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Masters in Conservation Leadership

MoU at the CBD

How UCCLAN’s Engagement Began

The UCCLAN has engaged in the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) discussions on the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework since 2019. In 2020 UCCLAN submitted its first written statement to the CBD. This was supported by a majority of UCCLAN members and marked the beginning of UCCLAN’s involvement in the international policy negotiations and meetings leading up to the CBD’s 15th Conference of Parties (COP 15). These meetings cover diverse and intersecting issues, such as: protected areas and species, climate change, sustainable agriculture, coastal marine systems, invasive species, pollution, access to blue and green spaces, capacity building, mainstreaming biodiversity, resource mobilization, and how to monitor progress on biodiversity goals. The meetings are underpinned by complex political processes.


The Focus of UCCLAN’s First Global Biodiversity Framework Position

Thus far, UCCLAN has been urging parties to swiftly Acknowledge the severity of the crisis, Act accordingly and be Accountable, As soon as possible (The 4 As). To UCCLAN this means that parties need to fully acknowledge all drivers, including the root causes of biodiversity loss, within the new global framework. This should be supported by empowering stakeholders and champions, and recognizing that good leadership – collective crisis leadership - are critical components of success.

Parties must also act with utmost urgency to halt extinctions. To do this, a restructuring of policy tools - including internalizing environmental externalities through subsidies and taxes - while leaving no-one behind is needed. Together, parties can start the necessary process of evolving from a GDP-driven economy to one that truly reflects human and planetary wellbeing.

UCCLAN has also urged parties to establish accountability mechanisms by being transparent, taking care to communicate well, and formulating stepping-stones for progress in order to consistently achieve g both rapid successes and long-lasting impact.


How UCCLAN Has Been Participating with the CBD: A Timeline

Beginning with submissions of comments on the zero draft, UCCLAN has participated in negotiation meetings, such as the 2nd Open Ended Working Group (2OEWG) in Rome, Italy, in March 2020. Here, Noa Steiner and Iris Dicke participated physically, just prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. A supportive UCCLAN team has also engaged virtually in all of the negotiating and discussions processes, through behind the scenes work as well as formulating interventions on goals, targets, and implementation, that UCCLAN brought to the floor. One of the interventions emphasized the need to move to an economy focused on wellbeing within planetary boundaries.

In August 2020, UCCLAN commented on the framework in writing, where we expressed the need for the framework to focus not only on reducing harm, but to also focus on strengthening and restoring biodiversity and ecosystems.

In May 2021, the CBD held virtual informal meetings and UCCLAN made virtual statements during the Subsidiary Body On Scientific, Technical And Technological Advice (SBSTTA) at its 24th meeting and the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) at its 3rd meeting. Here we intervened, among other topics, on what dates could and should be set as a reference baseline for measuring the indicators.

In August 2021, UCCLAN participated at the virtual 3rd Open Ended Working Group Part 1, where UCCLAN contributed inputs on the targets, including on climate change and pollution and the need to set annual milestones to measure progress.

In March 2022, UCCLAN was present for the first face-to-face negotiations since Covid-19 erupted, in the 3rd Open Ended Working Group in Geneva, Switzerland. Here, we made interventions and presented various statements to the floor. We provided input on major headline indicators for goals and targets, such as our suggestion that parties should stimulate sustainable consumption and production through policies, regulations and fiscal incentives, instead of putting the responsibility on businesses or consumers. Our interventions included an opening and closing statement, in which we urged parties again to immediately acknowledge  the crisis, take action and be accountable. Several of our interventions were supported by parties.

In June 2022, UCCLAN was also present in person at the Nairobi negotiations or 4th Open Ended Working Group, and made an intervention on including a link to the IPBES conceptual framework to underline the fact that people’s needs and nature conservation are interlinked and dependent upon each other, as depicted clearly in the IPBES conceptual framework. This intervention was supported by countries such as Bolivia and has since been incorporated into the draft text of the Global Biodiversity Framework.


How UCCLAN Members Can Engage Now - December 2022, COP 15, Montreal, Canada

Next up, UCCLAN will join the final, 5th Open Ended Working Group, and the CBD COP 15 in Montreal, Canada from 2nd to 19th of December. There are more than fifteen alumni that will participate in the delegation, including virtual participants. For UCCLAN members who are interested, there is still an opportunity to directly engage or just follow the process. Alumni are meeting regularly via Zoom leading up to COP 15, and are strategizing and putting together our inputs and how we plan to team up with each other and communicate our messages to other observers and parties.

Alumni can participate in COP 15 by: Attending the preliminary meetings, including the Plenary Sessions which are open and available for viewing on the CBD’s YouTube Channel. There are, as always, still opportunities for UCCLAN members to join or support the UCCLAN delegation virtually also on a specific topic of interest. Your knowledge, skills, experience and expertise would be highly appreciated. Please contact – Shelley Bolderson to get you in touch with the Policy Team.


So will the new CBD Global Biodiversity Framework be indeed transformational?

