Sunday, October 31, 2010

Global* agreement is possible

But is global action?
The recent international Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya ended with a historic agreement signed by over 200 nations.* Over the last few months, the convention had frequently been compared to the (largely) failed climate change convention held in Copenhagen at the end of last year.

However, unlike Copenhagen, there was (ultimately) agreement in Nagoya to slow the loss of biodiversity through increasing the area of the globe's surface that is protected from exploitation. Currently, thirteen percent of land and one percent of coastal and marine areas are protected, but these figures are to rise to seventeen and ten percent respectively. There was also a breakthrough agreements on how genetic information is handled, which has been seen as good news for developing countries (on the whole).

This is heartening, however, critics point to lack of funding to back up these targets. Amidst the celebrations over the achievements of this convention, it is sobering to remember that agreements made at the previous convention in 2002 have been largely ignored by governments over the last eight years.

The last two weeks have demonstrated that global* agreement on crucial ecological matters is still possible after Copenhagen. The question that remains is: how attainable is genuine global action?

*CORRECTION: When I said "global" agreement, I was only speaking of the 200-odd nations who signed the merely voluntary agreement. Of course I wasn't referring to the three micro-nations who have either not signed or not ratified the original 1992 convention and so are not a formal part of this process: Andorra, the Holy See, and the United States of America.
Image by MLS.


byron smith said...

It gets worse: George Monbiot points out that (a) no copies of the agreement are yet available (b) nothing binding has been signed (c) only five heads of state turned up and a third of countries didn't even bother to send a minister [including Oz] and (d) it doesn't include the US.

"It strikes me that governments are determined to protect not the marvels of our world but the world-eating system to which they are being sacrificed"

byron smith said...

More Monbiot (same piece): "It suits governments to let us trash the planet. It's not just that big business gains more than it loses from converting natural wealth into money. A continued expansion into the biosphere permits states to avoid addressing issues of distribution and social justice: the promise of perpetual growth dulls our anger about widening inequality. By trampling over nature we avoid treading on the toes of the powerful."

byron smith said...

More criticisms:
• Although the specificity of the targets is good, double the area is probably needed to halt or slow biodiversity loss.
• Not all protected areas are equal.
• Although it is better than the agreement in 2002, as it stands, it is unlikely to halt or slow biodiversity loss even if implemented as the agreement "is process heavy, unenforceable, slow, and a bit too flexible."
• "Scientists estimate the [current] loss of biodiversity between 5,000 and 30,000 species a year."
• "target to halt habitat loss by 50% is not adequate"
• Lack of funding.
• National focus obscures possible role of international institutions.
• "even if most of the CBD 2010 agreement's goals are met—which would prove a huge success—it's hard to imagine overall biodiversity will stabilize. The threats against the world's species are so large—climate change, deforestation, and invasive species among others—that if the fight to save life on the Earth is to succeed, it will not only take many more decades of strategic, smart, and large-scale action, but massive changes in how global society currently operates [...]."

byron smith said...

Guardian: only 14 of 193 countries have acted on the agreements at Nagoya.

I wish the article would name names.