Tuesday, December 6, 2022 — CARICOM delegates head to Montreal, Canada, for the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) (COP15) gearing up to create targets on biodiversity for the next decade.
The Conference, from December 7-19, will be held under the Presidency of China. Importantly, the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) is expected to be adopted during this second phase of the conference.
Over the last six months, the CARICOM Secretariat under the Capacity Building Related to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (ACP MEAs) Phase III Project worked with the Caribbean Biodiversity Focal Points and other partners to prepare for effective participation in the negotiations and other priorities under the Convention. The ACP MEAs Project is an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States funded by the European Union.
Biodiversity is the foundation of the global economy. More than half of global GDP – equal to US$ 41.7 trillion – is dependent on the healthy functioning of the natural world. Ninety-five percent of the food we eat is produced in the soil, yet up to 40% of the world’s land is severely degraded by unsustainable agricultural practices. Eighteen percent of total GDP for most CARICOM countries comes from agriculture. Our current reality sets a challenge before us that are well known as we continue to grapple with our economic, social and environmental vulnerabilities. It is timely as a Community that we re-examine our relationship with nature recognising that, despite all our advances we will always remain dependent on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for our water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter and energy.
International conflict continues to exacerbate the existing food, energy, climate and finance crisis. Here in the Caribbean, we are feeling the consequences of this conflict, deriving even more urgency in our actions to be more food and energy secure in a way that is in harmony with the Caribbean’s unique biodiversity.
The CARICOM Secretariat used this year as an optimal opportunity to promote an urgency of action at the highest levels, in support of a post-2020 biodiversity framework that will contribute to the re-shaping of the Region’s vision for biodiversity.
CARICOM’s Delegates and Biodiversity Focal Points heading to COP15.2 share their expectations for the upcoming meetings:
Antigua and Barbuda
“In anticipation for the upcoming meetings in Montreal in December, Antigua and Barbuda emphasises the importance of having a Global Biodiversity Framework that takes into account the vulnerabilities of the Small Island Developing States. We are seeing increasing destruction in our islands that can be directly linked to the loss of critical biodiversity and ecosystems. While we are hopeful that the GBF can be finalised, we also note that without adequate financing, resource mobilisation, capacity building and technology transfer as well as a sufficient means of implementation, the GBF will not be effective in halting and reversing biodiversity loss. Access to these resources via the GBF will support our capacity to collect data consistently which would inform which activities are effective to implement targets under the GBF.
We also hope to see the finalisation of the recognition of Digital Sequencing Information (DSI) as a genetic resource. We will, at this meeting, insist on the retention of the language related to DSI in applicable goals and targets or the GBF as well as the finalisation of a Benefit Sharing Mechanism allowing developing countries to benefit from the utilisation of their genetic resources including DSI.”
“The Bahamas, like most countries in the Caribbean region, possess some of the most unique terrestrial and marine ecosystems in the world. We identify with many of the issues met by our regional counterparts, in that we are most susceptible to biodiversity loss, and other negative impacts that plague our natural environment and most sensitive ecosystems.
The Bahamas seeks to demonstrate a sustained willingness for dialogue during these negotiations in order to reach consensus, which we hope is reached by the end of COP-15. It is our hope that we arrive at a Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) that guides us toward the 2050 vision. The Bahamas fully supports a Post 2020-GBF with goals and targets that are clear, concise and achievable by all Parties. We also wish to see a GBF that fully incorporates the guiding principles of the Convention, but also integrates and captures the regional and national priorities and circumstances of each Party.
For us, the most critical discussions revolve around: means of implementation, resource mobilisation, access and benefit sharing, capacity building and technology transfer, technical and scientific cooperation, impacts to local communities, and the active role of women and youth in biodiversity, among other necessary enabling conditions.
We have concluded rounds and rounds of negotiations on the GBF in Nairobi, Kenya and in Geneva, Switzerland. Therefore, The Bahamas is hopeful that negotiations at COP-15 will be productive and results are resolute, impartial and meaningful. The Bahamas recognises and understands that Biodiversity is declining and actions should be taken by all Parties to ensure there are no delays in the adoption of the Post-2020 GBF, as it will set us on a path towards achieving the 2050 vision of “Living in Harmony with Nature”.
“We need for a balanced outcome that reflects the progress done with the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and work programme under all three pillars of the Convention (Conservation, Sustainable use and Access and Benefit Sharing)”, Grenada’s Senior Delegate Aria St Louis posits.
The Region remains concerned about implementation and in this light, unpacking “means of implementation” and access to resources will be a key part of the discussions and draft decisions being tabled. Means of implementation raises discussions on the gap in biodiversity finance which was identified as a stumbling block to achieving the Aichi targets.
Climate is a driver of biodiversity loss and so looking at targets and decision language that ramps up biodiversity conservation and restoration with positive spin off benefits for carbon capture and storage is another area where we anticipate and support action. Ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from genetic resources is a complex but important issue linked to biosafety opportunities.”
Trinidad and Tobago
“Parties will demonstrate political will and agree on some form of a Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). They will also agree on further financial support to ensure that the new set of targets are both ambitious and achievable. The resultant Post 2020 GBF will lead to improved collaborations by all stakeholders. Only a whole of government/society approach can ensure the effective implementation of the future GBF.
Coming out of the approval of the Post-2020 GBF I believe that there will be stronger collaborations between the global North and South. This will be as a result of the increased funds that will be available from the more developed countries to developing countries, to ensure the necessary means to implement the global framework.”
In addressing CARICOM negotiators during the region’s preparatory process, CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General Joseph Cox reiterated the significance of this COP as delegates take up the challenges of negotiating national and regional positions that will lay out the next 10 years of biodiversity targets. There have been two sets of targets that we have not been able to meet; therefore, setting out the next set of very ambitious targets is critical.
CARICOM’s input to the post-GBF is of paramount importance as there will be many distractions due to the end of year celebrations and competing events It was noted that the official text is expected to be signed off by December 17, on the eve of the FIFA World Cup final in Qatar, and right after the Climate Change COP27 in Egypt. However, it is optimistic and encouraging to note that the message and awareness of the climate and biodiversity crisis cannot be ignored as we continue to live and see for ourselves how important these global agreements are.