UN conference sets agenda for biodiversity research

A Biodiversity garden _ Main
Garden celebrates biodiversity in Bath, UK - Copyright: Flickr/worldislandinfo.com

Speed read

  • Countries around the world set out plan to research and protect biodiversity
  • African ministerial summit presents innovative examples of ecosystem restoration
  • US refuses to sign, so China may step into leadership role

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[SHARM EL-SHEIKH] A total of 196 nations have outlined the scientific support needed to protect biodiversity as part of a deal signed last week at the 2018 UN Biodiversity Conference of the Parties—also known as COP14.

After negotiations, which concluded on 29 November in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh, governments agreed to “accelerate action” to achieve the 20 strategic Aichi Biodiversity Targets set in 2010. The concluding statement underlined their desire to “reverse the global destruction of nature and biodiversity loss threatening all forms of life on Earth”.

David Ainsworth, a spokesman for the Convention on Biological Diversity, one of the conference’s organisers, told SciDev.Net that many regions are falling short of the Aichi targets. “For developing countries, it is a question of capacity-building and resource mobilisation,” he said.

Target 19 states that, by 2020, science and technologies related to biodiversity should be widely applied and shared. Ainsworth added that scientific methods, such as collecting better information and using spatial planning, can support goals around protecting endangered areas. “New science is being generated that will help us achieve these targets on the way forward after 2020,” he said.

One deal made at the event calls for more research on genetic technology, specifically synthetic biology and digital sequencing. This specific agreement followed heated negotiations on how countries should share the economic benefits of genetic resources.

CBD video on technical and scientific cooperation initiatives

The COP14 event was preceded by an African Ministerial Summit on Biodiversity on 13 November, which produced a ministerial declaration and the Pan-African Action Agenda on Ecosystem Restoration for Increased Resilience.

Ainsworth cited examples of successful projects, such as wetland restoration in South Africa, which is improving water supplies and creating jobs, and sustainable wildlife management in Namibia, which boosts tourism and bushmeat supply for locals.

The COP14 countries requested a work programme from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) through to 2030. The countries said that the platform’s scientific experts should bring together “behavioural, social, economic, institutional, technical and technological” factors in future assessments.

The IPBES is expected to follow up on the regional assessments it published in March 2018 by launching its first global assessment in May 2019, said ecologist Anne Larigauderie, the organisation’s executive secretary.

“The willingness of the CBD parties to engage with the results of the IPBES expert assessment reports, and to agree on their importance as a key part of the evidence base to inform the post-2020 framework, is a critical milestone,” Larigauderie said.

One country that refused to sign the biodiversity deal is the United States. Without it, China will need to step forward to champion action, said Cristiana Pasca Palmer, the executive secretary of the CBD. China will host the next high-level negotiations on biodiversity, in 2020.