Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Eric Johnston: "COP10 to take on genetic, indigenous issues"

Great context and analysis from Eric Johnston of the Japan Times: "COP10 to take on genetic, indigenous issues":
From Oct. 18 to 29, the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity, known as COP10, takes place in Nagoya.

Billed by some NGOs and Japanese government officials as the conference that will sign a "Kyoto Protocol for all living things," COP10 has a number of goals, including setting targets to conserve biodiversity systems over the next decade and creating a new body of experts to advise the U.N. on biodiversity.

Most controversially, it will seek to establish a new global agreement on how to more equitably share the benefits of genetic resources, often found on indigenous people's lands, that are used by pharmaceutical companies and others.

What's the Convention on Biodiversity, and what is it supposed to do?

The Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), along with the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention, was born at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where it was recognized that, although the two issues were related, a separate negotiation regime was needed to deal with biodiversity loss and preservation.

The Convention has three main objectives: to conserve biological diversity; to use biological diversity, i.e. ecosystems and their related components, in a sustainable manner; and to share the benefits of biological diversity fairly and equitably. To date, there are 193 parties to the convention.

In May 2002, at the CBD's COP6 meeting, it was agreed to work to make a significant reduction of the current state of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level by 2010. There were several problems with this goal, however.

The first and most obvious is that it failed to commit states to specific numerical goals, leaving each party to determine politically rather than scientifically what was meant by a "significant reduction."

Another problem was that, unlike climate change, there was no one international body of scientific experts advising the U.N. at the time with the political clout enjoyed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Without such a body, forging an agreement on specific numbers was all the more difficult.

Given this background, it's not surprising that the U.N. recently concluded that, far from achieving significant reductions by 2010, the situation is growing much worse.

How much worse?

To give just a few examples the U.N. cites, 70 percent of the world's coral reefs, which nearly a half a billion people depend on for their lives and livelihoods, are threatened or have already been destroyed.

Of the world's 5,490 mammals, 79 are extinct, 188 are critically endangered, 449 are endangered, and 505 are vulnerable to extinction if current trends continue.

And 1,895 of the world's 6,285 known amphibians are in danger of extinction. Scientists have advised the U.N. the world is facing the greatest extinction crisis since the end of the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Will COP10 also deal with preventing the extinction of these species?

In practice, what has the CBD done, and has it met its goals?
Read the rest of this important article here.

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