2010 was supposed to be the year for the global community to reflect on the targets that governments have set in their quest to halt biodiversity loss under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This year, declared to be the International Year of Biodiversity by the United Nations is the year where the world could celebrate meaningful achievements on biodiversity protection at local and international levels while continuing to raise the global awareness on the urgent need to continuing such efforts.
Nevertheless as the year is coming to an end, such a declaration and the setting of targets prove to be just another ineffective international effort where celebrations are held for the promises undone, commitments reversed and actions not taken. Nothing meaningful has really changed as a result of these declarations and targets, and certainly not the pace of our biodiversity loss and environmental degradation, which have only continued to grow and intensify.
Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) have always viewed that many of our existing international processes established by various intergovernmental structures to address global biodiversity loss and environmental degradation have proven to be solutions that are meaningless for communities and in instances, even downright false as a whole.
Many of these international solutions have in fact ironically served to further harm the rights of communities, compound biodiversity loss and increase economic gaps between the North and the South and within the South itself, instead of protecting community rights and livelihoods and the world’s natural resources. Many of these processes protect the interests of large economies while at the same time burdening smaller economies in the South. In the end, the harm done will trickle down to the most marginalised communities, many of whom are indigenous. Further, such international processes also tend to legitimise existing national and international political and economic frameworks that sanction and promote violations of community rights and the unsustainable exploitation of the world’s natural resources.
Therefore, in anticipation of the 10th Conference of Party (COP 10) meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to be held in Nagoya beginning next week, we would like to raise some concerns on how components of the CBD may create severe impacts on community rights. One point in case is the Green Development Mechanism, the so-called innovative financial mechanism that was modelled after the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) developed within the climate change negotiations.
The CDM itself was created under the Kyoto Protocol at the insistence of developed countries, especially the United States, which had since then refused to ratify the Protocol.
This mechanism was simply a process to help industrialised countries to not undertake emission reductions of greenhouse gases in their countries but to get developing countries to do so as an offset mechanism, thus not leading to real emission cuts. Equally important, some CDM projects had also been documented to have undermined the livelihoods of local communities and indigenous peoples.
The Green Development Mechanism (GDM) is on the agenda for discussion at the CBD COP 10 and is being proposed mainly by developed countries as a way to help secure private finance for biodiversity protection.
The exact nature, structure and mechanism have not been decided, but the direction is towards a market-based mechanism that would trade in biodiversity credits and provide payments for environmental services as a way of offsetting biodiversity and ecosystem loss.
Discussions for a market based GDM include bringing together parts of various other schemes and ideas including the biodiversity offsetting, CDM and REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation).
It is expected that initially a GDM in this model would be a voluntary scheme, as an addition to other funding sources, but this is expected to go in the same direction as CDM. A market-based GDM that creates tradable biodiversity credits based on biodiversity offsetting would do nothing to address the root problems of the global market, unsustainable trade in natural resources and over consumption. In fact it is a mere distraction from tackling the real problems confronting us now.
We cannot and should not rely on market mechanisms to do the job that governments should be doing. The experience of offsetting and trading of carbon demonstrates that this is not an effective way to provide biodiversity protection.
Rather than promoting such false solutions, governments and the CBD should instead focus on the real causes of biodiversity loss that include unsustainable production systems and consumption patterns. This model prioritises the rights of corporations and elites both in the North and in the South instead of poor communities and indigenous peoples.
The COP 10 will be a chance for the CBD to make strong and clear decisions. We hope this will be the case.
FoEI have always believed in promoting ecological solutions that are able to adequately protect the rights and interests of local communities, especially those that are drawn from their own knowledge traditions in natural resource management. We categorically reject the commodification of nature and the privatisation of biodiversity resources in the name of biodiversity protection for these will have grave consequences for communities. True, meaningful and effective biodiversity protection can only be achieved through public financing.
We also believe that nations and corporations must learn from communities instead of the other way around. We have yet to fully comprehend the rich knowledge on sustainability that indigenous communities have incorporated into their traditional management of natural resources.
A major way forward is for all governments to respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ (UNDRIP) and give meaningful effect to the concept of free and prior informed consent.