Here are a few hot issues that might present a challenge in the near future:

1. Financial resources and commitments – At the heart of the discussions on the Global Biodiversity Framework lies the question on who pays for what, when and how. From the perspective of common but differentiated responsibilities, there is a need for rich countries to commit to financial resources. Without financial resources, developing countries will be unable to achieve and implement the framework. In addition, there is a need to redirect and repurpose subsidies harmful to biodiversity, in order to reshuffle resources domestically and commit on a national level as well, with some parties in favor and others strongly against.

2. Indicator and monitoring framework process - Parties to the convention do not wish to ‘repeat mistakes of the Aichi Targets’ and wait 8 years for some of the indicators. Therefore they wish to approve a list of indicators in parallel with the targets and goals, so it will save deliberation time on indicators, and make the framework operational as it is being agreed on. However, this is a chicken and the egg problem. Currently, there is a draft decision of potential headline indicators that are now being decided upon before the final targets and goals have been negotiated. Parties acknowledged this and left a window open - meaning indicators and the monitoring framework can be renegotiated in the next COP, 2 years after Montreal, following an expert group that will be set up to review the current indicator framework. The risk of approving inappropriate indicators for the yet non agreed targets is high, since Parties might prefer consistency over accuracy and favor the use of existing indicators rather than the optimal indicators for the framework.

3. Voluntary commitment mechanism introduced - in the footsteps of the UNFCCC Nationally Determined Contributions, the secretariat of the CBD has raised a proposal for voluntary commitments. The worry of some parties and NGOs is that these voluntary commitments will divert focus from the obligatory NBSAPs (National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans). The EU and others claim NBSAPs are a long process and argue that we need a quicker mechanism in order to raise ambition for the first year. Discussion on the issue is about to take place in the coming days and months up until COP, but there is currently no clear process on how these diverse views will be reconciled until then. In the meantime, all disagreements are left as bracketed text.

4. Digital Sequencing Information: Another much-debated topic is the question of who should gain access to and derive benefits from the use of digital sequencing information. While Global North countries predominantly argued against a Nagoya protocol (Access and Benefit Sharing)-style agreement, developing countries insisted a deal must include a financial mechanism to compensate them for discoveries using digital forms of their biodiversity. For this Africa proposed a fund in which the benefits flow and are shared equally. The discussion on whether it will be a global multilateral mechanism or bilateral agreements among countries is yet to be decided. Some Global South countries have made it clear that there would be no Global Biodiversity Framework agreed upon if the DSI benefit sharing issue will not be resolved.

5. 30 x 30 Target and other issues: Another issue revolves around the amount of protected areas that should be agreed on (30% protected area on land and 30% on sea by 2030 is the so-called “30x30 target”). Also, the topics of Nature Based Solutions and the framing of biodiversity outcomes as “Nature Positive” are contentious. These topics will give rise to further long-lasting debates as they present at times competing worldviews. One risk is the focus on protected areas as THE tool for biodiversity protection, while it is only one tool in the biodiversity toolbox. Another risk is the commodification of nature and potentially having targets used that could lead to offsetting biodiversity loss. UCCLAN is skeptical about biodiversity offsetting as there are some inherent risks involved, such as the non-substitutability argument of offsetting different types of species as well as potential greenwashing. In addition, UCCLAN does not see these issues currently addressed through the existing safeguards within the framework. Safeguards such as Free Prior and Informed Consent are now concentrated in a separate non-binding preambular section, and some stakeholders and Parties are concerned that this means that certain context-specific safeguards will be pushed out of the targets, and they will thus be forgotten and not be properly addressed during the target implementation phase. However, the trade-off here is longer text and heavier targets that are less communicable and memorable.

In addition to these topics, there are some political issues that will determine the strength and level of ambition of the Framework. These issues, such as resource mobilization commitments (nationally, within government priorities and internationally between countries), agreement on the structure and timing of funding to developing countries in order to support implementation of the new frameworkץ In addition, issues relating to the mandate of the convention, and baselines that the Framework targets and indicators would be measured against will determine if the framework will be successfully negotiated and implemented.

To summarize, there are still many outstanding challenges and issues to be debated and ironed out. Collective crisis leadership will be essential from all parties in order to effectively negotiate our way through these barriers.

We look forward to contributing our unique UCCLAN message and voices.


Who is in the UCCLAN Policy Team?

Core UCCLAN Policy Team members include: Rosalind Helfand, Noa Steiner, Aylin Mcnamara, Alastair Jones, Iris Dicke, Daniel Flenley, and Sudha Iyer with much appreciated support from a number of current Masters cohort members. Noor Noor, Alerick Packay, Becca Boslough, Rheindnard Nyandire and Mariana Martinez del Rio, Michelle Cooper, and Lebogang Seitshiro are also engaged. UCCLAN also has a WhatsApp group consisting of over 20 interested alumni who are actively contributing to statements and interventions during meeting sessions or join periodic Zoom calls to discuss next steps in their areas of interest and expertise. 

The UCCLAN delegation is also in touch with alumni who are participating in the meetings in their professional capacities - Teona Karchava - delegate of Georgia and contact group Co-Chair, Lisama Sabry - delegate of the Maldives, and Monipher Musasa - a delegate of IFAW, as well as Odacy Davis.

With our best wishes,

UCCLAN Policy Group