5 December 2016, Cancun – Over the week-end, government officials, civil society, Indigenous Peoples and farmers from over 190 countries gathered in Cancun for “COP13”- the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Over the next two weeks (Dec. 4-17, 2017), countries will discuss how they can protect and enhance biodiversity and the ecosystems that feed us, give us water and secure our well-being.
The meetings are taking place in Quintana Roo, a Southern Mexican state on the Yucatán Peninsula that boasts 17 national protected areas occupying 1,325,915.44 hectares- that is 26 per cent of the state- which include: four biosphere reserves, six national parks, six protected fauna and flora areas, and a sanctuary.
Sounds great, right? Well, it is not that simple. Indeed, the luxurious green trees and infinite beach provide a stunning view you as you fly over the state. Yet, the view from the ground offers a stark contrast. As we drive in each day to Moon Palace- the exclusive golf resort where the COP13 meetings are being held- we are greeted by a seemingly never ending stretch of concrete highways, hotels and resorts, car dealerships/rental places, and big box restaurants.
Biodiversity seems so close but so unattainable all at once… which brutally reminds us, that “time is running out to stop the global decline in biodiversity,” as the CBD rightfully reminded in the opening ceremony yesterday.
Agriculture is at the heart of the meetings
Mainstreaming biodiversity is the theme of the meetings. And it starts with agriculture. “If we are going to save biodiversity, we need to work with these sectors that depend on biodiversity and whose activities have a considerable impact on the variety of life on our planet,” said Dr. Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention. “Agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism are important sectors whose activities need to take biodiversity conservation and sustainable use into account in a coherent manner.”
Biodiversity loss caused by agriculture, infrastructure expansion and climate change will greatly affect us. For instance, it is estimated that 40 per cent of land currently used for extensive agriculture will be lost by 2050, making sustainable agriculture a pressing issue.
How does agriculture fits in COP13 negotiations?
During the opening ceremony, COP13 has committed to working on 18 actions – of which four pertain to sustainable agriculture, namely actions related to:
- The conservation and cultivation of native varieties, as well as farmers’ landraces, locally adapted breeds, and underutilized species, including those threatened by production intensification;
- The use of measures and incentives to promote diversified agroecological systems and the designation of agricultural biodiversity conservation sites (such as the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations);
- The prevention of agricultural pollution, and the efficient, safe and sustainable use of agrochemicals, fertilizers and other agricultural inputs;
- The safe and sustainable use of appropriate technologies, and the integrated, efficient and sustainable management of energy, water and soil resources.
Other themes that will be discussed and that we will be on the watch for are: how indigenous and local communities benefit from the use of their resources, how to protect traditional knowledge, biosafety rules on how to use modern technologies (we’re particularly concerned about synthetic biology and GMOs). Marine diversity, restoration of degraded areas, and control of invasive alien species are also major themes discussed (Seedmap does not follow those discussions as closely, however).
The Clock Is Ticking to meet our 2020 Goals
COP-13 offers a critical opportunity for countries to address strategic actions to enhance implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the 20 biodiversity goals known as the Aichi Targets– named after the Japanese prefecture in which they were adopted in 2010.
We only have 1488 days left to meet the Aichi Targets. Only one third of the targets are currently on track of being met by 2020, according to the CBD. It is clear that more action is needed. We need to move beyond high ambitions and move towards clear action.
The Aichi Targets aim to address issues ranging from sustainable agriculture and declining fish stocks, to access and sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources, indigenous knowledge, biodiversity loss, and awareness of the values of biodiversity. As you can see above, the world is far from meeting 2 of the important targets (Aichi target # 7 and 13) on sustainable agriculture- for more info, read pages 18-22 of the Global Biodiversity Outlook.
Achieving the Aichi Targets goes hand in hand with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Sendai Framework, and the Paris Agreement on climate change, which entered into force last month.
The key challenge for the CBD’s future is not the definition of new objectives but the implementation of those already agreed upon. We’ll see if countries are willing to roll up their sleeves in the next two weeks and get to work and implement concrete actions to ensure our well-being.
Keep your eyes peeled: We’ll be sharing key documents, links and intel on what comes out of COP13 on seedmap.org over the next two weeks.
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