Biodiversity COP and HKH region

Q&A: Is Historic deal enough to halt biodiversity loss?

Photo: Dr. Nakul Chhetri, Biodiversity Expert

Kathmandu – In the midst of threats from scientists and the real ground experiences that planet earth is on the verge of mass extinction of species, the global community recently agreed for collaborative efforts to conserve nature.

At the end of third week of December 2022, delegates from countries around the world at the 15th Conference of Parties of the UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada have come to an agreement that is regarded as the last hope to save nature and biodiversity for the greater good.

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework was agreed upon after two weeks of intense negotiation among parties. The agreement is regarded as historic to conserve nature and halt biodiversity loss.

Photo: tanka dhakal

In this context, Dr. Nakul Chettri, biodiversity expert who worked with HKH’s knowledge hub the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) as a Regional Programme Manager for Transboundary Landscapes, shared about the COP15 and its outcome together with what it means to Nepal and HKH region.

1) What are the key takeaways of this summit for the planet earth’s biodiversity and ecosystem conservation? 

 The UN Biodiversity Conference concluded with an agreement on four goals and 23 targets for 2030 AD. The key takeaways are-

a) Effective conservation and management of 30% of the world’s lands, inland waters, coastal areas, and oceans, emphasizing areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and services.

b) Restoration completed or underway on at least 30% of degraded terrestrial, inland waters, and coastal and marine ecosystems.

c) Mobilize at least $200 billion per year in domestic and international biodiversity-related funding from all sources – public and private.

d) Raise international financial flows from developed to developing countries, in particular, least developed countries, small island developing States, and countries with economies in transition, to at least US$ 20 billion per year by 2025 and at least US$ 30 billion per year by 2030.

e) Minimize the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and increase its resilience through mitigation, adaptation, and DRR actions including ecosystem-based approaches while minimizing negative and fostering positive impacts of climate action on biodiversity.

 2) Were HKH issues addressed during the summit’s discussion? And to what extent is it reflected in the final document? 

The HKH is facing common challenges of habitat degradation, overexploitation, climate change, pollution, and infestation from invasive species leading to biodiversity loss. Some conservation successes are also adding challenges to human-wildlife conflict. These issues have been addressed and set as targets in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and reflected in headline indicators. However, the mountain ecosystem has not been explicitly mentioned in the final document. Mountain ecosystems, including HKH, have been considered under terrestrial ecosystems by the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

3) Being in the mountain region and having geographical variations in Nepal, is this UN summit able to come near to provide the way forward to protect and sustainable use of natural resources here? 

As indicated earlier, there is no mention of mountain-specific issues. However, most of the targets are valid and useful for Nepal. Target 1 talks about integrated and participatory planning for effective management of resources considering indigenous people’s rights. Target 2 focuses on ecosystem restoration while Target 3 emphasizes 30% protection of land and inland waters. Target 4 is for reducing the extinction rate and minimizing human-wildlife conflict, while Target 5 is for sustainable use of wild species and reducing spillover of pathogens.

Target 6 focuses on addressing the impact of invasive species, and Target 7 on reducing pollution. Target 8 gives special emphasis on minimizing climate change impacts. Other targets of interest are Target 10, focusing on sustainable management of agriculture, aquaculture, and fisheries, Target 19 on increasing the flow of financial resources to developing and underdeveloped countries and Target 20 on access to technology and south-south cooperation. These targets ensure the conservation, protection, and sustainable use of resources.

The additional targets 22 and 23, focus on the equitable, effective, and gender-responsive representation and participation in decision-making, and encourage to ensure gender equality during the implementation of the framework. These targets are important for a country like Nepal to create enabling conditions for access to justice and information to biodiversity management by indigenous people, local communities and other marginalized sections of society.

4) What is the key achievement for the Mountain ecosystem and the community, and what is left out? 

Mountain communities are facing challenges from climate change, food insecurity, pollution, and invasive species. In recent years, the incidents of human-wildlife conflict are also increasing. The HKH region also has scattered and comparatively smaller protected areas needing connectivity for integrity. The four goals and 23 targets have addressed these challenges including inequality, gender, and women empowerment. However, the mountain was not considered in the final document unlike small islands, coastal and marine areas.

5) ICIMOD was there as a collective voice to conserve HKH mountains and biodiversity, is this mission accomplished? 

Since 2019, ICIMOD has been engaged in the process of making the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and advocating issues such as climate change impacts, ecosystem integrity focusing on connectivity corridors, addressing issues of pollution and invasive species, preservation of indigenous knowledge and local agrobiodiversity, increase in investment in the region as well as technology transfer, south-south cooperation and information and data sharing for informed decision making.

These issues are included as targets in the document though the word ‘mountain’ could not be included. However, areas of particular interest were considered. Thus, ICIMOD is happy with the accomplishment.

6) There were starkly different views from the global north and the global south on investment, and incentivizing restoration- how successful or not in this area? 

This is one of the most debated issues during the COP15 meeting. However, the agreed Target 19 explicitly demands a rise in international financial flows from developed to developing countries, in particular, least developed countries. In addition, easy access to funds through a dedicated biodiversity fund has also been ensured. This development brings avenues for restoration and conservation funds.

7) What biodiversity means for the indigenous community and is the summit able to address this issue? 

The indigenous people were proactive during the negotiation, rationalizing being custodians of biodiversity and their intricate link to it for subsistence livelihood as well as contribution to biodiversity conservation. Target 22 explicitly addresses the issue of indigenous people ensuring respect for their culture and rights over land, resources, knowledge, and the well-being of the current and future generations.

photo: tanka dhakal

8) In the end, is the document agreed will be enough to avoid the risk of major extinction of the species and biodiversity? 

The global community claims the document is a Landmark deal for biodiversity conservation. Learning from the past Aichi targets (2010-2020) set by the Convention and ICIMOD’s progress review from the HKH indicates that these global targets need better customization while developing national targets and should be substantiated by equal priority to all the targets and better financed.

In summary, a good document is not enough. It needs its implementation. The access to financial resources, tools and technologies, and opportunities for capacity development, as well as realistic national targets in line with global indicators, could be useful for reaching the goals and objectives of biodiversity conservation and species extinction.