The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) held a webinar at the midway point of the UN Biodiversity Conference where the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) team discussed progress in the talks achieved thus far, and provided an assessment of possible outcomes in the second week of the conference, based on the trajectory of negotiations.

Noting that the UN Biodiversity Conference has been delayed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Elsa Tsioumani, ENB team leader, said the event comprises the meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the meeting of the parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and the meeting of the parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing. She said the aim of the Conference is to reverse the current trend of biodiversity loss and to agree on a post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF), which is to replace the Aichi Biodiversity Targets that were unsuccessful and expired in 2010.

Among the early successes, Tsioumani highlighted the adoption of decisions on several, mostly technical matters during a stocktaking plenary on 10 December, including:

  • review of progress in the implementation of the Convention and the Strategic Plan;
  • sustainable wildlife management;
  • in-depth dialogue under, and development of a new work programme on, Article 8(j) (traditional knowledge);
  • review of the effectiveness of processes under the Convention and its Protocols; and
  • informing the GBF scientific and technical evidence base.

She also highlighted several decisions adopted under the Protocols, including compliance, monitoring and reporting, and socioeconomic considerations under the Cartagena Protocol and compliance, monitoring and reporting, and capacity building and awareness raising under the Nagoya Protocol.

Tsioumani noted that while the stocktaking plenary acknowledged that the Working Groups are close to finalizing their work, more controversial issues are still being negotiated in contact groups and other informal groups, including the GBF, marine and coastal biodiversity, and digital sequence information (DSI) – an issue that has also been the subject of controversy in the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), and negotiations on an international legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).

For the Conference to be considered a success, Tsioumani explained, agreement would need to be reached on four issues: the GBF; resource mobilization; DSI; and monitoring and review.

On the GBF, she said the most recent text includes multiple unresolved issues under every target.

Regarding resource mobilization, Tsioumani said developing countries, which host most of the world’s biodiversity, argue that without funding and means of implementation, the GBF cannot be implemented, with the African Group and other developing countries supporting the creation of a global biodiversity fund. Developed countries, she noted, prefer supporting the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) activities to promote biodiversity-related actions.

She said developing countries call for an agreement on benefit-sharing from DSI use.

With respect to monitoring and review, Tsioumani noted that implementation and compliance have been problematic as the CBD has no enforcement mechanism. She said there is “some agreement” on establishing a global mechanism to review implementation of the GBF to promote and enhance its implementation.

Among the cross-cutting issues that need to be addressed, Tsioumani identified: the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs); marine and coastal biodiversity; and synthetic biology and other emerging technologies.

Responding to questions and observations from the audience, she acknowledged:

  • An “overwhelming” amount of work that delegates feel remains to be done;
  • Controversies surrounding the “30 by 30” target on protected areas, noting issues around who will have control over them and who will provide resources, among others;
  • An opportunity to reflect a human rights-based approach;
  • Bracketed text on ecosystem-based approaches and nature-based solutions in the GBF non-paper;
  • Common ground on establishing a mechanism for benefit-sharing from DSI use;
  • Existing mechanisms to promote integration of climate change and biodiversity governance; and
  • The potential for “watering down” the GBF to enable consensus, noting that international agreements are “the lowest common denominator,” and it is up to the governments to implement more ambitious targets.

As negotiations continue, Tsioumani stressed it is too soon to tell whether the Conference will be a success. [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources] [COP 15 Halfway Point Webinar] [ENB Coverage of UN Biodiversity Conference]