Genetic resources emerge as a defining issue at COP15

Genetic resources emerge as a defining issue at COP15

As the Cop15 biodiversity conference enters its final days, a stocktaking meeting this weekend in Montreal highlighted a slew of unresolved issues threatening to block a strong outcome.

The plenary meeting attended by negotiating teams representing more than 190 countries in Montreal acknowledged considerable progress, but also indicated that there are still many areas of disagreement, undermining hopes of reaching a new global framework for biodiversity (GBF).

It is hoped that a high-level political meeting of ministers later this week will help overcome these issues and create the momentum needed to ensure a breakthrough.

Too many issues remain unresolved as delegates work day and night, observer Dr Elsa Tsioumani told an Earth Negotiations Bulletin briefing. “The work to be done is indeed overwhelming.”

This required agreement on funding issues, political compromises and approval on technical issues, she added.

There is an absence of meaningful commitments on mobilizing resources to halt biodiversity loss and restore nature; implementation mechanisms and benefit sharing of the use of digital sequence information (DSI) on genetic resources, she confirmed.

This concerns access and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources. The EU called for legal certainty and clarity, while generating more benefits than costs.

It emerges as a decisive issue and is a space where commercial and commercial interests are predominant, especially around the control, access and sharing of the wealth of genetic data, i.e. breakthroughs in medicine, modern technology and food.

A new version of the text of the global biodiversity framework will be published in the coming days. Countries including EU members, the United States, Australia, Japan and Mexico want tougher rules, while 20 countries that are home to 70% of the planet’s biodiversity areas, including the Brazil, India, China, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, assert that financial flows must correspond to objectives. , warning that a proposal of $10 billion a year is “far from adequate”.

It is understood that progress is being made in protecting land, compared to protecting the sea and oceans in a difficult scenario where marine protected areas are scarce.

On a more positive note, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released its first “Restoration Barometer Report” on Sunday, documenting $26 billion in investment from public and private sources in 18 countries. to restore 14 million hectares of degraded landscape – an area the size of Greece.

The report details how countries are using the restoration barometer tool to track progress on their restoration commitments under global agreements, which total 48 million hectares by 2030. Thanks to restoration, 12 million jobs were created and more than 145 million tonnes of carbon were sequestered in 2022. , he concludes.

A large group of institutional investors also announced the creation of Nature Action 100, a new global engagement initiative that focuses on investors taking urgent action on nature-related risks and dependencies in the businesses they invest in. possess.

The initiative aims to stimulate business ambition and action to address nature loss and biodiversity decline. It is also intended to complement the GBF emerging from COP15 by identifying private sector actions that need to be taken to protect and restore nature. The objective is then to catalyze these actions via investor-company engagements.

More than half of global GDP – $44 trillion in economic value creation – is moderately or heavily dependent on nature’s services. By some estimates, tens of billions of dollars in assets could be tied up over the next five to ten years if companies continue to produce products linked to deforestation.

Adam Kanzer of BNP Paribas Asset Management said: “Over the years there have been many significant investor engagements with companies that have addressed aspects of the biodiversity crisis, but none have placed biodiversity at the forefront, focusing on reversing nature loss by 2030. Nature Action 100 intends to fill this gap by engaging a wide range of businesses on their most significant impacts to help them to place oneself on paths favorable to nature. We don’t have time to waste.”

Mayors from 15 major cities around the world have called for increased direct funding to enable cities to implement ambitious greening and ecosystem restoration projects. As the planet experiences a decline in nature at a rate unprecedented in human history – and the greatest loss of animal and plant species since the dinosaurs – cities can play an important role in combating this. the loss of biodiversity.

“Cities must be part of the solution to the biodiversity crisis,” said Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, director of the economics division of the United Nations Environment Programme. “We hope the mayors’ call for increased direct investment will not fall on deaf ears so they can unleash the power of nature in cities.”

Cities are on the frontline of the socio-economic impacts of climate change and ecosystem loss, but many were already taking ambitious steps to protect and restore nature, Aggarwal-Khan noted.

Meanwhile, Heritage Minister Malcolm Noonan, who is due to lead Ireland’s negotiating team during the final days of Cop15, has had to limit his participation as he has to vote on a motion of confidence from the Dáil to Housing Minister Darragh O ‘Brien on Tuesday.

This motion was called to counter the no-confidence motion of the opposition to Mr. O’Brien filed by People Before Profit and scheduled for Wednesday. If a pairing is possible for the latter, it is not for Tuesday’s vote.

Mr Noonan had originally planned to fly to Canada at the weekend and stay until next Friday. It turns out he’ll be less than 48 hours away at Cop15, but he said he was confident he would manage to make Ireland’s declaration during a high-level segment on Thursday.

“Cop15 is the most important global meeting on biodiversity for over a decade and there is urgent work to be done to set new 2030 targets for nature that halt loss and put us on the path to restoration” , Mr. Noonan said.

He will be in Montreal for most of a high-level ministerial meeting, which is separate from the Cop15 negotiations but can be a key political mechanism to break any stalemate in the negotiating rooms with a view to building momentum for the talks. .

Padraic Fogarty, campaigns manager at the Irish Wildlife Trust, who is an observer at Cop15, said the timing of the vote “could hardly be worse given that it disrupts the government’s participation in the Cop15 event”.

Referring to the motion, he added: ‘This kind of performative politics is a terrible distraction when we urgently need to focus on the grave threat we all face from the collapse of biodiversity.’

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