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Thursday 6 - Friday 7 December - Hungry City 2012, a conference organised by the International Urban Food Network, with IDDRI as one of its partners.
IUFN brings together for the first time in France representatives of local and regional authorities, international scientists and policy makers supporting innovative projects for a sustainable food security.
Tuesday 18 December - Taking action against ocean acidification, a session of the Sustainable Development and Environmental Economics Seminar, led by Raphaël Billé, Jean-Pierre Gattuso and Ryan Kelly.
Ocean acidification has emerged as one of the largest threats to marine organisms and ecosystems. However, most research efforts have so far neglected management and related policy issues to focus instead on understanding the ecological and biogeochemical implications of ocean acidification.
Expert ambiguity in Hyderabad
The 11th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which was held from 8 to 19 October in Hyderabad (India), was presented as a return to normality after the somewhat unusual publicity surrounding the previous conference in Nagoya in 2010. It was the opportunity to take stock of the "Nagoya legacy", and was to enable limited but necessary progress to be made on several important subjects.
As is the case during every COP, a large number of subjects were addressed and many decisions made. However, these decisions (33 in total, covering 192 pages), do little to mask the increasing difficulty of making any kind of progress in the multilateral governance of biodiversity. The discussions on the future implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), which was concluded in 2010, were limited to procedural aspects. But a third meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Nagoya Protocol will take place prior to COP12, and the negotiations will continue on: the creation of a Global Multilateral Benefit Sharing Mechanism (for example to share the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources in transboundary situations); the adoption of institutional mechanisms to promote the protocol; and the operation of the ABS clearing house (to monitor bioprospecting activities, for example). These substantial difficulties already encountered during the negotiation of the text itself, and not yet resolved, are bound to jeopardise the rapid and effective implementation of the protocol after its entry into force.
Monitoring of the Strategic Plan 2011-2020, also adopted in Nagoya, and of its 20 goals for 2020 (known as the "Aichi Targets", has revealed the limited progress made so far. Even the creation of a system of common indicators seems to be an almost overwhelming task today for the international community (only 22 of the 98 indicators proposed are considered ready for use after two years of work). As for the governance of high seas biodiversity, it was the subject of tough negotiations in Hyderabad, recalling once again that a certain number of countries believe this authority has no legitimacy to address these issues. Departing slightly from the procedure it had itself set in Nagoya concerning Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs), the COP eventually transmitted to the United Nations General Assembly, without adopting them, the results of three regional workshops to enable the description of these areas. When we consider that this is a strictly scientific process, whose potential legal consequences have not even been outlined, we can imagine the obstacles to come.
But although Hyderabad was, as usual, presented as a success, this was primarily because of the last minute agreement reached on the "weakest link" of the Nagoya deal: the Strategy for Resource Mobilisation. It was thus agreed that international financial flows for biodiversity protection would be doubled by 2015 relative to the 2006-2010 average. Analysis of the negotiations and the resulting decision XI/4 is, however, far from confirming this "victory". On the contrary, the decision accurately reflects the incompatible positions of developed and developing countries. Using an expertly ambiguous language, combining public finance linked to development assistance and private finance linked to undefined mechanisms and stakeholders, the agreement reached relieves the Parties of their responsibilities by setting collective targets which States are not actually obliged to meet. The goal of ratifying in Hyderabad a framework for the measurement and communication of financial flows was quietly betrayed—a "temporary” and "flexible" framework was retained—with serious implications: in reality, we do not know which amounts are to be doubled. Finally, while the issue of financial resources constrained all the decisions made in Hyderabad (the expression "subject to the availability of resources" appears 18 times in the final text), to cap it all, progress in terms of financial resource mobilisation is itself conditioned by the availability of financial resources.
What is the outcome of Hyderabad? "We avoided disaster and kept up the Nagoya dynamics", said some. "We were standing still and sometimes even slipping backwards", said others. If we compare the results obtained to the objectives set for this 11th COP, we can in fact regard the glass as either half full (decisions were made on all subjects where they were needed, and new meetings in the coming months will help to prepare other decisions), or half empty (instead of making headway, each of the important subjects just got more bogged down). If we take a more detached view of the progress made in terms of the human and financial resources mobilised, we are inevitably more severe: as with Rio+20 last June and the climate negotiations over the last few years, Hyderabad served far more to dissipate energy than to create the momentum for change that is becoming increasingly urgent as a result of the alarming state of biodiversity.
Could things be any different? Not if we insist on trying to answer questions, such as that of finance, which are fundamentally poorly formulated. Mobilising a few more billions, even in a time of crisis, would not be a problem if there were no doubts about the gravity of the situation and if people had faith in the effectiveness of action. But trying harder to fill a bucket with a hole made in it by line losses and the hundreds of billions of euros allocated every year to biodiversity harmful economic activities is not the solution. Other negotiating tracks are possible, however, which would focus political attention on a small number of better selected subjects for the implementation of the Strategic Plan. The work on the indicators to monitor the 2020 targets would certainly be one of these. Indeed, the major advantage of these targets is that they concern not only the state of biodiversity, but also the drivers of its loss. Well-designed indicators would make it possible to implement this approach: far from being a purely technical task, this kind of effort would provide clear foundations for discussions that are lacking today. It would also enable a constructive discussion on finance, which is currently a convenient veil concealing the decline of work on the targets, and therefore the really sensitive issues.