For the past 2 weeks here in Nagoya at the CBD, I've been participating in the negotiations about the future health of our oceans, officially called Marine and Coastal Biodiversity. The politicians here have been focusing on identifying important areas for conservation, or EBSAs, which stands for ecologically and biologically significant areas (EBSA) for the past week (and yes, it took them a week to agree to come up with a list).
To our surprise, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil have been less constructive in these negotiations and have undermined progress in identifying the areas of international waters that will become priorities for conservation. These three governments, who talk a lot about protecting the environment, have done little here to actually help save life on earth by creating healthy oceans for future generations.
The reality here is that other negotiations taking place here in Nagoya, the talks about creating a new international protocol on what’s called “Access and Benefits Sharing,” are holding back the oceans negotiations. Many Latin American countries believe that developed nations should offer assurances that they will share the benefits from the natural resources they extract from the developing world. Since rich countries are not committing to do this, the lesser-developed countries are holding back other negotiations here in Nagoya, including ones surrounding oceans issues. The reality is that developing countries need financial commitments from wealthy nations to manage these protected areas and enforce the laws needed to make these areas of water off-limits to extractive industries.
Mexico, Argentina and Brazil are arguing here that the best place to create the list of ocean areas that most need protection is at the United Nations General Assembly, although such specific issues of oceans protection are not decided there. The CBD is the best way to create the guidance for countries to protect life on earth, especially through regional workshops and scientific and technical meetings that gather information from around the world to inform world leaders about best practices, lessons learned and major biodiversity rescue benchmarks from around the world.
At the next CBD meeting in 2012 in India, we can take major steps forward and actually see leaders approve the recommendations made here in Nagoya to regional enforcement bodies and we can finally be on our way to providing the world with the Emergency Oceans Rescue Plan that they so urgently need.
The reality here is that there is a real lack in progress on agreeing to how much of our oceans to protect and how quickly- countries can not yet agree to save 10% of the world’s oceans, although Brazil is suggesting 25% of the oceans be protected by 2020, but China keeps insisting on only 6%, a number with which Mexico agreed today!
It’s a bit odd to think that the future of the world’s oceans rests in the hands of the diplomats here. We can only hope that the recent announcement by Japan to make $2 billion available for implementing the CBD’s Strategic Plan will be spent in the right ways and inspire other nations to also invest in the world’s future by funding biodiversity protection.
Samuel Leiva is a campaign coordinator with Greenpeace Chile, focusing on oceans and forests issues in Santiago.