By: Edel-Quinn Agbaegbu
In line with recent global environmental discussions on climate change, desertification, chemicals and waste, the spotlight is currently focused on biodiversity and its conservation. As nature continues to suffer the impact of biodiversity crisis, there are increased public calls for action to safeguard nature and people. In about four years since the fourteenth meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP14), in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, in 2018 and the adoption of the landmark decision that set the process of post-2020 global biodiversity framework in motion, a lot has been done to raise the profile of biodiversity in the international arena and increase political attention to biodiversity in major fora.
Among such actions is the Sharm El-Sheikh to Kunming Action Agenda for Nature and People. This was spearheaded by the Governments of China and Egypt, with support of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity to foster engagement with relevant stakeholders, including the Non-State Actors, (NSAs) to inform, inspire and showcase voluntary commitments and actions by sub-nationals for biodiversity.
The Action Agenda works with NSAs to raise awareness on the ambition and urgent need for concrete actions that can reduce the drivers of biodiversity loss across different sectors; and enable the needed shift to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, in alignment with the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, (GBF). As of 23 June, 2022, the Action Agenda featured a total number of 426 commitments, championing a collective global response for biodiversity in the lead up to the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15), where Parties will set the course to 2030 and beyond, with the adoption of the post-2020 GBF.
It should be noted that COP15 meeting was initially scheduled to hold in Kunming, China, but owing to continuing concerns in relation to the ongoing global pandemic; China, with the support of the Bureau, the secretariat and the Government of Canada, had decided to relocate the second part of the meeting of the Conference of the Parties to Montreal, Canada, where it would be held from 5 to 17 December 2022, (Outcome of OEWG-4).
Other relevant interventions include the Open-ended working group1-3, with the first OEWG-1 that held in Kenya in 2019. The fourth meeting of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG-4) on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 21 to 26 June, 2022. It offered a great chance to demonstrate the power of international cooperation and multilateralism to bend the curve of biodiversity loss and shape the framework, before the second part of the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, (COP15), in Montreal.
The CBDOEWG-04 meeting was opened on June 21, at 10.20 a.m. Kenya’s time, by the Co-Chair, Basile van Havre. Opening statements were made by the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Inger Andersen; the Minister for Ecology and Environment of China, Huang Runqiu; and the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema.
Ms. Elizabeth Mrema welcomed participants to the fourth meeting, which returned to Kenya, site of the Working Group’s first meeting in 2019 and, “as the cradle of humankind, the perfect setting for parties to commit themselves anew to the essential task before them.” Ms. Mrema thanked the President of the Conference of the Parties, Mr. Runqiu, for his great leadership with his colleagues, in preparing for the meeting. She also thanked United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Office, Nairobi, (UNON); for hosting the meeting. She equally commended the chairs of the subsidiary bodies for their leadership of those bodies, which had developed key recommendations that would form an inherent part of the post-2020 package to be adopted by the Conference of the Parties.
She also expressed her heartfelt thanks to the parties, which had provided funding for the meeting, which includes; Australia, Canada, France, Germany, The United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, European Union and other donors for their efforts to support effective participation of representatives from developing countries and countries with economies in transition. Mr. Mrema encouraged other donor bodies to step forward and fill the gaps of existing shortfalls to encourage more participation in subsequent meetings and facilitate the achievement of the 2050 Vision of the Convention.
Ms. Andersen, in her opening remark, noted that, “Findings by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, in line with those of the fifth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook and other scientific processes, which reported that global warming was putting biodiversity and ecosystems at risk of extinction, has demonstrated the need for a transformative global biodiversity framework; and its urgent implementation across the whole of government and the whole of society.” In her words, “the post-2020 global biodiversity framework is a critical endeavour to end the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste.” She noted the relevant areas where progress is urgently needed, which includes: defining ambition and measurability, strengthening planning, reporting and review, resource mobilization and digital sequence information on genetic resources. She emphasized that the planet and human health are under serious threat due to biodiversity loss and urged all participants to make their last push in preparation for COP15, towards the building of a framework that would help every life on earth to thrive.
The OEWG-4 meeting was attended by representatives of many Parties and Governments across the globes. Many Observers and Delegates from United Nations Bodies, Specialized Agencies, Convention Secretariats, different organisations and non-state actors including; institutions, Indigenous People and Local Communities, (IPLCs), and Non-Governmental Organisations, (NGOs), such as Every Woman Hope Centre (EWHC), Nigeria, were in attendance.
The meeting had Plenary Sessions and Contact Group meetings and addressed the Targets and Goals of different Agenda Items, the framework. There were also Regional Meetings which provided greater opportunities for proper negotiation and deliberation on critical issues that needed to be adjusted.
During the Plenaries, the Working Groups heard reports on intersessional work from the Chairs and Co-Chairs of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation and of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice. The Working Group had before it the reports of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation on its third meeting (CBD/SBI/3/21) and the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice on its twenty-fourth meeting (CBD/SBSTTA/24/12). The reports were adopted after proper negotiation to be ratified in the meeting at Bonn, Germany, from June 29 to July 1, 2022, before COP15.
Mr. Huang, while speaking on behalf of the President of the Conference of the Parties, thanked the Government of Kenya for the thoughtful arrangements for the meeting. He appreciated the efforts and contributions that maintained a steady progress in the global biodiversity conservation process, but cautioned that the ongoing decline in global biodiversity had not, however, been fundamentally curbed and urged all parties to work hard to reverse the process.
