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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De-Mystification of Bio-D COP 12

Dispatches from Pyeong Chang, South Korea

Global Youth Delegation for COP12- Convention of Biological Diversity

Global Youth Delegation for COP12- Convention of Biological Diversity

From Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 three legally binding agreements emerged i.e. United Nations Framework on Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Convention on Biological diversity (CBD), and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). UNFCCC is a well known and talked about agreement and framework. Annual event called Conference of Parties (COP) for the same is much awaited for. For the others we know very little, I here will delve on the processes of lesser known Convention on Biological diversity (CBD). Different countries, other constituencies like inter-governmental organizations, civil society groups, representatives of indigenous communities, youth have gathered in highly controversial for massive infrastructure construction in ecologically fragile zone still known very well venue for 2018 Winter Olympics- Pyeong Chang in South Korea. I’m there too and will be here till 18th October, 2014. With the help of Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) – a lot of us got financial support to attend the prestigious COP 12.

While the weather is very cold, everyone from official negotiators to civil society groups- young activists all seem to be very excited and warm. And it is quite impressive to see a balance of Global North and South especially in constituency of Youth which is very different from UNFCCC COPs. In Climate Change negotiations, there are more from Global North than South. The over-representation of North is absurd. At times many of the global north civil society groups have a tendency to hijack the agenda, while here in CBD the numbers are at par with each other.

At a very basic level the negotiations will include midterm review of Aichi Targets which countries have committed for the decade 2011-2020. We are in the October of 2014 and the performance against almost all vague targets is dismissal. Still there is hope. The optimism of achieving some desirable results by the end of 2020 was also reflected in the words of Malta Qwathekana, the CBD primary focal point from South Africa, during the interaction with the Global Youth Delegation. All the negotiations will be circling around provision of ‘adequate predictable resources’ for achieving the stated targets. That’s definitely not good news, as in past too- countries set ambitious targets for the decade 2001-2010 but failed to reach the desired outcomes because of ‘lack of adequate predictable resources’, hope is that we don’t miss another decade in the whirlpool of conflicts over resource mobilization.

During the present two weeks the Meeting of Parties (MOP-1) will begin for Nagoya Protocol focused on access and benefit sharing which was adopted in the year 2010. The Protocol will come in force this year and there will be wider discussion on it. Almost all countries have signed it, excluding three which includes United States of America.  Many suggest that the process for Nagoya Protocol was more efficient and smoother as United States was not a party to it.  There will be other aspects related to biological diversity which will also be looked into during the COP 12.

The high level meeting will start next week. Most important secretaries or environment ministers will be arriving at that time. While all this is going on, as one of the few Indians it makes me feel extremely sad and frustrated over the fact that India will and may play a spoil sport. The apathy of the new government on the issues of environment is very visible especially when the Indian leadership suggests ancient sciences as a mitigation strategy for climate change in United Nations General Assembly and picks up the same old lollypop of historical responsibility without realizing we have more to lose with the inaction. Most of the support mechanisms like Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006), National Forest laws, Environment Impact Assessment under Environment Protection Act and others which India has stated for national implementation to achieve targets have now an endangered future. The new government is pushing for amendments to resolve the concerns of industry and that will make environment, nature pay a heavy price.  While the world will be moving for greener future, we in India shall continue to follow the dirty model of so-called ‘development.’

Hoping for sanity to prevail! With the mixed feelings looking forward to the COP-12 on Convention of Biological Diversity which formally begins tomorrow.