Today's international political agenda is largely focused on economic and security issues, including the threats of financial collapse, terrorism, arms proliferation, and climate change. The environmental dimensions of these issues are starting to get some air time but still lag behind attention to the direct impacts on people around the world. However, accepting responsibility for impacts on global public goods, including biodiversity and the ecosystem services provided, is now beginning to be discussed in sectors from fisheries management to climate change.
In terms of the international biodiversity agenda, most multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and processes are focusing on implementation of existing commitments and work programmes. New challenges include the discussions on the need for a post-2010 biodiversity target and framework, the ongoing negotiation of an international regime on access and benefit-sharing (ABS) under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and measures to address high seas governance beyond national jurisdiction in the context of the United Nations General Assembly. The year 2010 has been declared by the latter as the International Year of Biodiversity shining a spotlight on the discussions leading up to the 2010 milestones, the United Nations General Assembly and its high level session on biodiversity and the 10th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10) that will take place in Japan in October 2010. The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) will also focus on biodiversity in 2010.
Climate change, in particular, is providing an opening for environmental issues to become a significant aspect of these negotiations. However, many constraints exist to full integration of the environment in current deliberations. These include agreeing the need for harmonization across instruments and discussions, packaging biodiversity and climate change convincingly (Chapter 5), building capacity (technical and financial) to implement the resulting decisions, and mobilizing political will to act for the global good.
During the latter half of the 20th century, and in particular following the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 and the release of the Brundtland Commission Report in 1987, hundreds of environmental agreements were drafted and ratified. Most notable from biodiversity's perspective include the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the World Heritage Convention and the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar).
This web of instruments has created, in some cases, a very tangled and difficult to implement framework for conservation. For example, for hawksbill turtles in the Wider Caribbean Region this single species is subject to the jurisdiction of more than 12 global instruments (from CITES to Ramsar to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – UNCLOS), more than seven regional agreements, and three Atlantic agreements (CITES, 2001). Unfortunately, the obligations and requirements of all these legal instruments do not always agree, leaving countries in the Caribbean struggling to identify an appropriate management scheme for hawksbills.
Similarly, while the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the pre-eminent instrument for global cooperation on climate change, many other global and regional agreements also include climate within their work. From a biodiversity perspective, these include the CBD, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), UNCLOS, CMS, and Ramsar at the international level (McNeely, 2008). But the particular agendas and requirements across these instruments also vary, leaving Parties with a dizzying array of actions to implement. In some cases, even the definition of the issue or scope of action is different, for example the definition of drylands in the UNCCD and the CBD (Box 14.1).
More than 700 international agreements relate to the environment and no effective international architecture has been established to coordinate this host of official commitments, resulting in fragmentation and duplication as well as serious capacity issues for many countries – the so-called “treaty congestion” problem. As the number of agreements grows, and along with them the number of decisions and actions to be implemented, Parties are calling for more harmonization and synergy. Attempts to support efficiency, harmonization and synergy have included Tematea (www.tematea.org), an online tool that provides rapid information on decisions and resolutions across a number of treaties and conventions according to issues; and ECOLEX (www.ecolex.org), a platform created by IUCN's Environmental Law Centre (ELC) in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), that provides access to over 600 multilateral treaties and 45,000 national laws and regulations, encompassing both the conservation and use of natural resources as well as environmental contamination through pollution and wastes. The potential for conflicting advice, as noted above for hawksbills, grows with each additional instrument drafted and attention should be paid to ensuring synergy with those that already exist as well as the means to effectively implement them.
Figure 14.1 ODA trends (OECD, 2009)
While harmonization will certainly be part of the answer, another aspect of international cooperation that must be addressed is capacity, both technical and financial, to implement existing commitments. This is a particular concern for developing countries which are expected to be full partners in coming to agreement during discussions at inter-governmental meetings but lack the underlying support and systems to participate fully in the negotiations or to implement the resulting decisions.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was created as the primary financial mechanism in support of the CBD. Between 1991 and 2006, the GEF provided about US$ 2.2 billion in grants and leveraged about US$ 5.17 billion in co-financing in support of more than 750 biodiversity projects in 155 countries. These amounts are trifling in terms of overall needs for conservation. Effective global conservation has been estimated to require an investment of US$ 20–25 billion/year (James et al., 2001) – a goal well within the means of today's financial systems that are spending billions to bail out banks.
