CBD COP13 – A warm welcome and agriculture firmly on the table

More than 190 government decision makers have gathered in Cancun, Mexico for the Conference on Biological Diversity (CBD). With just four years remaining to achieve the Aichi targets, the worry is high that the world has not done enough to stop and reverse the massive loss in biodiversity.

Achievements of the Aichi targets will be critical for achieving the three-other historic global agendas agreed last year, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico, opened the conference highlighting how this was the first time that government representatives from all sectors were involved in CBD.

“Agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism - all these sectors are represented here today. The presence of these people in such an important meeting and the reason we invited them is because we are all involved in biodiversity. It is important for all human beings and is at the foundation of all of our livelihoods,” said Alaman.

Chun Kyoo Park, Director-General of the Nature Conservation Bureau, Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Korea noted that the global community has made noticeable achievements in conserving biodiversity, and it remains high on the agenda, named in 15 out of 17 SDGs.

Miguel Ruíz Cabañas, Vice Minister of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, talked of the incredible advances in technology the human race has made, but warned that the further advanced we become the more hard truths we must face.

“With major advances, such as the Hubble Telescope, we conclude we are working on the only planet we can inhabit. This is the only planet that can support life. We must look after it. Biodiversity is life. Currently around 17,000 plants and animals are in danger of extinction, and we know we will not survive if we carry on like this. We are the only species conscious of our ability to destroy, and we must ensure we reverse the damage we have done,” said Cabanas.

Helen Clark of the United Nations Development Programme said: “We are in Cancun to reflect on the progress made and the outlook for achieving the Aichi targets by 2020. In the past 30 years, the world has witnessed huge development, but biodiversity has paid a heavy price.”

Naoko Ishii, Chief Executive Officer, The Global Environment Facility closed the opening ceremony.

“There has been a huge effort in the last 25 years from countries in CBD to expand protected areas both on land and in oceans," said Ishii. "We would be in much worse shape today in CBD’s absence. However, we must recognise our efforts have not been sufficient.”

 “There is an argument that we have entered the 6th great extinction. We now have no option but to transform food production and agricultural production systems.”

Despite the negativity and doubts surrounding our ability to reach the Aichi targets, there was a sense of optimism in the air. For the first time, all sectors are coming together for a common purpose. People are united in their goal to protect biodiversity, recognising that tourism, agriculture, fisheries and forestry all have a major role to play in the effort.