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Friday, September 29, 2023

Biodiversity negotiations: Experts weigh in on priorities, demand robust framework agreement

Against the backdrop of the ongoing UN Convention on Biodiversity’s third and last round of negotiations holding in Geneva, Switzerland, conservationists and Indigenous leaders have been commenting about urgent priorities at the negotiations.

Brian O’Donnell
Brian O’Donnell, Director, Campaign for Nature

At a media session on Monday, March 14, 2022, they expressed wide ranging views bothering on 30×30, rights of indigenous peoples, and finance.

KM Reyes, Co-Founder & Advisor of the Centre for Sustainability, Philippines, said: “So, for these negotiations in Geneva to bear any impact for frontline conservationists like myself, we need a robust post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework Agreement. What does this mean? The framework must expand conservation to follow the science and ensure a target of a minimum of protecting 30% of global land and waters by 2030, explicitly respecting the Free and Prior Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples (IPLCs) and local communities, and ensure the framework commits to directly funding IPLCs to lead biodiversity protection.

“Not only are IPLCs the best conservationists of biodiversity, but we are also the most cost effective. Currently, 91% of Indigenous lands representing 32% of global lands remain in good-to-moderate ecological condition, and Indigenous Peoples protect a whopping 85% of global biodiversity. However, IPLC groups spend a fraction, between 16 and 23% of the budget the global conservation institutions do on land conservation, while delivering the same outcomes.

“There’s finally identification and recognition of their contributions, and there’s also now real talk about actually putting money there. That, I think, is a huge sign of hope that we’ve never had before. As a frontline conservationist who’s been working with indigenous communities for so long, I’ve never had these conversations just openly in this kind of way.”

Valerie Courtois, Indigenous Leadership Initiative, Canada: “In fact, in many ways we can achieve what we’re calling reconciliation goals at the same time as achieving those goals around conservation. And of course, our very identity, everything that we are as people depends on our landscapes and waterscapes. And so, we are very much in line with doing that. In fact, the opportunity for achieving the targets has led to Canada making significant investments in Indigenous-led conservation.

“Our Prime Minister has recognised that the only way that Canada is going to achieve its contribution to the global target is by enabling Indigenous leadership in conservation and stewardship. So, this is indeed, and from my perspective, a real opportunity to do things right. Now, keeping in mind that Canada is in its entirety Indigenous, that the country of Canada was built upon 51 First Nations, 634 communities, 51 Inuit communities, 4 Inuit regions, and countless Métis nations and communities. And so, it’s really important for Canada to move forward, to do that in a rights-entitled based context.”

Brian O’Donnell, Director, Campaign for Nature, said: “It’s important that the global target to protect 30% of the planet by 2030 is done in a rights-based manner that respects the leadership of Indigenous Peoples and local communities who have been among the best stewards of nature globally and whose territories house most of the world concentrations of biodiversity. We at Campaign for Nature are advocating that the target includes specific language for prior and informed consent so that it’s added to ensure that a rights-based approach to conservation is enshrined within the area-based conservation target.

“Currently the world spends billions and billions of dollars on subsidies that are harmful to nature. Subsidies that prop up the fossil fuel industry, that promote unsustainable industrial-scale agriculture and fishing. And those are issues that need to be reformed, and those resources should be allocated instead towards the conservation of nature.

“We also know that wealthy nations, those that have an outsized impact on biodiversity loss through the high levels of consumption and resource use have an extra responsibility in providing more resources for the conservation of biodiversity. We believe that much of this resource, as academics have shown, about 30% of the impact of biodiversity loss in the developing world can be traced back to international trade.

“So, we think that the same percentage of resources should go into sustainable finance for the conservation of nature. We are calling for $60 billion as a target for wealthy nations to provide developing nations as a resource mobilisation target in the form of grants to make sure that these resources are provided without strings attached and to make sure no new debts are incurred.

“It is important to note that there are many countries that do not respect Indigenous rights, and the world has a lot to do. We see frontline defenders killed in places throughout the world. And so, for this framework to be successful, not only do we need these global targets, but we need countries to respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples to increase land titling, to increase their sovereignty and to fund resources for their conservation efforts. So, this is an area where this framework we hope can advance and make these targets global, but we also need to make sure that countries that have not respected Indigenous rights are held to standards to do that.”

Walter Jetz, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, said: “There is strong evidence that a minimum of 30% of the world’s lands and oceans and freshwater, if possible, should be safeguarded as a minimum target so we can address the extinction crisis. So, we need these targets. We need the 30% target. We should strive for more. We should have an ambition of ultimately to protect up to half of the planet.

“This is not a time for small measures. Nature does need us to be ambitious in this framework. There is abundant scientific evidence that a 30 by 30 target is needed now to stop the extinction crisis.

“We need more action in some parts of the world than in others in order to prevent wholesale species extinctions going forward that ultimately then will impact the whole planet, the function of the whole planet. So, it’s great to see initiatives for particularly important ecosystems.

“In February 2022, a new poll conducted in the biodiverse-rich nations of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines – three of the world’s 17 mega biodiverse countries – revealed overwhelming support for a global target to protect at least 30% of the planet’s land and ocean by 2030. Almost all respondents – 96% in Malaysia, 98% in Indonesia and 95% in the Philippines – support the global goal, and 84% of Malaysians, 94% of Indonesians and 85% of Filipinos want their respective governments to also support the global target.”

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