts. A recently released research study pointed out that an annual amount of $ 76.1 billion is required to protect threatened species and protected areas in the world. It is also mentioned that this sum is not a huge amount as the world spends five times that amount on soft drinks in a year. However, the authors say that conservation funding needs to be increased at least enough to meet the target.

Meanwhile, addressing the high level segment of the COP 11, Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh said, “I am pleased to launch the Hyderabad Pledge and announce that our government has decided to earmark a sum of $50 million during India’s presidency of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to strengthen the institutional mechanism for biodiversity conservation in India.” He expected that other countries will follow a similar action.

What are Aichi Biodiversity Targets?
Aichi biodiversity targets are a set of 20 targets gathered to five strategic goals to be achieved in 2020. The world agreed in 2010 at the biodiversity summit held in Nagoya, in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, where the world agreed that they were unable to achieve the Millennium Development Goal targets related to biodiversity, despite the global efforts of biodiversity conservation. All countries of the world as well as the civil society are working to achieve these targets.

The themes of the Aichi targets could be summarized as follows:
1. Increase of awareness
2. Integration of biodiversity values into strategies, planning processes, etc
3. Reforming incentives including subsidies
4. Sustainable consumption and production
5. Halving the rate of loss of all natural habitats
6. Sustainable management of marine living resources
7. Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
8. Reduction of pollution
9. Prevention and control of invasive alien species
10. Reduction of the pressures on vulnerable ecosystems
11. Increase and the improvement of Protected Areas
12. Prevention of the extinction
13. Maintenance of genetic diversity
14. Safeguarding ecosystems and essential services
15. Restoration of ecosystems and enhancing resilience
16. Nagoya Protocol in force and operational
17. Adoption of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans as policy instrument
18. Respecting traditional knowledge
19. Improvement, sharing and application of Knowledge
20. Increase of all financial resources
(Go to for detailed targets)

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