Sustainable development and biodiversity have been the focus of international negotiations and policy developments in the last two weeks. Two recent negotiations at UN Headquarters in New York have set the stage to make an already heavy international sustainable development policy calendar even busier. At the same time, a two-week meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is nearing conclusion, having addressed a wide array of biodiversity-related issues, in preparation for the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD, to be held in October 2010.
The 18th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 18) conducted its “review” year from 3-14 May. Delegates discussed possible options related to mining, transport, chemicals, waste management and a ten-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production. Their homework for the coming year is to consider how the lessons learned, constraints and successes can be translated into international policy recommendations, for negotiation at the next CSD session in May 2011. Based on proposals at CSD 18, an intersessional group is expected to meet to discuss policy options for sustainable consumption and production before the end of 2010.
Immediately after CSD 18, the first Preparatory Committee (PrepCom I) for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, which some are calling Rio+20) met, from 17-19 May. Based on the UN General Assembly decision calling for the UNCSD in 2012, the PrepCom was only slated to meet for eight days in the next two years. Delegates discussed the need to work efficiently during this assigned time, and looked to other processes that might feed into their discussions. In this light, other events on the international sustainable development calendar may receive new scrutiny, including: the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Summit and five-year review of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, both of which will take place in September 2010, at the opening of the UN General Assembly; the meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Rio Conventions, in October 2010 for biodiversity, December 2010 for climate change, and October 2011 for desertification; and the UN Environment Programme Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environmental Forum in February 2011. Delegates to PrepCom I also agreed to add up to six days of talks, or “open-ended informal intersessional meetings,” to their schedule.
The contribution of biodiversity to human well-being and poverty alleviation has been repeatedly underscored since the launch of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and is the focus of this year’s International Biodiversity Day, to be celebrated on 22 May under the theme “Biodiversity, Development and Poverty Alleviation.” Meanwhile, the prospects for global biodiversity have not improved. Launched recently, the third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook, CBD’s flagship publication, acknowledged that the target to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 has been missed. Held against this dim acknowledgement, SBSTTA 14 faced a heavy and diverse agenda, ranging from mountain to marine biodiversity and from specific scientific issues such as the Global Taxonomy Initiative to core considerations regarding post-2010 goals and targets. Climate change-related issues received a fair deal of attention, with discussions held on the links between climate change and biodiversity, biofuels, and forms of collaboration among the Rio Conventions.
This is without doubt a busy year for biodiversity delegates and experts: SBSTTA will be followed by the third meeting of the CBD’s Working Group on Review of Implementation, which is expected to focus on revising and updating the CBD’s Strategic Plan, including the post-2010 targets. A number of other key meetings will take place in the coming months, including UNEP’s third and final Intergovernmental and Multistakeholder meeting on an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Interface on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services; UNESCO’s and CBD’s International Conference on Biological and Cultural Diversity; the third meeting of the Group of the Friends of the Co-Chairs on Liability and Redress under the Biosafety Protocol, expected to finalize a supplementary protocol on liability and redress; and the resumed ninth session of the CBD Working Group on Access and Benefit-sharing (ABS), which will continue negotiations on an ABS protocol.
We will be watching these events for discussions related to the implementation of past agreements and negotiation of new ones, emerging issues, definitions and approaches to sustainable development and poverty eradication, and options for sustainable development and biodiversity governance, as the international environmental policy agenda develops.