Published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development
Vol. 09 No. 121
Thursday, 24 June 1999
WEDNESDAY, 23 JUNE 1999
SBSTTA-4 delegates continued their deliberations in two working groups. Working Group I
discussed the Global Taxonomy Initiative and a Chair's draft recommendation on drylands.
Working Group II discussed environmental impact assessment and a Chairs draft
recommendation on new plant technology.
WORKING GROUP I
GLOBAL TAXONOMY INITIATIVE: Peter Bridgewater, DIVERSITAS Programme/UNESCO,
presented the Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI). He stressed the importance of cooperative
efforts at national, regional and international levels and called for new partnerships
between the CBD and other institutions. He recommended that SBSTTA develop criteria and
principles for priority setting processes and provide suggestions for capacity-building.
The Secretariat introduced the Executive Secretary's note on the GTI (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/4/6
AUSTRALIA supported identifying framework projects and suggested educating government
policymakers and encouraging them to create permanent taxonomist positions. The
NETHERLANDS prioritized actions that: support the CBD's work; disseminate and increase
access to information on taxonomy; train and build capacity for taxonomy experts; and
strengthen infrastructure and training programmes. BELGIUM noted the declining number of
taxonomists and suggested linking funding to taxonomy projects. COLOMBIA suggested
adopting measures to monitor GEF decisions. FINLAND supported national and international
initiatives to develop resources for taxonomy activities. INDONESIA suggested developing
necessary expertise and curricula for university courses on taxonomy. BRAZIL highlighted
the necessary and key role of the GEF in institution building. NORWAY supported global and
national efforts, institution building and funding on taxonomy, especially in developing
countries. SWEDEN said it launched several projects to support the GTI and is financing a
senior staff position on taxonomy in the CBD Secretariat.
INDIA supported findings ways and means to interlink existing databases and
initiatives. The UK prioritized: capacity-building, training and job creation; improving
dissemination of and access to taxonomic information; and access to genetic materials by
taxonomists. Many speakers called for the GEF and UNEP to submit reports to COP-5
regarding their support for the GTI. SRI LANKA suggested that donors set aside a
percentage of each project for taxonomic studies. MALI suggested creating incentives to
bring the private sector into the GTI. CAMEROON supported compiling framework projects.
SPAIN said training, job creation and data compilation are essential. SWITZERLAND said the
CBD should work on rehabilitating taxonomy as one of the essential branches of science.
BURKINA FASO, supported by the DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, suggested that SBSTTA design
a global project, with UNEP as coordinator, to help Parties move forward.
The REPUBLIC OF KOREA noted the importance of taxonomy to alien species control and
biotechnology management. FRANCE recommended that Parties include information on national
taxonomy activities in their national reports. The EC discussed several funding
opportunities under its programme on taxonomy. The GAMBIA proposed using existing networks
and other resources to continue work in this regard. GERMANY stressed the involvement of
both public and private sectors in taxonomy initiatives. NEW ZEALAND supported information
repatriation as a priority and suggested identifying economic reasons to support taxonomic
work. ETHIOPIA said that establishing infrastructure is essential in many African
countries. OMAN noted the specific needs of countries that do not have national structures
in place. CANADA suggested encouraging countries to develop their national capacity and
advising the GEF to give priority to capacity-building. SWAZILAND noted the experience of
the Southern African Botanical Network.
DRYLANDS: Delegates received and discussed the Chair's draft decision on
drylands in the afternoon. ARGENTINA, ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA and ZIMBABWE questioned the call
for a liaison group to help draft the programme of work. ZIMBABWE also proposed calling on
the GEF to support activities under this programme. CANADA said the SBSTTA should avoid
presuming what the COP's decision on financial matters might be. On enhancing synergies
and joint programmes between the CBD and other relevant processes, ARGENTINA proposed
including reference to FAO and UNEP. CAMEROON and ZIMBABWE noted that countries Party to
the CBD may not be Parties to other conventions.
COLOMBIA and CANADA submitted a joint redraft of the operative section, requesting the
Executive Secretary to prepare a draft programme of work on drylands to be presented to
SBSTTA-5 and recommending that the COP consider providing guidance to the financial
mechanism regarding the financing of such a programme of work. The NETHERLANDS suggested
preparing a joint programme of work with the CCD. The UK suggested that the Executive
Secretary could consult with the CCD prior to preparing the draft programme of work. On
the areas that should be considered under the programme of work, MEXICO said
capacity-building should be for the purposes of inventory and monitoring. BURKINA FASO
proposed timber use. MALI, SWEDEN, CANADA and BRAZIL suggested traditional knowledge and
indigenous activities. BRAZIL also suggested including benefit sharing and eco-tourism.
WORKING GROUP II
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT: The Secretariat introduced the Executive
Secretarys note (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/4/10) on the incorporation of biodiversity
considerations into EIA. Many countries stressed the importance of capacity-building.
CAMEROON with CÔTE DIVOIRE called upon the World Bank to assist developing
countries to finance EIA workshops. MEXICO focused on the need for data and information
exchange. CANADA, BURUNDI and CÔTE D'IVOIRE underscored the importance of incorporating
traditional indigenous knowledge into EIAs.
COLOMBIA supported, and CANADA with AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND and ALGERIA were
disinclined, to include full details of EIA experiences in national reports. WGII could
not agree whether to have an EIA and biodiversity expert working group, a roster of
experts or rely on the work of other institutions, notably the International Association
for Impact Assessment. The US stressed the importance of public participation and the
exchange of lessons and experience. On global guidelines for biodiversity assessment, the
REPUBLIC OF KOREA with NORWAY and ALGERIA supported their development. NEPAL stressed the
need to develop guidelines for mountain ecosystems. CANADA suggested that guidelines
should supplement rather than reinvent existing EIA processes.
