U.N. COP12 in Pyeongchang Calls for Scaling Up Action Plan to Stem Biodiversity Loss

A United Nations convention on biodiversity kicked off in the eastern city of Pyeongchang on Monday, bringing together government officials, environmentalists and businesspeople from around the world.

The 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, also called the COP 12, will run until Oct. 17, with some 20,000 representatives from 124 countries attending.

The conference themed “Biodiversity for Sustainable Development” aims to give midterm evaluations for the 2011-2020 strategic plan for biodiversity, a coordinated response by governments and the U.N. to the loss of plant and animal species around the world, organizers said.

At the end of the two-week session, the COP 12 will adopt a “Pyeongchang Road Map” that addresses ways to achieve the U.N. sustainable development goals and a “Gangwon Declaration” containing the results of the conference.

The convention also includes the first meeting for the “Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing” (Oct. 13-17), the “Biodiversity Summit for Cities and Subnational Governments” (Oct. 13-14) and the “High-Level Segment” (Oct. 15-16).

The Convention on Biological Diversity, informally known as the biodiversity convention, was adopted at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 to address all issues pertaining to biological diversity.

The multilateral treaty is one of the three U.N. conventions aimed at protecting the environment. The other two are the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention to Combat Desertification.

The Global Biodiversity Outlook report

The Global Biodiversity Outlook report released at the Convention of Biological Diversity makes it clear that many of the Aichi Targets — which include halving habitat loss, reducing pollution and overfishing, and putting a brake on species extinction by 2020 — would not be met, according to a CBD press release.

Launched on Monday in Pyeongchang in the Republic of Korea, a year before the halfway point of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 shows that there has been significant progress towards meeting some components of the majority of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, but not enough.

“The good news is that Parties are making progress and concrete commitments to implement the Aichi Biodiversity Targets,” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

“However, the report also shows us that efforts need to be significantly scaled-up if the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 is to be implemented and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets achieved.”

Nations had agreed on the 2011-2020 Aichi Targets at a meeting in Nagoya, Japan, in 2010. But they have struggled to find common ground on funding, especially for poor nations whose scarce resources are already committed elsewhere.

While the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species in July said a quarter of mammals, over a tenth of birds, and 41% of amphibians are at risk of extinction, the recent WWF’s 2014 Living Planet Report highlights a 52% decline in mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish overall from 1970 to 2010.

Humans are consuming resources at a rate that would require 1.5 Earths to sustain.

Addressing the opening session of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), the executive director of the UN Environment Programme Achim Steiner had earlier said the report made for “very sobering” reading.

Meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets would contribute significantly to a development agenda that includes reducing hunger and poverty, improving human health, and ensuring a sustainable supply of energy, food and clean water.

Under the theme, ‘Biodiversity for Sustainable Development,’ thousands of representatives of governments, NGOs, indigenous peoples, scientists and the private sector have gathered in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea for the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 12).

The COP 12 will identify ways to mobilise financial and human resources necessary to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Above all, it will look at ways to incorporate biodiversity into the sustainable development goals.

The COP will consider adopting final targets for resource mobilisation following-up on the preliminary targets agreed at COP 11, including the possible addition of a target related to domestic resource mobilisation.

However, reaching these joint objectives requires changes in society, including much more efficient use of land, water, energy and materials, rethinking consumption habits and, in particular, major transformations of food production systems.

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