The COP13 kicked off as it meant to go on - with discussions among high level ministers from sectors that have never been involved in CBD before

by Ricci Symons

At the high-level ministerial roundtables and plenaries in the weekend preceding the official start of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), ministers of tourism, forestry, fishery and agriculture, all met to discuss the key questions; how to mainstream biodiversity protection and how to reach the Aichi targets.

At the offset, with only 4 years remaining to still achieve 70% of the Aichi targets before 2020, it seemed to be a bleak outlook. All parties were vocal about the shortcomings that have led us to this point, and whilst there was also excitement and innovation around new practices, technologies and policies, meeting the Aichi targets seemed like a pipe dream.

The above-mentioned ministers have never been involved in the biodiversity exchanges before. This signals a change in thinking, where the general consensus is that biodiversity is something all sectors of government should strive to protect. It also highlights that we are aware of the negative impacts these sectors, mainly agriculture and tourism, are having on biodiversity loss.

Biodiversity is about more than plants, animals, and micro-organisms and their ecosystems – the conference recognises that it is also very much about people and their need for food security, medicines, fresh air, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment.

Biodiversity conservation is central to achieving global commitments for sustainable development under “Agenda 2030”, adopted by the United Nations in 2015. IFAD recognizes that losing biodiversity means losing opportunities for coping with future challenges, such as those posed by climate change and food insecurity.

Many smallholders with whom IFAD works are already reporting climate change impacts on their ecosystems and biodiversity that sustain agricultural production and rural livelihoods.

Biodiversity and food security is at the heart of what IFAD does. As IFAD's Director of Environment and Climate, Margarita Astralaga explained in Cancun, smallholders’ assets are part of their ecosystems. They depend on biodiversity to provide plants for medicine, seeds and hunting.

What helps them and us is to see the full potential of these ecosystems,” said Astralaga, “Different crops and indigenous crops are important - we have lost nearly all genetic variations of corn and wheat, 50 per cent of the world is eating the same species."

"We must diversify - when small farmers do that, they can protect themselves against climate shocks. When farmers grow nuts, cocoa, coffee, cassava as well as corn, when a drought strikes and the corn yield is low or non-existent they have other crops to fall back on."

As the COP draws to an end, with the Cancun Declaration ratified and published, people are taking stock of what has been achieved in the last two weeks, and what the next steps are. The CBD convention adopted 37 decisions, whilst the Cartagena Protocol adopted 19, and the Nagoya Protocol adopted 14 decisions. A full break down of the decisions and discussion topics can be found here.

COP13 marked an international move towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and implementation of the Strategic Plan. This will happen through the mainstreaming of biodiversity into many of the productive sectors: tourism, fisheries, forests and agriculture. The COP13 also highlighted that moving forward will mean to take into consideration emerging technologies, such as gene drives, synthetic biology and other genetic resources, to provide functioning ecosystem and the provision of ecosystem services essential for human well-being.