Saturday, May 11, 2013

Biodiversity - recent results

Even though climate change has been the big thing in the media, biodiversity is also an extremely important issue. Of course, the two are linked, as evidenced by the important role biodiversity played in the World Bank's recent report on climate change.

Actually, quite a bit has happened with the last five six months on biodiversity.

In October, 2012, we had the 11th Conference of the Parties (COP-11) of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). At the Conference we had a presentation by the executive secretary of CBD stating the there is a lack of the data necessary to achieve the targets which where agreed to at COP-10. There was no world-wide monitoring of biodiversity (only monitoring in specific areas) and much of the data was not open access.

One item agreed was to have more science-based policies. As a part of that we had the first meeting in January of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which will collect and review scientific data on biodiversity. It is modelled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is great news as it will give campaign for biodiversity better science background. There was some problem in getting experts on a world-wide basis, but otherwise a good development.

At COP-11 we also had a directive telling countries to take a precautionary approach to topics such as synthetic biology and geoengineering. I feel this is especially important considering all of the hype (much generated by the media) we have had over these topics.

The developed countries at the meeting also pledged to double financial resources to protect biodiversity. This would mean they would meet 75% of their biodiversity targets by 2020. However, as I said a number of times, without any specific dollar amounts this can be a lot of hot air.

During the meeting (but not part of COP-11 proper) there was some good news in the announcement of an agreement between the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the CBD secretariat to work together on deforestation and biodiversity. This allows for a coordinated approach to these issues instead of either agency simply doing things on their own accord.

One part of the CBD that is less well known is the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. COP-11 voted to include socioeconomic effects on issues related to living modified organisms (LMOs). This is very important as often the problem with this and related technology it is often not just the science that is important, but how it is used.

Lastly, we had a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) in Bangkok last month. Some very interesting and good desicions we made at that meeting. The most interesting is the desicion to add some shark species to CITIES, What is significant about this is really the first time that CITIES has addressed fisheries, an area that previous has been considered off-limits. They have also added some major hardwood timber species (such as ebony) to the list. Further expanding into forestry issues.

Also 47 freshwater turtle and tortoise species (44 are native to Asia) have been added. Over half of all freshwater turtles are endangered, many due to the trade in exotic pets. Interestingly, this was proposed jointly by the USA and China.

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