India proposes middle path

Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan works for a consensus among the delegates at the marathon discussion on the adoption of a resolution on the final day of the high-level segment meeting of the 11th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad on Friday.— Photo: Mohammed Yousuf  

The Convention on Biological Diversity summit ran into overtime on Friday night, as nations struggled to find a way out of the logjam on funding talks, negotiating far beyond their scheduled closing time.

While countries have set ambitious goals — called the Aichi Targets — to protect the world's plants, animals and natural habitats by 2020, they could not agree on how to raise the money needed to reach these goals until this article went to press.

India took the lead on the final day, using its role as host and President of the summit to introduce a fresh negotiating text proposing a middle path. A senior Indian official said all developing countries — the grouping of G-77 and China — were “rallying” around the Indian text.

Other decisions relating to ecosystem restoration and national capacity building and action plans were held hostage to the vexed resource mobilisation discussions. The European Union refused to allow these decisions to be adopted, even when China proposed alternative text suggesting that the lack of capacity and needs assessments and baselines should not affect the pledging of financial resources.

Indian Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan — president of the meeting — was forced to defer these agenda items, as well as a decision on the budget of the Convention pending a breakthrough in the funding talks. Other decisions, including one on the financial mechanism, were approved.

The compromise text proposed a doubling of biodiversity fund flows from rich to poor nations by 2015, using the average funding between 2006 and 2010 as an interim baseline. However, this is only an interim target; the document proposes that targets be revised at the next CBD summit in Korea in 2014 and subsequent summits till 2020.

This would mean a continuous rise in funding till 2020, which developed nations are unwilling to accept. A senior European Union delegate said they would be willing to double aid by 2015, provided that funding rates are then frozen till the end of the decade. “Given the current financial situation at home, we simply cannot promise more,” he said.

The presidency document proposes that in return, poor countries promise that by 2015, at least three-fourths of them will do their homework, by including biodiversity in their national development priorities, assessing their own biodiversity expenditures and needs, and preparing national financial plans for biodiversity conservation.

On accountability, and reporting of how this money is used, a preliminary, flexible framework had been drafted, and countries would agree to submit information using this by the next CBD meeting in 2014.

In a concession to rich country governments harried by the current economic downturn, the document “urges parties to consider all possible sources and means” to meet the necessary level of resources, which could mean that private sector funding can be used rather than governmental aid.

The document also proposes that by 2014, countries will establish a target on the phasing out of subsidies and incentives which harm biodiversity.

Earlier in the day, CBD spokesman David Ainsworth said the strong commitments made for capacity building to manage protected areas and the call for greater engagement with business through the CBD Secretariat were signs of progress.

He pointed out that given the state of the economic downturn, it was heartening that governments were still willing to spend on biodiversity despite the lack of agreement on funding talks here. India had pledged $50 million worth of national and international aid on conservation initiatives, while Germany promised 500 million euros for forest protection worldwide over the next two years. The world’s largest economy — the United States — is not a party to the Convention, but still spends substantially on biodiversity. While it is not legally mandatory for the U.S. to implement CBD policies, it faces public pressure to conform to the global decisions, he added.

The Convention also took decisions related to biodiversity and climate change, inland water ecosystems, island biodiversity, protected areas, marine and coastal biodiversity, gender mainstreaming, the rights of indigenous people, biodiversity for poverty eradication and development, bushmeat and wildlife management and invasive alien species. Exhaustive data on Ecologically and Biologically Significant marine Areas (EBSA) in a new report has been presented to the conference.