The UN Biodiversity talks began today in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh, with a call to focus on “action” from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
What is it? The UN biodiversity talks began back in 1992, a time when the world decided that it needed to focus on climate change, desertification and biodiversity loss before it was too late. Today, el-Sisi opened the 14th Conference on Biological Diversity (known as the CBD) with a refrain all too common in UN conferences; “we did not archieve all our goals”. This he argued was due to the lack “the lack of mainstreaming of biodiversity”.
As you might guess, “mainstreaming biodiversity” is due to be a key element of this conference, though its exact implementation in the “real world” is all-too-often open to interpretation, and convenience
Where is it? Sharm el-Sheikh. A city in the Southern Sinai Peninsular, and as one local friend called it, “basically Miami for Russians”.
The city has been developed as a key tourism and conference location in the Middle East, and lies less than 6kms north of the incredible dive spot, Ras Mohammad Marine Park.
In her opening remarks, CBD Executie Secretary Cristiana Pasca-Palmer noted that the location “reminds us of the critical responsibility we all have and the rewarding aspects of all our work”. So far it reminds me neon swimwear and top40 EDM.
When is it?: The talks happen every 2 years, and just started their 14th Conference amidst some plastic plants, overpowered air-con and styrofoam lunch supplies.
This conference’s key goal is to review the last 10 years of progress, or as they like to call, “work”, and prepare for the next conference in China in 2020.
Already, there has been a series of “High Level meetings” between Environment Ministers that has launched the Sharm el-sheikh to Beijing Action Agenda, which aims at “safeguarding all forms of life”, according to Pascal-Palmer.
There has also been 2 days of meetings of African ministers, resulting in the African ministerial on Biodiversty and Pan African agenda on ecosystem resiliance.
Who is here? “Not enough ministers” said an experienced NGO expert at these talks. However, in al-Sisi’s opening remarks, he noted that from now on, “all stakeholders need to take action now in order to preserve Biodiversity in all sectors of human activities”.
That’s a pretty big ask. It’s also kind of ironic considering that Egypt is currently building the world’s largest coal-fired power plant. Even more ironically, it is being built by a Chinese consortium consisting of Dongfang Electric Corporation of Sichuan and Hassan Allam Construction of Egypt. Coal plants are thought to kill about 8 million birds each year.
China is the Conference’s next host, in 2020. There Executive Secretary Pascal-Palmer hopes to forge an “ambitious New Deal for Nature & People in 2020 to avert a catastrophe in the coming decade”.
The coal plant should be operational by then.
How it works? The next two weeks will see over 200 side events, Paralell Conferences and Negotiating meetings that will largely paint a dreary picture of the world’s biodiversity loss. Right now, WWF is hosting an event highlighting their Living Planet Report, where they note that 60% of mammal, fish, bird, amphibian and reptile species have been lost since 1970.
There will also be a big hope that Negotiators can set the stage for a Post-2020 plan, including what Pascal Palmer hopes will include “key measures to scale up action”, a holistic “biodiversity framework” and new investment injections from Businesses across “energy, mining, manufacturing and infrastructure.
The key will be the ability of policy makers to enforce policies that support and restore crippled ecosystems around the world. As President al-Sisi noted; “We need to move from a vision phase to an action phase ……. Mainstreaming biodiversity to all human activities and all sectors to secure it in sustainable manner”