In terms of financial capacity, given biodiversity's role in supporting human well-being, another avenue for support should be Official Development Assistance (ODA) to developing countries. In 2008, ODA was US$ 119.8 billion, representing only 0.3% of the combined Gross National Income (GNI) of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC) member countries, falling far short of the agreed 0.7% (OECD, 2009 – Figure 14.1). ODA is usually targeted at human development concerns (for example education or health) not conservation but the OECD DAC, in light of our increasing awareness of the dependence of vulnerable populations on the ecosystem services from their environment, has highlighted the role of sustainable natural resource management in “pro-poor growth” and recommended “providing development cooperation support for improved natural resource management” (OECD, 2008).
Five countries exceeded the United Nations target of 0.7% of GNI: Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The largest volume increases came from the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Japan and Canada. However, given the sudden change in the global financial climate during 2008, this level of investment may be difficult to maintain. On the other hand, as the environmental damage caused by the wealthy countries becomes more apparent, the developing countries who are disproportionately suffering from these damages have a stronger case to argue for support in maintaining (or regaining) healthy ecosystems (Srinivasan et al., 2008). International payments for ecosystem services (PES) may be one important means for greening the world's economy and engendering international collaboration for conservation.
But any focus on ODA support for developing countries or GEF support for biodiversity conservation misses the reality that the most significant financial input into these countries comes from bilateral sources of investment. In 2007, almost US$ 2 trillion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was reported by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) of which US$ 500 billion was invested in developing country economies. The amount from FDI sources has grown to many times ODA although the amounts from year to year can be highly volatile and change rapidly, as happened during the fall of the Asian “tiger” economies in the late 1990s and is likely to continue in the coming few years as the financial fallout from credit failures around the world begins to take effect.
This foreign direct investment also reflects the significant number of bilateral agreements in existence. Crawford and Fiorentino (2005) report that Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) are “a major and perhaps irreversible feature of today's multilateral trading system (MTS)”. They suggest that the limited progress in multilateral trade negotiations under the Doha Development Round appears to have accelerated development of RTAs around the world and particularly in the Western Hemisphere and Asia-Pacific region (Figure 14.2).
Ultimately, the limiting factor for all international cooperation is political will, both to come to agreements on decisions as well as to support full implementation of those decisions.
Since 1992, the Asahi Glass Foundation has conducted a survey on environmental problems and the survival of mankind. The survey results for 2008 (Figure 14.3), including responses from 732 individuals in 81 countries, noted that 70% of respondents cited global warming as the main environmental concern followed by water shortages (50%) and loss of biodiversity (43%). The survey includes a measure of the awareness of the impact of the environmental problems facing humanity by an Environmental Doomsday Clock (moving towards midnight). In 2008, respondents in all regions with the exception of the Middle East and Asia, in choosing a time on that Doomsday Clock that corresponded to their level of concern about the deterioration of the environment, averaged a time of 21:33 which was an advance of 2 minutes towards midnight, the greatest year-to-year increase since the start of the survey (Asahi Glass Foundation, 2008).
To the extent that political will reflects public opinion, this limiting factor also involves effectively communicating environmental issues to the public. The time, effort and investment required to put climate on the political agenda need to be replicated for biodiversity.
For the environmental community, ensuring recognition of the role of conservation in non-environmental discussions is an important means to engage decision makers and engender that political will and strong public support. New ways of thinking about development and development aid mean that attention must be paid to poverty-reduction plans to ensure that the environment is routinely considered part of the mainstream of development. Clarifying the governance needs for achieving effective and equitable conservation and natural resource management, particularly at the community level, will be required. Donor interest in these aspects of governance was highlighted for example by the launching of the High-Level Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor on the margins of the 2005 World Summit (UNDP, 2005).
