What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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Nagoya Protocol Comes in Force, India Falling Apart in Implementation

Dispatches from Pyeongchang, S. Korea

Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit sharing came in force last Sunday. It is definitely a good news, as after years of deadlock on the issues of environment and sustainability, we have a new substantial global norm to facilitate environmental governance. At a very basic level the objective of the protocol is to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from utilization of genetic resources and traditional knowledge. Now a framework is in place which ensures that genetic resources of countries and communities are not used without consent. When the foundations of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) were laid, developed countries desired conservation agenda at the top, while developing countries wanted sustainable use of biodiversity for their material progress to be priority. In the juggernaut of various interests Convention on Biological Diversity succeeded in balancing at-least the demand of developing countries.

To ratify the protocol, parties need to have a domestic regulatory framework which can be either in the form of legislation. The legislation further creates a regulatory body or the task of access and benefit sharing is allocated to the relevant existing department. Bringing out legislation is not mandatory. There needs to be a relevant body with a job profile of implementation of norms related to access and benefit sharing.

The protocol also acknowledges the role played by indigenous and local communities in sustainable harvest of genetic resources and their knowledge (traditional knowledge) of its handling. The protocol enforces the sharing of monetary and non-monetary benefits with them after the sustainable usage of genetic resources.

India definitely needs a round of applause for hosting COP-11, in Hyderabad, which brought out the road map for ratification of Nagoya Protocol by more than 50 parties (participant countries) of CBD. Let me make one thing very clear, it’s the efforts of previous government which bore fruits in the regime of new government. We don’t need to congratulate either Mr. Narendra Modi or Prakash Javadekar.

India’s role in ratification of protocol need to be appreciated, but the fact is that India also has shown tremendous hypocrisy to execute the same at home in India. National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) was created in 2003 much before the formulation of protocol with the similar objectives. Sadly, the NBA has done more harm to environment and losses to the biological resources of the country go un-estimated. There are not many case studies of sharing of benefits arising after from utilization of genetic resources and traditional knowledge with indigenous and local communities in India. NBA prefers to keep the money and other benefits in its own pockets.

The appointment of chairman of authority has also been in controversy. Government of India prefers arrogant bureaucrats over the professionals who have done considerable work in biodiversity conservation. The result is in front of all the parties attending COP12 at Pyeongchang. The current head of National Biodiversity Authority can be found tasting food and beer in different restaurants and bars or organizing receptions where ironically “beef” is served, instead of attending working group meetings, except when he is asked to chair the plenary sessions. His statements as chair constitute nothing more than hollow sermons on eco-friendliness of Indian culture. The phrases like ‘Vasudev Katumbakkam’ are being over used and later abused. Adding to his profile, last year he used inappropriate language when the youth delegation was making intervention at the inter-sessional meeting of parties in Montreal.

Government of India did its best in ensuring mandated number of ratifications, but failed to enforce the norms at home. The other environment protection and forest rights laws are facing the fire; their wings will be flipped in coming months. In the near future, NBA which is already a feeble body has similar night-mares on its way.

Getting back to global norm, it is good that countries after decades of negotiations have something substantial in hand to monitor the access and usage of genetic resources. They have to be very careful in making sure that utilization of resources is not done for wrongful purposes. Now they also have a chance to come up with a stronger mandate of conserving flora and fauna. The benefits availed from ABS protocol can be helpful in doing the same. Keeping fingers crossed!

Disclaimer and confession: I’ve always been asked about the reasons of being too cynical regarding India’s role in global environmental governance. Let me clear the air once for all. Indian leadership is very good in quoting ancient texts and informing the world about greatness and green-ness of Indian culture, religion and society. Their actions at home stand the opposite to what they generally state in global forums. This doesn’t make me and others very hopeful at all.


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Youth delegation welcomes for insertion of “Youth” in CBD COP 12 text

Dispatches from Pyeong Chang, S. Korea

Kabir Arora

The following intervention was made on agenda item number 29 “Stakeholder Engagement” and “Engagement with Sub-national and Local Governments” of draft decision text in Working group II dealing with Ecosystem Conservation and Restoration.

