More than 160 countries committed themselves at the 13th biodiversity summit in Mexico. What are the most important milestones?
This convention was the main outcome of the famous UN Rio conference on sustainable development in 1992. It aims at the protection of biodiversity, stimulating its sustainable use and catering for a fair and equitables sharing of benefits arising from the access and utilization of genetic resources (some plants, animals, bacteria and fungi show characteristics useful for medecine, cosmetica or agriculture).
This year’s summit aimed at encouraging the sectors forestry, fisheries, agriculture and tourism to better integrate biodiversity protection in their economic activities. Ministers responsible for these important sectors agreed on 15 action points, summarized in the Cancun Declaration. Other important objectives of the COP13 are:
- The recent IPBES assessment on pollinators should be a guidance for a more sustainable agriculture;
- Forestry is urged to take more care of biodiversity;
- Ecosystem restoration becomes more important on the global agenda;
- More attention for the Ecologically and Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs), also in coldwater regions. Improved practical guidelines should be developed for waste management and recycling in order to avoid marine debris, and more research is needed on the impact of underwater noise on marine mammals;
- Traditional knowledge should be better protected and used with consent of local and indigenous communities;
- The ‘Global Environmental Fund’ (GEF) should the coming 4 years be strategically advised to resplenish its funds, with the recognition that financing for biodiversity in developing countries should be doubled.
The host country Mexico set the positive tone by opening the conference with its ambitious plan to set aside huge parts of its marine area under protection. By doing so, Mexico achieved one of he most efficient of the 20 Aichi targets of the global biodiversity strategy: the protection of at least 17% terrestrial area and 10% marine area.
Moreover, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed on a memorandum of understanding with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF Interational) to cooperate more closely and better include the highly acclaimed ‘Living Planet’ annual reports of WWF in the global discussion about the decrease of biodiversity and the conservation of fauna and flora.
The Convention will systematically link to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate agreement (2015). In both global agendas a better protection of biodiversity plays a crucial role.
Bronze for Our Institute
Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, dr. Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, was rather positive in his statements. Although the 2020 targets are still far from being reached, the international community made significant positive steps since the last COP12 in Korea (2014). Knowledge and management of the biodiversity is improved, while decision and policy makers are more aware of biodiversity. Awareness campaigns, according to Dias, start having effect.
The COP13 developed a detailed action plan for short term capacity building about the Aichi targets. To achieve this, an extensive international network, the Clearing House Mechanism, exchanges information on biodiversity and encourages cooperation between countries. Through the CEBioS programme, supported by the Belgian Development Cooperation, and executed by the Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences, Belgium plays an important role in this network. Since 1999 Belgium develops a network of partner countries in the developing world for promoting the Clearing House Mechanism, and received a bronze award at the COP13 summit. Seven of its partner countries also received a honorary mention.
Text: Luc Janssens de Bisthoven (RBINS, CEBioS)