While recalling the announcement by the President of China, Xi Jinping, of the establishment of the Kunming Biodiversity Fund and his country’s contribution of 1.5 billion yuan, he noted that the fund and the adoption of the Kunming Declaration (CBD/COP/15/5/Add.1) had given a strong political impetus to the consultations on the global biodiversity framework. He suggested that parties could seize the opportunity of the meeting of the OEWG-4 to strengthen action to adopt the framework and make progress on key issues, such as digital sequence information on genetic resources and resource mobilization, as well as decide on a text for the framework. He urged all parties to work together to establish a fair and reasonable global biodiversity governance system, in the spirit of international cooperation and multilateralism.
Some regional statements were also made during the meeting by representatives of various regions and groups. Costa Rica made a statement on behalf of a diverse group of 48 developing and developed countries and Colombia on behalf of Chile, Mexico and Peru; while Germany, in its capacity as holder of the Presidency of the Group of Seven. Other regional statements that were made by their representatives include Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean group), France (on behalf of the European Union and its 27 member States), Kuwait (on behalf of the Asia-Pacific region), New Zealand (on behalf of Australia, Canada, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Monaco, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America, and Senegal (on behalf of the African group).
The representative of Ukraine, requesting that his statement be placed on record, said that, “The unprovoked and unjustified war launched by the Russian Federation against Ukraine was also an attack on the environment, causing serious damage to the natural heritage. He asserted that the bombing of fuel depots and gas lines was endangering ecosystems, and that environmental hazards were being created by the dispersal of military-origin heavy metals and toxic hazardous materials. Destroyed habitats, including of rare and endangered species, would take many years to restore. He said that damage had been caused over a vast area, measuring millions of hectares, of nature and biosphere reserves, national parks and other protected areas representing hotspots for biodiversity. In conclusion, he warned that war on the European continent posed an existential threat to the entire world and brought unprecedented and long-lasting challenges to the environment and human habitat”.
The representative of the Russian Federation, in response to Ukraine’s statement, stated that, “Under its mandate, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and even more so it’s working bodies, should not be involved in the discussion of conflicts, which was the prerogative of the Security Council; and that the statements by the representatives of Ukraine, the European Union and New Zealand, on behalf of a group of countries, were in direct breach of that mandate”. He further stated that, “the issue of armed conflicts had never been discussed previously in meetings under the Convention and that he saw no reason why an exception should be made for Ukraine. In his view, the statements by Ukraine’s representative testified to the erosion of the Convention, as a global platform for discussion by Member States of environmental challenges in the field of biodiversity. Addressing issues of environmental protection and biodiversity conservation should unite countries, not divide them”, he noted.
The Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Global Environment Facility, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, also made a statement concerning the conclusion of the eighth replenishment of the Global Environment Facility, (GEF) Trust Fund and the support that it would bring to the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. There was a statement by Ivonne Higuero, the Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), on behalf of the Liaison Group of Biodiversity-related Conventions, regarding the role of those conventions in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
Other statements were made by representatives of organizations, major groups and stakeholders such as: International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB); CBD Women’s Caucus; Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN); CBD Alliance; BirdLife International, Non-Governmental Organizations; the Ministry of Environment, the Business for Nature Coalition; and the Finance for Biodiversity Foundation and the Fight Against Climate Change of Quebec and local and sub-national governments stakeholder groups.
In her statement, Ms. Edel-Quinn Agbaegbu, Founder and Executive Director of Every Woman Hope Centre and her Delegate in the OEWG-4 stated that, “Remarkably, women embody specific knowledge of biodiversity and apply this in many sustainable manners. Engaging more state actors, particularly; women, youths and IPLCs in the biodiversity and biosafety agenda facilitates critical information to make decisions. Increased attention should be given to those who directly influence biodiversity areas, but have limited access to participation in decision-making processes. Thus, there is urgent need to develop guidelines and tools to adequately mainstream non-state actors in forthcoming frameworks and partnerships, as well as integrating their initiatives and knowledge in targeted activities to make a commitment on the Action Agenda for nature and people.”
In another statement, which is an excerpt from her presentation during the Contact Group Meeting of Faith-Based Organisations, on Friday, 24 June, 2022 at Conference Room 14, Agbaegbu noted that “Biodiversity is a reality. We are part of biodiversity and have the responsibility to work collectively, constructively and effectively to retain the capacity of the planet to sustain our prosperity, for the common good of our planet and welfare of its people, in line with the targets of the Action Agenda and the post- 2020 GBF.”
On June 18, 2022, the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF), Delegation for the meeting in Nairobi, Professor Fredrick Dubee and Ms. Wen Jia conducted an interview with Agbaegbu, a lifelong explorer in Microbiology and proactive leader in women development and biological diversity. The subject was on topics related to the post-2022 GBF and she made significant contributions on the issues. She noted that biological loss is the main problem which is driving the major challenges, such as insecurity in food systems in Africa, most especially Nigeria. She emphasized that positive actions should be taken to facilitate biodiversity conservation to enhance proper implementations of the framework, including its targets and goals; and looks forward to a joint endeavour to adopt an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
There is still much to be done to deliver an agreement that shall contribute to the achievements of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development. Great importance should therefore be attached to these Action Categories, which include; Conservation and Restoration of Land Ecosystems, Conservation and Sustainable Use of Species, freshwater, Coastal and Ocean Biodiversity, Urban Sustainability, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation and Stewardship. In the words of Ms. Mrema, “…It is in everyone’s best interest to take action. We encourage you to support and encourage further action across your networks and beyond, to help advance biodiversity goals and objectives.” It is important therefore, for all stakeholders to contribute to the Action Agenda in the lead-up to and during COP15 and a successful implementation of the pot-2020 GBF towards achieving vision 2030 and beyond.