The NETHERLANDS with SWITZERLAND, BURUNDI, the REPUBLIC OF KOREA, CUBA and COLOMBIA
supported, and ECUADOR opposed, Strategic Environmental Assessments. The REPUBLIC OF KOREA
with COLOMBIA and BURUNDI underscored the importance of the precautionary approach.
Concerning transboundary impact assessments, FRANCE, NORWAY and CÔTE D'IVOIRE emphasized
such work. The NETHERLANDS with MEXICO stressed the need for environmentally-friendly
alternatives as an important EIA step, and also emphasized the need to consider
compensation for lost biodiversity (e.g. green funds). The NETHERLANDS with INDIA
supported further development of indicator-based monitoring.
GERMANY stressed the importance of national legislation and regulation to protect
biodiversity and the need to better define biodiversity EIA. GERMANY with the UK and the
NETHERLANDS emphasized that biodiversity should be integrated into EIAs rather than
separate biodiversity impact assessments. FRANCE said it was essential that assessments be
carried out on policies, plans and strategies. BANGLADESH stressed the need to update
baseline data. CUBA emphasized the importance of including the economic values of
biodiversity in EIA. Ramsar highlighted its development of a toolbox for EIA and offered
its expertise. SWITZERLAND recommended linking EIA advice to CBD thematic topics such as
drylands. INDIA, supported by SWITZERLAND and the UK, asked the CBD Secretariat to prepare
a synthesis report based on further submissions.
NEW PLANT TECHNOLOGY: Chair Vokhiwa (Malawi) introduced Rapporteur Tevita
Savae Latu (Tonga) and invited general comments on his draft recommendations on
consequences of the use of new technology for the control of plant gene expression on
biodiversity. NORWAY, supported by SOUTH AFRICA, PORTUGAL, KENYA, CÔTE DIVOIRE, the
PHILIPPINES, TOGO, ECUADOR, PERU, SRI LANKA, CUBA, DJIBOUTI and CAMEROON, and opposed by
the UK and the EC, proposed adding an international-level recommendation for a moratorium
on commercial use and field-testing of GURTs until sufficient knowledge is provided.
ECUADOR suggested adding text on the eventual negative effects on human beings. The
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, with TOGO, INDIA, SRI LANKA, CUBA and DJIBOUTI, stressed the
need for a precautionary approach. CANADA called for a more careful, detailed discussion
of the draft recommendations and emphasized the need to further explore IPR and
institutional aspects. The US called for further study of the issue and said that the need
for a moratorium should be considered by the COP. ICGEB emphasized that the hybrid model
should not be considered in the same context as GURTs.
On specific amendments to the preambular paragraph noting that GURTs will not be
developed for five years, GERMANY proposed replacing the specific time reference to
"the near future." He also suggested, and CAMEROON opposed, deleting the comment
that there are no examples where GURTs have been released in field-trials. Delegates
accepted the German formulation. CANADA proposed a new paragraph recognizing that many
countries already have regulatory frameworks in place. INDIA suggested an alternative to
recognize that many countries do not have regulatory frameworks. Both proposals were
bracketed. On text to undertake research and to put into place procedures to prevent
potential negative effects of GURTs, CANADA proposed deleting reference to the
precautionary approach in preference for a subsequent formulation referring to CBD
language. NORWAY with ECUADOR, INDIA, TOGO and COLOMBIA opposed deletion of the
precautionary approach. The Canadian formulation was accepted. INDIAs proposal to
delete the paragraph on recognizing the wide potential application of GURTs was accepted.
ECUADOR and INDIA proposed, and SWITZERLAND and CAMEROON opposed, inserting a preambular
recognition of the Biosafety Protocol process.
On recommendations at the international level, COLOMBIA suggested deleting a paragraph
on IPR implications of GURTs and replacing it with language on Farmers' Rights. INDIA
called for adding reference to the Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants.
SURINAME asked for reference to indigenous rights and traditional knowledge. CANADA
proposed inviting countries to study the impacts of GURTs on intellectual property. NORWAY
proposed a moratorium on the commercial use and field testing of GURTs until sufficient
knowledge was available. GERMANY proposed alternative text on not approving GURT
technologies until scientific assessments have been carried out. CANADA sought deletion,
in the German text, of the precautionary principle and the non-approval of GURTs before
they are brought to the field. All three proposals are bracketed.
IN THE CORRIDORS
Following a review of the numerous draft SBSTTA recommendations, participants noted the
efficiency with which the meeting is running, but also commented that none of the draft
texts propose anything too exciting. Some indicated that since SBSTTA-5 will revisit the
drylands issue, the recommendation sent to COP-5 should be more comprehensive than the
"superficial" treatment it has received thus far. The proposal to add a call for
a moratorium on field-trials of GURTs added some excitement to the discussion of the draft
text on plant technologies, although some have questioned whether SBSTTA or even the COP
has the authority to implement such a moratorium.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
WGI: WGI will resume consideration of the draft text on drylands at 10:00 am
and then consider the draft text on alien species. A draft text on taxonomy is also
WGII: WGII is expected to continue discussing the Chairs draft text on
new plant technology, followed by draft texts on sustainable use/tourism and EIA.
PLENARY: An afternoon Plenary is scheduled to consider matters related to
SBSTTA-5 and draft decisions on progress on thematic areas, the SBSTTA programme of work
and other matters.