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UN Biological Diversity Convention: time is running out!


Nagoya, Japan - Today, the UN  Biological Diversity Convention in Japan has started on its second and last week. The aim to agree on ambitious global targets for the coming decade will be challenging; success is uncertain. The pace of the negotiations is slow.

This Conference is possibly the most important summit on biodiversity of this decade. The aim of this meeting is to formulate global targets for the year 2020, to stop the loss off nature and species biodiversity (see the targets in the last version of the Strategic Plan).

Several presentations at and just before this summit have highlighted the alarming loss of natural areas and biodiversity. Examples are the IUCN-led studies on the loss of freshwater biodiversity and the study of Wetlands International on the status of the world’s waterbirds 2010..


Blockades for approving the 2020 targets

The major challenge during these weeks is the issue on access and benefit sharing regarding biodiversity. This subject deals with the use of genetic material from, for instance a rainforest area for developing a new medicine or food product. The question to resolve is if and how a country or community area where this genetic material comes from, will get a share of the revenues.

Developing countries like Brazil or from Africa demand an agreement on a legally binding protocol before approving any biodiversity targets for 2020 at all.  


A similar conflict is about the issue of financing. Developing countries, organised in the G77 demand clarity on financial support for biodiversity measures before approving targets for 2020.


Discussions about the draft targets for 2020

The so-called strategic plan” with 20 targets for 2020 is also still under negotiation. To the frustration of for instance the European Union, draft texts that were approved at the last CBD meetings in Nairobi are again opened up again for changes. Main issues:

Species loss

A target has been formulated to prevent the loss of endangered species and to improve the conservation status of threatened species. This clear goal now needs to be translated into clear accountable actions for individual countries to truly stop the loss in biological diversity.


Ecosystem loss

The level of ambition to reduce the loss of ecosystems is still under negotiation. It is though clear that this target will mainly aim to address the conversion of ecosystems, not their degradation. This is a sad outcome as many areas suffer from heavy degradation due, for example to over-harvesting of wood, overgrazing or  drainage. Many areas, although still classified as, for example, wetland, or forest have lost most of their natural values. In many cases restoration is feasible and worthwhile.  The incentive to reduce these stresses is minimal as long as the target just focuses on absolute loss only.  

Protected areas

The discussion on how much of terrestrial, inland or marine areas should be protected is still ongoing. The agreed formulation is not to only count protected areas, but also all ‘area based conservation measures’. The risk with this formulation is that any area with a minimal level of conservation could be counted towards achieving this target – and yet still progressively degrade.

Climate change

A clear and potentially ambitious target has been agreed on restoring 15% of all degraded areas to enhance their role in terms of climate resilience and carbon storage. Dependent on the definition of the word ‘degraded’, this target could help the efforts to restore for instance degraded mangrove forests or the deforested peatswamps in Southeast Asia.

Water and biodiversity

Still negotiations are taking place on the role of biodiversity and ecosystems for water provision and regulation; and on water for biodiversity.

Kemi Seesink, Wetlands International” Water and biodiversity is a sensitive issue as many countries see water as a national matter. Many do not want to touch the sensitive international dimension of transboundary water such as the impact of the loss of upland marshes and lakes for countries downstream”.

A draft text on ecosystem services mentions the role of ecosystems for water. It is a small step to get water on the agenda of the Convention.

The complete picture on the final and approved targets will remain unclear till the end of the conference. Even then, important rounds of negotiations will follow to make the abstract targets measurable, with clear commitments for individual countries.

Alex Kaat, Wetlands International: “Ambitious, approved targets on biodiversity are crucial to commit countries to actions for saving biodiversity. Biodiversity loss at this moment is now posing risks to society through reduced services such as food and water security”.

In Nagoya, Japan:

Wetlands International

Alex Kaat

+31 (0)6 5060 1917 (mobile)

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