Madam Chair, thank you for giving us this opportunity. I’m speaking on behalf of Global Youth Biodiversity Network. We would like to thank Secretariat for including ‘Youth’ as stakeholders in item number 29 section on “sYouth delegation making an intervention @CBDCOP12takeholder engagement” in Paragraph 3 & 4 of the draft decision text:

“Encourages Parties to promote practices and mechanisms to enhance the participation of stakeholders, including youth, in consultations and decision-making processes related to the Convention and its Protocols at the regional and national levels;

Calls upon Parties to effectively engage stakeholders, including youth, in the development and implementation of the new generation of revised national biodiversity strategies and action plans, and to support initiatives that seek to promote such participation;”

And we also recommend that parties should be invited for inclusion of ‘youth’ as partners for local governments in the item number 29 section on “engagement with sub-national and local governments” Paragraph 5. And propose an addition to the same paragraph i.e. “engaging all relevant stakeholders including youth” and we suggest that the paragraph should read as follows:

Encourages sub-national and local governments, engaging all relevant stakeholders including youth, to contribute to the attainment of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 by, specifically, integrating biodiversity considerations into plans for sustainable urbanization, including local transport, spatial planning, water and waste management; promoting nature-based solutions; monitoring and assessing the state of biodiversity and progress to preserve it; integrating biodiversity conservation as a solution to climate change; and prioritizing biodiversity issues by showcasing the positive effects of biodiversity and ecosystem services on other topics, such as health, renewable energy and livelihoods;”

As local governments can utilize energies and experiences of young people for strengthening urban environmental governance framework and implementation of various programmes mentioned in the draft convention text.

Thank you Madam Chair.


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Emphasis on “wetlands, mud-flats, and grassland” in COP 12 CBD Text

by Neha Sinha*

The following intervention was made on agenda item number 26 Section 3 (c) of draft decision text in Working group II dealing with Ecosystem Conservation and Restoration.

Madam Chair, thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to share our position for Agenda item 26. We are speaking on behalf of the Bombay Natural History Society. We welcome the draft decision on Ecosystem Conservation and Restoration.

Neha Sinha, Board Member of IYCN

Neha Sinha, Board Member of IYCN

We support Belarus’ view for restoring damaged ecosystems such as wetlands. We believe there are several degraded ecosystems, which require restoration and some of these are ecosystems neglected by conservation. These include wetlands, mud-flats, and grassland ecosystems to name just a few. These ecosystems harbour endemic biodiversity and are also important sources of livelihood.

We propose an addition- “range of biodiverse ecosystems” to Section 3 Part C. We suggest this point should read:

“Taking into consideration that priority should be given, where possible, to avoiding or reducing ecosystem losses, to promote large-scale restoration activities of range of biodiverse ecosystems that can contribute to biodiversity conservation, climate-change adaptation and mitigation, reducing desertification, and the conservation and sustainable use of aquatic resources and other ecosystem services in the context of sustainable development.

Thank you Madam Chair.

Neha Sinha is a Board Member of Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN)


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Intervention on “Ecosystem Conservation and Restoration” by Youth in CBD COP 12

Dispatches from Pyeong Chang, S. Korea

Michelle Pazmino and Kabir Arora from Ecuador & India making the intervention @COP12

Michelle Pazmino and Kabir Arora from Ecuador & India making the intervention @COP12

Mirna Inés Fernández Pradel (Bolivia), Michelle Pazmiño (Ecuador), Kabir Arora (India)

The following intervention was made on agenda item number 26 of draft decision text in Working group II dealing with Ecosystem Conservation and Restoration.

Madam Chair, thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to share our inputs in regard to this item. We are speaking on behalf of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network.

With the current rate of biodiversity loss, we as youth are extremely concerned about the national commitments regarding conservation and restoration. We understand that it will not be possible to conserve earth’s biological diversity through the protection of critical areas alone. Therefore, damaged ecosystems need restoration activities to be recovered. We believe that the main efforts should focus on in situ conservation of natural areas, following  the Ecosystem based approach.

Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 shows that there is a tangible bias on the geographical patterns of restoration projects, with the highest investment levels in North America and Europe, and we are aware that high costs and technology requirements will limit its application in many developing countries. In addition, the complexity of tropical and subtropical ecosystems require strong scientific basis to implement restoration projects when damaged.

Therefore, we remind parties that the Preventive, Precautionary and the Polluter Pays Rio Principles, are crucial to ensure that restoration is additional to ongoing conservation efforts, otherwise it cannot count towards the Aichi target 15. We call parties to ensure that conservation of fragile ecosystems is the highest priority, while restoration strategies should be applied only on ecosystems that have already been damaged.

