14 December 2016
UN Biodiversity Conference Discusses Living in Harmony with Nature
Photo by IISD/ENB | Francis Dejon
story highlights

On the second Tuesday of the UN Biodiversity Conference, an afternoon plenary convened for an interactive dialogue on 'Living in Harmony with Nature'.

Working Group I (WG I) approved a conference room paper (CRP) on progress made in implementation of the awareness-raising strategy.

Working Group II (WG II) approved CRPs on key scientific and technical needs related to implementation of the Strategic Plan, including voluntary guidance to improve the accessibility of biodiversity-related data and information, and the glossary under Article 8(j).

The Rio Conventions Pavilion (RCP) discussed the theme of 'Forest Landscapes and Ecosystem Restoration'.

13 December 2016: On the second Tuesday of the UN Biodiversity Conference, Working Group I (WG I) approved a conference room paper (CRP) on progress made in implementation of the awareness-raising strategy, and discussed CRPs on capacity building under the Protocols. Working Group II (WG II) approved CRPs on key scientific and technical needs related to implementation of the Strategic Plan, including voluntary guidance to improve the accessibility of biodiversity-related data and information, and the glossary under Article 8(j). WG II further addressed invasive alien species (IAS), and biodiversity and human health.

The capacity-building contact group was mandated to also consider capacity building under the Protocols to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), including the annexes. On capacity building under the Nagoya Protocol, regarding a specific reference to capacity building for non-commercial use of genetic resources, the EU proposed to move the reference to the annex listing capacity-building activities for effective implementation of the Nagoya Protocol. Following lengthy discussion, delegates agreed to move it under the listed activities, with a desired outcome of “increased capacity of non-commercial research institutions and actors.” On the annex, Norway questioned some of the indicators and the rationale for naming specific actors. On capacity building under the Cartagena Protocol, following extensive consultations, delegates agreed, inter alia, to add new language requesting the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to continue providing financial support to enable developing countries to further implement the Framework and Action Plan for Capacity Building. The contact group will continue discussing the annex.

On IAS, delegates approved a draft decision that, inter alia: with regard to bio-control agents, encourages parties to consider using native species where possible; invites governments to submit information on gaps in achieving Aichi Biodiversity Target 9 (IAS), “including gaps in capacity”; and encourages governments to cooperate with the private sector to address IAS, rather than “to develop strategies and mechanisms.”

On biodiversity and human health, delegates approved a draft decision that includes, inter alia, added language on: benefits of biodiversity in urban environments as it “contributes to a feeling of well-being, by stimulating physical exercise, providing clean air and improving mental well-being”; biodiversity as a source of clean water; and advancing analysis of interlinkages between biodiversity and human health, such as the identification of microbiological biodiversity and pathogenic species. Delegates also agreed to the convening of a meeting of the inter-agency liaison group on biodiversity and human health.

An afternoon plenary convened for interactive dialogue on ‘Living in Harmony with Nature.’ Panelists stressed: interdependence between the rights of Mother Earth, peoples’ right to holistic development, and the right to live without material, spiritual and cultural poverty; mobilizing scientific knowledge while recognizing traditional knowledge; conducting local, in addition to global, assessments; the importance of incorporating gender dimensions in natural resource management; that in order to live in harmony with nature, “we need to distance ourselves from this economy based on immediate gain and the culture of individualism, waste of things and neglect of people”; and where indigenous peoples’ rights are recognized and protected, there is less biodiversity loss. Panelists also discussed actions required to mainstream living in harmony with nature. A civil society representative asked about the impacts of synthetic biology, gene drives and other extreme genetic engineering techniques, to which a panelist responded that technological fixes cannot solve problems and environmental and social risk assessments are needed to investigate such impacts. Bolivia said it has imposed a moratorium on synthetic biology.

The plenary then heard reports from parallel events, including: the third Science for Biodiversity Forum (1-2 December), which discussed science’s contribution to mainstreaming biodiversity, decision making and monitoring; the International Parliamentary Forum for Biodiversity (7 December), and adoption of the Cancun Communiqué on the Role of Legislators in Mainstreaming Biodiversity for Well-Being; the Muuchtanbal Summit on Indigenous Experiences: Traditional Knowledge and Biological and Cultural Diversity (9-11 December), with calls to reverse the loss of biological and cultural diversity; the 5th Global Biodiversity Summit of Cities and Subnational Governments (10-11 December); the Forum of Civil Society and Youth Alliances for Biodiversity Mainstreaming to Well-being (28-30 November), stressing, among others, violence suffered by environmental activists; and the Business and Biodiversity Forum (2-3 December), highlighting sustainable use of natural capital.

