2010 has been a dynamic year — events have ranged from the heroic rescue of the trapped Chilean miners to the tragic environmental consequences of the BP Gulf oil spill. For me, however, 2010 will always be the International Year of Biodiversity, designated as such by the UN General Assembly during a time when we are losing biodiversity at a rate that will result in halving the number of species on Earth during the next 100 years.
Biodiversity conservation is a personally significant issue for me since I have spent the last three years researching marine biodiversity and was also invited to help draft the international youth statement on biodiversity. I have previously mentioned how important the conservation of biodiversity is for all of us, and as the year draws to a close, it is a fitting time to reflect on progress during the year. For an appropriate symbol, I need to look no further than the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 10th Conference of Parties (COP 10) which took place Oct. 18-29 in Nagoya, Japan.
The CBD was created at the 1992 World Summit to address on a global scale the pressing problem that was evident even then: loss of biodiversity. 192 countries have adopted the convention (however, disappointingly, the United States is not a signatory) and its three main objectives are:
· the conservation of biological diversity,
· the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity,
· the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources
During the 2002 World Summit, a target was set that by 2010 a "significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level" will be achieved. However, it is widely agreed that this target has not been met, and biodiversity visibly disappears at alarmingly increasing rates. Although 2010 will not fulfill its intended role as the year when biodiversity loss was stemmed, it will go down in history as the year in which international governments launched a feasible plan for conservation during CBD COP 10.
It was inevitable that CBD COP 10 would garner comparison to former environmental conferences, and has been hailed as the "Kyoto conference for all living things." However, it has also been unfavorably likened in the first days of the conference to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen (COP 15) last December. During both conferences, developed and developing countries had difficulty reaching compromise and all parties were hesitant to agree to legally binding commitments. CBD COP 10 experienced difficulties in reaching agreements on its three most important, as well as contentious issues:
· Strategic Plan 2011-2020 — After the inability to meet the 2010 target, emphasis was placed on implementing a feasible, rather than overly ambitious plan for 2020.
· Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) — One of the biggest goals of the conference was to create a protocol to regulate how developed nations support and benefit from biodiversity which is mainly located in developing countries. This is a particular issue of priority for developing countries, and negotiations have been ongoing unsuccessfully for six years.
· Resource Mobilization Strategy — A significant cause for not reaching the 2010 target was the lack of financial resources wrought by the global financial crisis. Thus, determining methods for how the biodiversity conservation plans could be financed was a crucial point of discussion.
Ultimately, at the closing plenary of the last day of the conference, consensus was reached on the "big name" issues as well as other important decisions issues in agricultural biodiversity, biodiversity and poverty reduction, climate change, forest biodiversity, inland waters biodiversity, marine biodiversity and protected areas. A decision made to protect 10 percent of the world's ocean and 17 percent of all land mass by 2020 and a protocol on ABS was finally adopted by the parties.
Although both the ABS Protocol and Strategic Plan were not as ambitious as were originally hoped, I for one am grateful for this dramatic turnaround after days of tense negotiations which forebode a repeat of Copenhagen. This is one green step in the right direction, and with restored confidence in international cooperation leading towards environmental protection, I will play an active role in ensuring that this time around, the 2020 goals will be met.