Policy updates from day four of the Conference
by Mariana Calderon
This morning, now the fifth day of the conference, I realized that there is no way I can follow everything I am interested in, nor everything that I see as most crucial to follow. Took me a while…However, with the help of the marvelous Earth Negotiation Bulletins, and by attending the CBD Alliance briefings and GYBN daily meetings, I've been able to get an overall view of the proceedings.
The pace seems to have picked up in the last couple days — yesterday (day 4 of the COP) even saw the adoption of a few decisions. However, with some exceptions (as with the Global Taxonomy Inititive decision, which passed through with flying colors), this progress does not signify that there is a lack of dissent in negotiations. Discussions in the Working Groups and in the smaller Contact Groups and Friends of the Chair meetings have led to some frustration for both observers and delegates.
CBD COP11 Day Four:
In Working Group I, delegates discussing biofuels and biodiversity stressed the importance of the precautionary approach, and expressed concerns about the negative impacts of biofuels on biodiversity, including the loss of food crops, increased water scarcity, and subsidies leading to monocrops. However, when concerned countries expressed interest in re-opening the text to address these issues, Canada immediately showed some muscle and reminded delegates, with a detailed listing of its compromises so far, that it was still more than wiling to move backwards on those compromises, if unbalancing the text was to be the goal of the session. Although Canada was correct in stressing how delicately balanced the text on biofuels had become, the aggressive approach discomfited both those countries which had expressed reservations and the many NGOs observing the proceedings.
In Working Group II, under discussions addressing operations of the Convention, countries debated options for language regarding new and emerging issues. The focus of the discussion shifted quickly when several countries and NGOs supported language initiating a process for the consideration of synthetic biology. Citing the precautionary approach, countries urged for text creating a moratorium on the release of the products of synthetic biology, while opposing States preferred to delete the reference. The Third World Network, in a joint statement with Friends of the Earth and ETC group, warned that if the CBD avoided addressing synthetic biology now, we would soon be dealing not with the "new and emerging issue," but with the resulting serious and irreversible damage caused by our neglect.
Thursday also saw the establishment of break-off groups on contentious issues. The most central issues revolved around finance; the Contact Group for the Strategy on Resource Mobilization and the Friends of the Chair Group on the Financial Mechanism consisted of the most high-level negotiators from many countries. Freed from past heavy negotiation on the Nagoya Protocol itself, these negotiators have been able to turn their attention to the third and perhaps most crucial element of the "Nagoya Package" — how to finance work under the CBD. However, little progress has been made in either group.
In the Friends of the Chair Group on Financial Mechinisms (largely dealing with the Global Environment Facility), much of the discussion has been taken up by debates on how to proceed. With the chair of the group unsure how to respond to contradictory opinions by countries on whether or not he had been given permission to open the text, the first meeting was forced to break until further consultation with the WGII Chair could be had.
In the Resource Mobilization Contact Group, the most vocal parties found themselves siding with one of two points of view: Developing countries generally are pushing for an "interim" decision on baselines and targets so that progress on implementation can begin; Several have repeatedly stated that committments had already been made in Nagoya, and that it is pointless to continue to dance around the issue when implementation is urgently needed. Others, most notably the E.U., hold that there is no point in making targets until more infomation is available and baselines can be firmly established. As Christine von Weizsäcker noted in the CBD Alliance meeting, negotiations on resource mobilization have turned into a vicious cycle of arguing for establishing baselines so that solid resources ($) can be sought to increase capacity for monitoring on countries' implementation of the strategy, so that we can establish baselines. Negotiations on this particular topic are not necessarily being driven by environmental ministries, but rather by State ministries of finance back at home, meaning that there will likely be many semi-polite and circular battles to come in the next week.
More updates soon on the state of things at the end of week 1