COP 11 plenary gets stuck on mobilising financial resources

October 19, 2012

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


One of my first blogs mentioned that mobilising financial resources to implement the 20 Aichi targets will be a tough job at the Hyderabad meeting.  So it has been.

The concluding plenary in on an extended break. It has passed a set of decisions, on issues ranging from who will host the next meeting (Korea), to core CBD issues such as marine biodiversity, inland water ecosystems, island biodiversity, protected areas,  marine and coastal biodiversity, ecosystem restoration,  a progress report on gender mainstreaming,  biodiversity for poverty eradication and development, and invasive alien species. I may have left out a couple (such as retirement of decisions), but you have the general idea.

The Korean delegation is hosting a reception outside on the venue lawns, possibly hoping that it will not inherit the finance baggage from Hyderabad. Meanwhile, we have been greeted with the announcement that the plenary, which was to resume at 1930 hrs IST, has been extended by two hours.

So mobilising the cash is continuing to be evasive.

What we have is, in the report of the working group dealing with the issue, which concludes: “Despite the spirit of cooperation that had prevailed throughout the deliberations, the contact group had unfortunately been unable to come to an agreement on the outstanding issues. It has been agreed that those issues would be addressed by the Conference of the Parties during the plenary session”.

And the plenary break is extended, waiting for a consensus.

This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012. 


Conservation programmes that address livelihoods have a better chance of success

October 19, 2012

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


Imagine if you are a poor farmer with less than a hectare of land, and find a rhino or a leopard munching your crop away, or an elephant trampling your house meanwhile. Your, or many poor communities whose livelihoods depend on local resources, point of view may differ a little from of a wildlife enthusiast on the rhino, leopard or elephant.

Efforts are on to integrate livelihood issues into conservation programmes and I listened to several such case studies in the Asia-Pacific today (19 October).

Conservation programmes such ‘Ibis rice’ address livelihoods issues too. Photo credit: けんち, Japanese Wikipedia

In Nepal’s Bardia national park, explained Rabin Kadariya from the National Trust for Nature Conservation, Kathmandu, the human-wildlife conflict became severe due to animals from the nearby national park rampaging fields.  The trust, therefore, initiated a programme to help farmers switch to cultivation of mentha which, for some reason, the rhinos do not like.The trick succeeded. The farmers income trebled fromUS$400 a year from a hectare of wheat, to US$1,200 and rhinos no longer annoy them. “The farmers are happy in their fields, and the rhinos are happy in their forest,” Kadariya says.Under a Wildlife Conservation Society project, a remote part of northern Cambodia grows ‘Ibis rice’. A “unique repository for biodiversity”, the area is home to 40 species in IUCN’s Red List, with six species critically endangered,  says WCS’s Madu Rao. It was also under threat from over-exploitation, hunting, illegal logging, and overfishing.

The project engaged the local communities to conserve Ibis, and also helped them grow and market rice. The trick here was clarify resource tenures to the local communities, and provide incentives for niche marketing, which were linked to their efforts at conservation.  Thus came the Ibis rice”, whose production rose from 38 tonns in 2008-09, to 141 tonnes in 2011-12.

“It is an example of benefit sharing  relevant to the Nagoya Protocol’s Access and Benefit Sharing,” she says.

There are similar projects in Papua New Guinea, where Ona, Keto and other tribes are engaged in local reforestation programmes that also help raise their incomes. The Ona Keto community reforestation and sustainable livelihoods project has since been recognised as a model project by government institutions and universities.

These are some heartening examples … and seem to be the way forward to avoid the human-wildlife conflicts that invariably plague top-down conservation programmes in abjectly economically poor areas that are also rich in biodiversity.

This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012. 


Reactive nitrogen, let loose, can be more evil than carbon

October 18, 2012

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


Given the inter-links between climate change, biodiversity and desertification (and wetlands too), some people are  addressing cross-cutting issues.  One such issue discussed today at a side-event at COP-11 this (18 Oct)  evening is the need for global, regional and national assessments of nitrogen.

Since 1960s, human use of nitrogen fertilisers has increased nine-fold globally, while use of phosphorus has tripled, according to estimates. One’s first thought would be that an element that makes up 78% of the earth’s atmosphere could not be that bad. But this nitrogen is in unusable form and can support plant growth only when converted into a reactive form.