Also, we strongly believe that restoration must not be used as an argument to legitimize the degradation of natural areas in other places via biodiversity offsetting, and it is extremely important to recognize that plantations as a form of restoration is not acceptable.

We believe that Initiatives such as the Indigenous People’s and Community Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCAs) are very successful options and should be promoted. Tenurial security for indigenous peoples and local communities must be ensured, as well as the recognition of their customary practices and their free and prior informed consent (FPIC) in conservation and restoration initiatives. In this regard, national policies should make greater efforts to achieve the full scope of Aichi target 11.

Moreover, financial and human resources should be managed by local people. Science and technology should go in hand with all biodiversity values and the people’s needs. It must be ensured that restoration and sustainable use of inhabited ecosystems are led by communities taking the central role with support from governments , while civil society efforts, including the private sector, must be recognized but not prioritized as hinted in 2 & 3 (b) of the draft decision document.

We call on Parties to take the commitment of developing coherent strategies, programmes and policies at the national and subnational levels that combine conservation of fragile ecosystems with restoration of areas that have been degraded. These strategies must address at the first stage the direct drivers of biodiversity loss such as oil prospection, roads or mining on fragile ecosystems.

Please remember that the well-being of the world population in the coming decades will largely depend on conservation and restoration of ecosystems to maintain and enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services, thereby contributing to sustainable development while reducing environment related risks. Therefore, when taking any decisions we must ensure that the rights of the coming generations are fully respected.

Thank you Madam Chair.


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Youth Intervention on “Synthetic Biology” in COP 12 CBD

Dispatches from Pyeongchang, S. Korea

Michelle Pazmiño & Kabir Arora

The following intervention was made on agenda item number 24 of draft decision text in Working group II dealing with “Synthetic Biology“.

Madam Chair, thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to share our position in regard to this item. We are speaking on behalf of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network.

We are representing future generations, and as so, we strongly urge parties to consider the precautionary principle when discussing this matter as we strongly feel that the risks and negative impacts imposed by synthetic biology are still unforeseeable and are not being taken fully into consideration. Scientific knowledge on the future implications of this issue is not yet mature, therefore synthetic biology is a new and emerging issue that has to be taken into account as highly relevant and influential to socio-economic and health issues.

Apart from robust unbiased scientific knowledge, it is essential to carefully analyze the economic and cultural impacts of this emerging issue before making any decision.

We echo the words of various representatives and call upon parties to remove the brackets from the draft decision text: item number 24, paragraph 3, (a, b, c, alt.)

“[(a, b, c alt) To ensure that field testing, environmental release or commercial release of organisms and products resulting from synthetic biology are not approved until a global, international, transparent, legal regulatory framework, and ensure that all guidance and assessments for organisms and products resulting from synthetic biology to comply with all obligations under the Convention and its Protocols, including environmental, socio-economic and cultural impacts;]”

In the same item, in paragraph 3 (e)

(e) To cooperate in the development and/or strengthening of human resources and institutional capacities in synthetic biology and its potential impacts in developing country Parties, in particular the least developed and small island developing States, and Parties with economies in transition including through existing global, regional, subregional and national institutions and organizations and, as appropriate, by facilitating private sector involvement. The needs of developing country Parties, in particular the least developed and small island developing States, and Parties with economies in transition, for: financial resources; access to and transfer of technology and know-how; establishing or strengthening regulatory frameworks; and the management of risks related to the release of organisms, components and products resulting from synthetic biology techniques, shall be taken fully into account in this regard;]

It is hinted that parties may facilitate private sector involvement for strengthening human resources and developing institutional capacities in synthetic biology. In this sense, we would like to remind parties that the involvement with all stakeholders including business sector is necessary, but due to their political power, we fear that their interests will steer the research and capacity building activities as well as the decision-making process regarding synthetic biology legislation which may hamper the process of strengthening human resources and developing institutional capacities.

We would also believe that is extremely necessary to have a legally binding framework if not at international level at least at the regional and sub-regional level between various governments with the aim of ensuring safety standards to avoid by all means the risk associated with synthetic biology as it moves beyond national boundaries and moves beyond time, posing as a threat to all the future generations yet to come.

Thank you Madam Chair.