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Spending on biodiversity is not a cost but an investment

Convention on Biological Diversity’s Dias talks on hurdles to achieving the Aichi targets
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First Published: Thu, Oct 11 2012. 05 52 PM IST
Diaz says he expects a decision to be take on setting targets for resource mobilization at the COP 11 summit in Hyderabad. Photo: Kumar/Mint
Diaz says he expects a decision to be take on setting targets for resource mobilization at the COP 11 summit in Hyderabad. Photo: Kumar/Mint
The 11th Conference of the Parties (CoP 11) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad is being keenly watched across the world. Delegates representing 193 nations aim to set the momentum for implementation of the “Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020” agreed at CoP 10 held in Nagoya, Japan, two years ago.
The plan, referred to as the Nagoya Protocol, consists of 20 specific targets known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets to be achieved by 2020. These include reducing the rate of loss of natural habitats by half, conserving 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas, 10% of marine and coastal areas, and restoration of biodiversity by up to 15% to name a few.
The convention faces two major challenges. One is getting at least 50 ratifications to make the Nagoya Protocol legal; as of now, only six countries have ratified the protocol, out of 92 that are committed to its ratification. The second challenge is mobilizing funds for implementation at a time when the world is going through an economic slump.
The man at the helm of affairs—Braulio Ferreira De Souza Dias , executive secretary to the Convention on Biological Diversity—said in an interview that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome. Dias, a CBD veteran from Brazil, said there was a cost attached to “inaction”. If countries fail to implement targets, it will be a “very bad show of lack of global commitment,” he said. Edited excerpts:
How optimistic are you on achieving the Aichi targets?
It’s a big challenge. There is no guarantee unless we can upscale the initiatives and mainstream biodiversity into the broader developmental agendas in each country.
Are the targets really achievable given the limited time you have?
I think they are achievable. Developing countries have to face a number of other competing needs. So we need to enhance infrastructure, build roads, ports, new sources of energy and expand production of agriculture. So that’s a reality. It would be feasible to reduce by 50%. That would be a huge achievement. I can give you the example of my country, Brazil. The Brazilian government coordinated its effort to combat deforestation. Since 2005, the rate of deforestation has been decreasing consistently. Between 2005 and last year, there was a reduction by 80%. So, in less than 10 years, we managed to reduce by 80%. If Brazil can do it—I am not talking about a small area, I am talking about the Amazon, the largest forest in the world. So we believe other countries can do it.
What could be expected out the ongoing CoP 11 in Hyderabad?
The main task for CoP 11 is to review the implementation of the strategic plan that was adopted two years ago in Nagoya that includes the 20 Aichi targets and come up with decisions that will help the implementation of all those commitments that were made 20 years ago. We are talking about the mobilization of financial resources; we would expect a decision on setting targets for resource mobilization that would clearly indicate there is commitment on the part from all countries, in particular from developed countries.
It’s not just the issue of money; it’s an issue of providing every country with the best tools to implement those targets. That means we need to do better in terms of exchange of experiences so that countries can learn more from the experiences of others. And I can give you an example here from India. India is one of the few countries, as is my country Brazil, that has established a national legislation on access and benefit sharing.
How much of funding do you require to implement the targets you have set?
There is no single number. There are only estimates. We didn’t ask any country how much they need. Most of the countries still don’t know how much it will cost them because they haven’t finalized their national strategies. We did a top-down approach and for some targets it will not cost much in terms of money but there will be a political cost. Because, for example, to make a reform of an economic instrument, it doesn’t cost much but it costs politically. You have to negotiate with the different sections of the society that benefit from the current economic instrument. Others are the opposite—they have a very high cost of implementation.
For some targets like protecting areas or ecosystem restoration, the cost can be very high. The highest figure we have is $600 billion. That’s the cost to expand the current area protected system globally in terrestrial and marine areas (and) also to ensure full implementation of protected areas.
Will resource mobilization be challenging amid the economic slowdown?
Yes, we are reeling under a global economic slowdown; but at the same time, parties need to understand that spending money on biodiversity should not be seen as a cost. It has to be seen as an investment. They will have returns. The returns should be made clear to the societies. As we achieve those Aichi targets, there will be environmental, social and economic benefits. So we need to make those issues more clear. And, there is a cost of not doing anything, a cost of inaction, because then problems will get bigger, and it will cost the society in the future much more to fight all these problems.
Don’t you think CBD is also going the way of climate change conventions, bringing out the rift between developed and developing nations?
We started like that... CBD negotiations started with the understanding that there was a divide between developing and developed world.
In the past, it was very unfair because most countries that are currently rich, they became rich because they exploited natural resources in their colonies in developing countries. So we have to change that.
It took us many years of negotiations but two years ago we made a breakthrough and agreed on the Nagoya Protocol. No one can say anymore that we have no agreed rules though the Nagoya Protocol (can) not be legally enforced before 50 countries ratify.
India took over the presidency of CBD from Japan for the next two years. What kind of role do you expect from India ?
Each presidency is different. There is not a recipe. What we expect is leadership from India to guide us in implementation. I think the Indian government has the commitment to take up that leadership. I am expecting that during the high-level segment; we will receive news from the Indian government on how they see their leadership, in what areas they will be committing themselves.
You said you are cautiously optimistic but if there is a hiccup in meeting the 2020 target, how do you see the situation?
The situation will get worse. More people will be impacted, mostly the poor because the poor are the ones who are most dependent on biodiversity. We lose biodiversity, they are first once to be impacted; so that’s the very unfortunate result. The cost to fix the problem in the future will be much higher. And also it will be a very bad show of lack of international commitment.
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First Published: Thu, Oct 11 2012. 05 52 PM IST