Two weeks ago, Macquarie University ran an event called Global Dialogue on Biodiversity Law and Governance. Dr. Michelle Lim, the Senior Lecturer in Environmental Law within the same university, presented her thoughts under the topic – what has to be changed in relation to the key international biodiversity law, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to ensure that we live in a better harmony with nature? Here are some insights.
CBD and its Aichi Targets
First and foremost, what is CBD?
CBD was signed in Rio De Janeiro in 1992 and entered into force in 1993. It consists of an almost universal membership and has three main objectives:
- the conservation of biological diversity;
- the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity;
- fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
In 2010, CBD has proposed a target-based approach to combating unprecedented rates of biodiversity loss. The targets were named ‘Aichi Targets’, after the location of that time CBD meeting in Aichi (Nagoya, Japan). Although Aichi targets developed certain improvements in numerous areas, hardly any of them, however, were met in 2020.
Positive Aichi Takeaways
Despite inefficient results, there have been some good take-aways from the Aichi Target settings. Specifically, we have seen, that:
- Targets, within the multilateral environmental agreements, can enhance the credibility of agreement. Once we are aware of goals, they become more believable and thus motivate the governments to act on their basis.
- Targets help the governments to better define priorities. Goals galvenise attention and mobilise resources.
- Reporting process, in terms of the target achievement stage, is a valuable accountability mechanism. Transparency is a key to success behind any effective membership, and international environmental agreements – are not an exception.
- Rights-based targets challenge vested interests of the status quo. If, for example, the state of current affairs still often prioritises growth-oriented and environment-ignorant economy, then these targets can oblige the economy (or at least the major actors behind it) to move in a rather opposite i.e. environmentally-fiendly direction.
Transferring CBD into Paris Agreement?
The next CBD meeting will take place this October 2021 in Kunming, China. During this meeting, international community will decide on how to proceed with the target-based approach towards tackling the global biodiversity crisis. Among the proposed solutions, there is the idea for the future Kunming targets to serve as a basis for something similar to the Paris Agreement, but for biodiversity. Unlike the Aichi targets, the goals under the Paris Agreement are rather binding upon its member states. This, consequently, means that the states carry real obligations.
With real obligations, there comes a recognised, shared legal and moral responsibility behind governments. It is this type of responsibility that is currently lacking under the CBD and, the presence of which, could help to ensure that the governments strive for better results in their upcoming Kunming targets.
Way forward: transformative change
Within which spheres do we urgently need transformative change and a more advanced way of thinking? Here are the three key suggestions from Dr. Lim:
- We need to move global financial and economic systems beyond limited framings of economic growth. To better interrogate our relationship with nature, we must shift from neo-capitalism and economic growth to more sustainable consumerism and production.
- We need to integrate full cycles of interactions between human and nature. The world has become more hyperconnected than ever before, which means that we should develop an even better knowledge and awareness about human-nature interdependence.
- We should elevate indigenous and cultural knowledge in the process of informing policy and practice and our understanding of these relationships. We should question the idea of sovereignty behind the current CBD framing and make sure that broader range of actors, including NGOs and other valuable stakeholders, have a bigger role within the multilateral environmental agreements.