by Victor Anderson, Senior Policy Officer, Green Economy, WWF-UK
The Rio 2012 conference isn’t the only way the Earth Summit of Rio 1992 is being followed up. Both the major treaties signed in 1992 have their own organisational structures and regular conferences to review progress – the best-known of those events being the Copenhagen Climate conference in 2009.
Copenhagen was the Conference of the Parties (CoP) for the Climate Change Convention – a meeting for all governments which had signed. There will be another Climate CoP later this year, November 26th to November 7th, in Qatar.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), also signed at Rio, has its CoPs too. The latest one has just been held in Hyderabad, India, ending on October 19th.
Both sets of CoPs are potentially important from a Planetary Boundaries perspective, because climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the three earth system processes said in the planetary boundaries scientific literature to have gone beyond their boundaries. The other one is disruption to the nitrogen cycle, which currently lacks its own treaty.
The CBD is widely seen as the poor relation of the Climate Convention, and it certainly attracts far less media and political attention. The other side of the coin is that it is far less controversial, with very little opposition to the Convention and what it is trying to achieve. There is also a high degree of co-operation amongst the scientists involved around the world. The problem for the Biodiversity Convention, however, is lack of adequate money for implementation.
Still feeling the impact of their failure of the Convention’s parties to achieve their target, set in 2002, of “a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss” by 2010, government representatives in Hyderabad agreed to try harder – by pledging a major increase in funding for CBD implementation. Developed countries agreed to double resources for CBD programmes by 2015, compared to their average contributions during 2006-2010. This decision comes as the UN makes arrangements to move ahead with the expert committee on the mobilisation of finance for sustainability, established by the Rio 2012 outcome document.
The Hyderabad CoP also discussed marine protected areas, the REDD+ programme for forests, geo-engineering, synthetic biology (the creation of artificial life forms), and marine protected areas. However, in a crowded field for international arrangements, most of these discussions took the form of providing scientific input for decision-making processes which will take place elsewhere.
The funding increase therefore emerged as the major achievement of the CoP. Whilst that is welcome, funding for biodiversity and ecosystem conservation remains entirely dwarfed by the vast amounts of money going into the many economic activities in the fields of mining, agriculture, fishing, urbanisation, and the rest which continue on a daily basis to undermine biodiversity and ecosystems. Unless ecological criteria can get included in economic decision-making by companies and governments, CBD delegates will sadly be back again at some future CoP to discuss another phase of failure to achieve their targets.