Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Words and values

As I was reading yesterday on the website of the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) "Moving toward Nagoya", an overview of preparations for the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in which the author Brooks Shaffer discusses whether the failure of the international community to come to grips with the challenges of biodiversity conservation has got something to do with a lack of attraction for the word biodiversity in the general public and by extension among lawmakers, I remembered that I have an old shirt with the words "Halt the loss of Biodiversity" written under an IUCN Countdown 2010 logo.

With all due respect, I must confess that when they kindly gave me this shirt in 2004 at the IUCN Congress in Bangkok, I thought "Halt the loss of Biodiversity" sounded like a phrase produced by a group of policy nerds speaking to themselves rather than a slogan to impact on the wider world. I'm glad thus to see now on the IUCN Countdown website that they've replaced the words "Halt the loss of Biodiversity" by "Save Biodiversity". Even though Save Life on Earth would be more to the point, in my opinion. The natural capital or assets meltdown analogy which many allude to since the 2008 financial market crisis is good too. But Save Life catches it all, I think. And in terms of public mobilization, it's hard to find a more praiseworthy and exciting goal.

Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 was a reference to the so-called biodiversity target Heads of State and Government at the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) had endorsed in 2002, whereby at the end of the decade the trend of biodiversity loss would be reversed. Alas, no-one needed to wait for the recent publication of UNEP's
3rd Global Biodiversity Outlook to find out that the opposite happened.

It was to highlight the 2010 target that the United Nations designated this year the International Year of Biodiversity. The Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan (18-29 October) will be preceded by a special high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York on 20 September. At that meeting it is expected that governments endorse the creation of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), also known in the policy jargon as an IPCC for biodiversity, with reference to the important role in climate policy of the Intergovernmental Panel of experts on Climate Change. And in Nagoya it is hoped that the long-awaited Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-Sharing can be adopted to control and stop biopiracy and thus incentivize the conservation of biodiversity in developing countries.

These expected developments are important. Because if the Nagoya Conference was to adopt only a new set of 2020 biodiversity targets after having completely failed with their 2010 targets, it would face a severe credibility crisis.

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