Excessive and inefficient fertiliser use could lead to nitrogen burden in air, water and land. Photo credit: Fenrisulfir, Wikipedia

The reactive form of nitrogen , when let loose, is estimated to have 300 times more warming potential than carbon, says Nandula Raghuram, from the Indian nitrogen group. It is mainly released from fertilisers, but also vehicles, thermal power plants, wastewater treatment plants; and run-off from lawns.  Besides causing air, water and land pollution and degradation; and affects biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The international nitrogen initiative (INI), UNEP and some national initiatives such as the Indian nitrogen initiative are making assessments of nitrogen and stress the importance of improved management of nitrogen and phosphorus cycles; reduce nutrient losses; and improve overall efficiency of nitrogen use.

A 2011 European nitrogen assessment , for example, shows that a 20% improvement in nitrogen efficiency could save 20 million tons of nitrogen, which equates to improvement in human health, climate and biodiversity of the order of US 100 billion each year.

The nitrogen issue seems to have caught the attention of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and CBD secretariat too, though the CBD meeting itself did not address it. There was also broad agreement at the side-event on the need for detailed scientific reviews of nitrogen use and cycling; an inter-governmental process to improve nitrogen use; and the need to take the nitrogen issue “out of the scientific realm into the policy realm,” as one participant put it.

Raghuram believes that “the next war will be the nitrogen war, after the present carbon war”. And the Indian scientific community and industry should be better prepared with their nitrogen data and policy than they have been on the carbon front.

 

This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012. 


Island biodiversity matters, but is often neglected

October 18, 2012

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN’s) warning that 83% of Madagascar’s palms are “threatened with extinction, putting the livelihoods of local people at risk”, has implications that go beyond conservation. “This (Madagascar) situation cannot be ignored,” Jane Smart IUCN’s global director, biodiversity conservation group, who released IUCN’s latest update on the ‘Red List of Threatened Species this week in Hyderabad.

Besides being global biodiversity hotspots, islands are also extremely vulnerable to climate change, and their local small-scale, natural resource-dependent economies are vulnerable to global economic shocks. They are home to unique and endemic biodiversity, whose loss can be irreparable. Some bear the brunt of unsustainable tourism, habitat destruction, and invasive alien species.

Island biodiversity stands threatened. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Consider what Oliver Hillel, programme officer on islands biodiversity at the CBD secretariat, has to say about islands: 30% of conservation hotspots are in islands; extinction rate in islands is upto 177 times higher than on mainlands; and more than 70% of recorded vertebrate extinctions are in islands mostly.

Conservation programme managers are beginning to see islands as a model for testing ecosystem-based management approaches, as their small area makes it easier to manage ecosystem projects, I heard today (18 Oct).

Islands also intersect concerns of UN conventions on biodiversity and climate change, and national strategies to address one have spill-overs or the other.

The tiny Caribbean island of Bonaire, with 16,000 inhabitants, meanwhile, is helping develop international guidelines of sustainable island economies (GSI).  It all started with Bonaire’s ambition to become a model green island. Aided by the Dutch government, in 2010 it tried to address a range of issues, from waste and water management; to renewable energy, sustainable tourism, and behavior and youth education.

The Dutch project in Bonaire soon realized the need to link the various initiatives into a more coherent sustainability strategy and so emerged guidelines on GSI, Annalien van Meer, from CREM, a Netherlands-based organisation working on sustainable development, said.

But sadly, unlike climate change negotiations where islands (or the small island developing states or SIDS) receive particular attention, and are a vocal group, islands tend to get side-lined in discussions on biodiversity, say some observers of international negotiations on biodiversity. Maybe we should get the island climate change group over here, given the common concerns over climate change and biodiversity loss.

This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012. 


Ecosystem restoration crucial

October 17, 2012

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


Ecosystem restoration received attention at a side-event today (17 Oct),  culminating with a Hyderabad call for ‘concerted effort on ecosystem restoration’ in the evening. It urges governments, donors, international organisations and banks and local communities to mobilise resources for and engage in ecosystem restoration.

Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed. It contributes to three UN conventions – on biological diversity; climate change; and combating desertification, besides wetlands.

Ecosystem restoration is crucial, says the Hyderabad Call for concerted efforts on ecosystem restoration. Photo credit: J M Garg, Wikipedia

“It (ecosystem restoration) is a win-win-win situation,” said CBD executive secretary Braulio Dias.