The plenary approved Egypt as host of the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 14) to the CBD and Protocol meetings, and Turkey as host of COP 16.

Plenary then adopted COP decisions on, among others: biodiversity and climate change; ecosystem restoration; impacts of marine debris and anthropogenic underwater noise on marine and coastal biodiversity; a voluntary specific workplan on biodiversity in cold-water areas within the jurisdictional scope of the Convention; and best-practice guidelines for traditional knowledge repatriation.

The COP serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol adopted a decision on integration among the Convention and its Protocols. The COP serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol adopted decisions on the use of the term “indigenous peoples and local communities” and on integration among the Convention and its Protocols.

Contact groups and Friends of the Chair groups met throughout the day to address: mainstreaming; unintentional transboundary movement of living modified organisms (LMOs); financial resources; synergies; synthetic biology; capacity building; and the budget. [IISD RS Coverage of the UN Biodiversity Conference]

Also on Tuesday, the Rio Conventions Pavilion (RCP) discussed the theme of ‘Forest Landscapes and Ecosystem Restoration.’ In the opening session, Rafael León Negrete, Mexico, stressed the importance of visions that integrate landscape use, restoration and management, and synergies between forest and agriculture, livestock and fisheries activities. Eva Müller, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), drew attention to the ‘Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015,’ which demonstrates that the rate of net global deforestation has slowed while degradation is increasing. Braulio Ferreira Souza Dias, Executive Secretary, CBD, on behalf of the Rio Conventions Joint Liaison Group, stressed the need for enhancing integration at the country level on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs).

Panel sessions then convened on: the global restoration movement, methodologies used and the way forward; country experiences with presentations from Brazil, Finland, Guatemala, Mongolia and the Philippines; monitoring the impacts of restoration; and partnership support to advance national restoration plans facilitate implementation measures. [IISD RS Coverage of the Rio Conventions Pavilion]

Numerous side events convened throughout the day. One event discussed new tools for theoretical and practical training on integrated approaches to biodiversity mainstreaming, with discussants illustrating how these tools support implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Rio Conventions with parallel strategic agendas. Panelists also: defined environmental mainstreaming as the inclusion and integration of relevant environmental concerns, particularly conservation and sustainable use, in plans, programmes and sectoral and intersectoral policies; said mainstreaming requires capacity building and integrated approaches to break down barriers and silos between institutions and agencies; presented a case study on mainstreaming biodiversity and the SDGs in drylands; and outlined steps for incorporating environmental mainstreaming into education and training.

A side event on transboundary conservation for biodiversity and peace officially launched the Peace and Biodiversity Dialogue Initiative website. Panelists described: peace parks as transboundary protected areas that are designated for the promotion of conservation and peace; peace and biodiversity in achieving landscape level conservation in southern Africa; environmental peacebuilding in Colombia; challenges that transboundary conservation may pose in achieving mutual benefits; and the need to share the outcomes on peace building through conservation with the World Conservation Congress and the World Parks Congress.

Another event discussed transforming biodiversity governance for a post-2020 biodiversity strategy in relation to the intersection of diverse legal systems, including on biodiversity, international human rights and indigenous governance. Panelists discussed: aspects of the Paris Agreement on climate change that might be useful for a post-2020 biodiversity strategy; findings from the BENELEX project suggesting that human rights standards can provide specific standards for understanding when benefit sharing is fair and equitable; implementation of indigenous governance around the Fraser River Watershed in British Columbia, Canada; how more research is needed on territorial governance of indigenous peoples; and how the “next big fight” after protesting the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline in the US will be stopping the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline in Canada.

A side event on synthetic biology and synbiodiversity, and how new biotechnologies are raising new philosophical questions for biodiversity conservation, discussed the conservation value of the diverse “techno-life forms” being generated through genetic engineering and synthetic biology. Other events addressed: the equitable management of protected areas; and the values of non-extractive uses of marine biodiversity, such as recreational diving and ecotourism, in generating benefit sharing, income for coastal communities and conservation of ecosystems. [IISD RS Coverage of Side Events]

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