UN biodiversity convention: expectations and outcomes

| Updated: January 04, 2023 20:06:15

UN biodiversity convention: expectations and outcomes

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (15th Conference of Parties or COP15) successfully concluded in Montreal (Canada) on December 19, 2022 with the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. The UN deal aims at reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 and setting the world on a path of protecting the nature and ecological recovery. The UN Convention on Biodiversity has gathered representatives of the government and non-government organizations from nearly 200 countries. The COP15 was a two weeks event (7-19 December 2022). Bangladesh Government delegation headed by the Minister, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change took part in the programme.

The COP15 Global Biodiversity Convention was held in two phases. The phase-one meeting (online) was held in Kunming, China in 2021. The second phase of the COP15 was held in Montreal, Canada in December 2022 with the theme of 'Ecological Civilisation : Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth'. The COP15 adopted the global biodiversity framework with 4 goals and 23 targets to achieve within 2030.

The adopted biodiversity framework in Montreal has depicted the vision 2050 of 'living in harmony with nature'. As reported, more than one million living species of the earth are at risk of extinction and may disappear by the end of the century. The global insect population declines at up to 2 per cent every year and approximately 40 per cent of the world's remaining plant species are in trouble. 40 per cent of the world's land and wildlife population have shrunk dramatically since 1970. Therefore, protecting 30 per cent of the planet earth to save nature is not a simple task. The key target is to restore at least 30 per cent of degraded terrestrial, inland waters, and coastal and marine ecosystems. Regarding the 30 per cent threshold for preventing species loss, experts continue to debate (as it is dependent on area selected). There are vast tracts of land that are without much habitation and are without biodiversity (such as Arctic Tundra or Sahara desert). On the other hand, there are biodiversity hotspots rich with different species but they are challenging to conserve as people live there or there are major industries in the area. Some countries are small in size but without much land to spare to set aside for nature conservation. The countries of tropical forests contain a high degree of biodiversity (such as Brazil and Indonesia). Experts also debate whether people should live in the protected areas and will be allowed to carry on business activities or the biologically rich territories should be under strict protection for conserving the ecosystems. This debate also invites for resource allocation for nature protection, restoration of biodiversity and for alternative livelihood support of the people.

Climate change is one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss and destruction of ecosystems. Raising weather temperatures result in ecological changes. Many animal and plant species are likely to become extinct as ecosystems change. Some of the plant and animal species will try to adapt for survival in the changed ecosystems while others will migrate or cease to survive due to the lost biodiversity. The adverse impacts of climate change will significantly damage wetland ecosystems and their biodiversity. Loss of breeding grounds, habitats, salinity of lands and freshwater resources will force habitat change for a number of known species including Royal Bengal Tiger in the Sundarbans, water birds, fresh water fish (like Halda river carps) etc. Therefore, conservation of biodiversity is closely interlinked with the global warming and climate change.

It is expected, that the agreed package of measures (at the COP15) will guide the world on a path of recovery and benefit all human beings. COP15 parties (nations of the world) agreed on a package of measures to support the implementation of the set goals and targets for biodiversity protection including planning, monitoring, reporting and review mechanisms, resource mobilisation and Digital Sequence Information or DSI.

Delegates of the COP15 have agreed to establish a multilateral fund within the Biodiversity Framework for the equitable sharing of benefits between providers and users of DSI (to be finalized in Turkiye in 2024).

The COP 15 calls for raising international flows from developed to developing countries, in particular the least developed countries, small island nations and states at not less than 20 billion US dollars per year by 2025 and to at least 30 billion US dollars per year by 2030. It has been realised by the world communities that a sound ecosystem is essential for prosperous civilisation and there is no alternative to co-existence between man and nature and building a harmonious community of all life on earth. The United Nations environment chief Inger Andersen has rightly urged citizens, businesses and governments  at the closing press conference of the Montreal conference of COP15, 'not to pause for a second' in implementing the deal (COP15) to halt the destruction of nature, changes in consumption patterns and attitudes towards nature and biodiversity.

Bangladesh is a signatory to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) 1992. It has been mobilising resources from its own sources to protect biodiversity and to withstand the global climate change impacts. Global warming is causing sea level rise and increasing vulnerability. Future sea level rise in Bangladesh is projected to be between 0.11-0.12 m in near term (2030s); in mid term (2050s) 0.23-0.27 m and in long term (2100) 0.54-0.86 m. Scientists have determined that the low lying coastal low lands (13 per cent land mass of the coastal areas of the country lies within two meters above the mean sea level) could be threatened to be submerged by the end of the century.  Due to the climate change impacts Bangladesh will have to face increased frequency of river floods, salinity intrusion, flash floods, urban flood, cyclonic storms and sea surge, draught, extreme heat wave, extreme cold, river bank erosion, lightning, landslide and sea surface acidification. All these adverse climatic phenomena will jeopardise people's livelihood who depend on natural resources. Within 2050, approximately 19.9 million people may be forced to migrate internally in Bangladesh  (approximately half of the projected climate migrants in the entire South Asian region). It is further estimated that 7 and 13 million people in the coastal zones of Bangladesh will be at risk by 2025 and 2050 respectively due to climate induced damaged economic activities.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged the international partners to support Bangladesh's efforts to implement the National Adaptation Plan (NDP) for 2023-2050 for climate change. She informed that Bangladesh had been spending 6-7 per cent of the GDP for climate adaptation and mitigation since 2009 and implemented 800 projects from its own resources. Bangladesh needs 230 billion US dollars for implementing NDP from both domestic and international resources.

Mushfiqur Rahman is a mining engineer and writes on energy and environment issues. [email protected]

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