COP11 goes down to the wire

In this morning’s press briefing, the CBD Information Officer, David Ainsworth, laid out potential scenarios for the conclusion of negotiations at the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP11) which is scheduled to conclude in Hyderabad tomorrow.

There are two main stumbling blocks which could embarrass the UN Conference process and its Indian hosts if not resolved.

The messy one concerns REDD+, the acronym for an approach to reducing deforestation which has been in preparation for some years under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, the fate of tropical forests is all about biodiversity as well as climate change and the inevitable procedural train crash between the two Conventions is near at hand.

There’s no reason why tiffs over REDD+ can’t be sorted out by common sense ministers anxious to get plenty of sleep and catch their planes home.

Agreement on a roadmap to finance the Aichi Biodiversity Targets – euphemistically described as “resource mobilisation” – is a different kettle of endangered fish.

Mr Ainsworth reminded journalists that similar irreconcilable positions at COP10 in 2010 were eventually resolved. “Notwithstanding the significant differences of opinion that we’re seeing expressed, there is a possibility for a resolution and common ground to be found,” he said.

As to the shape of a potential agreement on resources that might emerge, Ainsworth suggested three alternatives: “there could be some form of interim arrangements; some form of aspirational targets that could be agreed in advance of regular discussion; or there could be agreement on some aspects of mobilisation of resources in advance of the adoption of stronger targets. Those are all perfectly possible options that could be advanced.”

They all sound vaguely alike to me and, well, vague. My guess is that we’ll end up with something similar in concept to the “fast-start climate finance” agreed in UN climate change negotiations for an interim period 2010-2012. But this has been a messy business for UNFCCC with real doubt as to whether the $30 billion promise has been fulfilled.

And CBD won’t be talking in terms of anywhere near $30 billion and certainly won’t mention the word “additional”. Nevertheless, developing countries will feel under pressure to agree to any scraps on offer, out of fear of attracting blame for collapsing a process which will not restart until 2014.

The dream scenario therefore would see agreement on all matters by the end of today so that tomorrow’s Plenary can proceed in calm fashion. If today’s scheduled sessions fail to settle matters, negotiations will continue late into the night. If that marathon fails, then last ditch attempts will be made as the first item of the Plenary.

“We will really only know in the last minutes,” was Ainsworth’s prescient warning at the briefing.


background briefings on Biodiversity