Restoration is crucial given that 30% of forests are destroyed and 20%  degraded; 50% of grasslands are degraded; over 50% of mangroves destroyed; and more than 75% of coral reefs degraded, destroyed, or under threat.

Researchers and practitioners around the world have gained tremendous knowledge of ecosystems, which can be restored with only small amounts of interventions, says James Aronson, from CNRS, France and Missouri Botanical Garden, USA.

Case studies of successful ecosystem restoration in Brazil, Colombia, India and South Africa were also shared.

These include Brazil’s PACTO initiate, under which a collective of government agencies, NGOs, and private institutes, are working together to restore 15 million hectares of degraded the Brazilian Atlantic Forest by 2050. Of which they have achieved 10% of their target.

Another is India’s successful restoration of Chilika Lake in its east, a unique ecosystem connecting freshwater bodies to the Bay of Bengal sweaters, and home to a unique range of freshwater and marine species.

And in Colombia, a six-year-old project is restoring the mountain ecosystem, while South Africa is working degraded land, wetlands, and clearing land and water bodies,  especially riverine areas and mountain catchment areas,  of invasive alien species that are a major threat in the country.

Restoration is never a justification for damage, nor is it a substitute for conservation, says Aronson who has called for an international network for long-term ecological restoration sites, representing all the ecological types round the world.

Aronson says one should look at benefit-cost ratios, which range from 5 for marine and coastal areas to 25 for woodlands and grasslands and 3-17 for forests. Costs alone, restoring coral reefs is estimated to cost US$ 100,000 per hectare, grasslands US$ 100 to US$1000, and tropical forests US$ 6000.

So, are nature conservation and ecological restoration anti- economic development? “No. That’s a false dichotomy,” says Aronson.

This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012. 


Canada and UK share Dodo prize

October 17, 2012

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


Here’s my promised update on the winners of the Dodo awards. Canada and UK share the prize.

Canada gets the Dodo ward for “breaching the moratorium on ocean fertilisation and geo-engineering and its stance on biofuels”.

UK gets the prize for “blocking a precautionary approach to synthetic biology, and their development of biodiversity offsets.

Given that three developing countries were in the running – Brazil, China and Paraguay – need to watch the next list of nominees.

This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012. 


How a wasteland was revived into a forest, only to be sold for wind mills under ‘clean development mechanism’

October 17, 2012

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


I mentioned how REDD+, the mechanism under UN climate convention to halt deforestation and degradation, is seen as impacting local forest communities’ rights over biological resources. Here is another example, this time from India, on how a forest revived through painstaking efforts by local communities is ending up paving the way for wind mills under clean development mechanism, without the local communities involvement. So now it is a case of ‘green versus clean development mechanism’, highlighted in a study by Leena Gupta, senior scientist at the Society for Promotion of Wastelands and circulated at COP-11..

The revived Kalpavilli forest is giving way to wind mills. Photo credit: Timbaktu Collective

The area in question is right here in Andhra Pradesh state, whose capital Hyderabad is hosting COP-11. Around 1993, Timbaktu Collective introduced organic farming in a barren wasteland comprising several villages around Kalpavalli, in Ananthapur district, planted indigenous species and tried to revive the original forest area. The collective also bought some land to set up a school and a weaving unit, and market organically grown cereals.

In a parallel track, the collective planted indigenous species, restored the water bodies, conserved soil moisture and developed nurseries for local plants. And now you have a revived forest with plants, animals, large number of migratory  birds.

So far, so good.  Some years ago, a private company specialising in wind energy began talks with the Andhra Pradesh state government to set up 48 windmills, after studies showed that the area had high potential for wind energy.  Since obsolete revenue records showed the area as ‘wasteland’, permission was given. Local village administrative bodies (‘panchayats’ in India) were not consulted.

The windmills had to be built on top of a hill that had to flattened first. Then  roads had to be built for trucks to carry the equipment needed to set up wind mills. Mountains had to be cut , and some aquifers, to build the roads for the trucks.

Not only were fields polluted and drying, but cattle could no longer move and graze on the cut mountains.

Meanwhile, wind energy generation continues – and it is up to you to decide what matters more – clean wind energy or restoring a forest, both backed by science.

And some of these debates of climate changes mechanisms vis-a-vis biodiversity concerns are continuing at COP-11.

This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012. 


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