Commitments made outside the biodiversity-related multilateral environmental agreements, including the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) commitment to the 2010 Biodiversity Target and beyond, may be critical to achieving both conservation and development in the future. Nevertheless, progress towards the implementation of the 2010 target, and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in general, has been slow (Chapter 1). Achieving these targets requires unprecedented efforts from the international community.
Figure 14.2 Regional Trade Agreements (Crawford and Fiorentino, 2005)
In some cases, political will may be more easily achieved at regional or cross-border level. Already a considerable number of regional processes and institutions form an important part of the environment and sustainable development agenda. Examples of these include the Africa Convention, the Barcelona Convention, the Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo (CCAD), the Conférence sur les Ecosystèmes de Forêts Denses et Humides d'Afrique Centrale (CEFDHAC), the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the Indian Ocean South East Asia (IOSEA) Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding, the Caribbean Environment Programme, the Amazon Treaty Cooperation Organization, and the Free Trade Area for the Americas (FTAA). The importance of these processes has been widely recognized by global-level diplomatic initiatives (e.g. WSSD, CSD, and the UN Forum on Forests) though governments are still struggling to find effective models of coordination and collaboration between global and regional levels. The general public is largely oblivious to these processes, suggesting that public support is often assumed rather than carefully built.
Mechanisms to create political and public will at more local levels include transfrontier conservation areas, such as the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, and managing ecosystems at landscape scales (e.g. river basins), which often also means multinational cooperation and collaboration.
The ongoing challenges of achieving synergy across legal instruments and capacity to implement them suggest that a more effective future of international cooperation requires a fresh look at current mechanisms and consideration of new approaches to achieving agreed goals.
Figure 14.3 Respondents identifying important environmental issues in 2008 (Asahi Foundation, 2008)
One potential “quick win” would be to coordinate the objectives and outputs of the many major meetings in the coming decade relating to environment and development. From 2009 to 2015, numerous environment-related international gatherings of politicians (UNFCCC Conferences of Parties (COPs) 15 and beyond, CBD COPs 10, 11 and 12, Rio +20, MDG 2015) will be held in addition to the regular schedule for G8 and the World Trade Organization (WTO) (which should also address environmental issues). If the capacity invested in all these events separately could be focused on common objectives, there would be a stronger chance that integrated solutions addressing environmental, social and economic challenges could result.
The challenges of implementation and enforcement of environmental law (and international commitments in general) suggests re-considering the reliance on legal measures. It is not only the implementation and enforcement constraints, but also the legislative techniques which have been traditionally the source of environmental regulations which might need to be questioned. While remaining a central tool, legislation is increasingly being supplemented by softer measures, primarily economic instruments providing incentives to reach desirable goals. This includes concepts such as payments for ecosystem services (PES), which permit trade-offs through statutory or contractual arrangements between buyers and sellers of ecosystem services (Chapter 4). This trend also includes the use of rights-based approaches, which are expected to provide better leverage for enforcement of traditional approaches based on the responsibility of States to meet their commitments to their citizens and the health of the ecosystems upon which they depend.
New responsibilities and rights in environmental governance derive from a recognition that, increasingly, governments are not the dominant drivers of change. At the global level, the role of business (as evidenced through growing FDI) has important repercussions for both the environment and human well-being. Integrating the “softer” economic instruments supporting international conservation, such as payments for ecosystem services (Chapter 12), along with rights-based approaches and corporate social responsibility (CSR) will help bring the private sector on to the international conservation scene.
Many of the environmental problems facing humanity are global issues that require concerted international efforts for successful solutions. In the coming decade, the conservation community will need to promote synergies across the multilateral agreements and with any new instruments that might be developed. Supporting full implementation of the existing agreements through capacity building and engagement of all stakeholders, especially business, should be high on everyone's agenda. Finally, expanding the available tools from binding agreements and restrictive legislation to voluntary options and positive incentives should help to promote active engagement in conservation.
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