Biodiversity COP begins
The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) began in Kunming, China on Monday. It is China’s first major international environmental conference as hosts. Because of Covid-19 constraints, it is being held in two parts: the first, in a virtual format this week; the second, in person in Kunming next year from 25 April to 5 May. The pandemic paused preparatory meetings and “not everyone agreed to the online format
”, but scientific and policy discussions have since resumed virtually.
The CBD has 195 signatories and three main stated objectives: to conserve biological diversity; allow for its sustainable use; and enable fair and equitable benefit-sharing from genetic resources. Its COPs have inspired less interest than those of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change for several reasons. Besides fewer binding legal obligations
in the CBD, biodiversity involves much more complex interactions. In addition, targets are harder to set, measure and implement. However, failure to reverse biodiversity loss could undermine global climate, food security and sustainable development goals. Many countries have also set biodiversity targets in their climate pledges.
COP15 aims to deliver a Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to reverse biodiversity loss globally and is a “once-in-a-decade” summit, albeit delayed. It comes a year after a UN report found that the world failed to meet a single biodiversity target
for the last decade, agreed to by leaders in Aichi, Japan in 2010. States will negotiate biodiversity targets, finance and reporting standards as well as develop implementation mechanisms as part of the framework. The first part of COP15 aimed to build political momentum and interest and was largely ceremonial.
COP15 officially opened on Monday, with previous hosts Egypt handing over the presidency to China. Chinese president Xi Jinping
pledged $233m towards a Kunming Biodiversity Fund meant for developing countries and invited other countries to contribute to it, while announcing the establishment of the country’s first national parks
. Japan announced
an additional contribution of $17m to its existing global biodiversity fund. Germany
announced that it was investing €600m in global biodiversity conservation – “50% more than in former years.” Bangladesh
said the implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework would need “at least $800bn per year”, or 1% of global GDP. The Global Environment Facility
(GEF), UN Environment Programme
(UNEP) and the UN Development Programme
they would “provide immediate financial and technical support to developing country governments” towards assessing policy coherence, monitoring systems and reviewing sources of biodiversity finance. On Wednesday, COP15’s leaders summit concluded with the adoption of the Kunming Declaration
from nearly 40 countries, some of whom raised language concerns and that there was not “sufficient discussion”, Trust
Days before the conference, India signed up
to a “high-ambition coalition” led by Costa Rica and France to protect 30% of the world’s land and oceans by 2030, the first of the BRICS
countries to do so. The 30x30 campaign
has generated the most amount of political interest, with the UK also championing a Leaders Pledge for Nature
. But concerns remain about “conservation via dispossession
”. More than 160 civil society organisations wrote an open letter
to world leaders demanding that “human rights, and the protection of those who defend them, must be a non-negotiable part of measures adopted in upcoming negotiations” at COP15 and at COP26. Significantly, the Kunming Declaration notes the 30x30 goal, but does not indicate if it has host China’s support.
WHAT: Channel 4 News
in the UK reported that three Malaysian-backed firms – East New Britain (ENB), Rimbunan Hijau (RH) and Bewani Oil Palm Plantations – clear-felled tens of thousands of hectares of the world’s third largest rainforest in Papua New Guinea. The story covered a two-year, undercover investigation by Global Witness
in which company executives were caught on camera appearing to admit to grave human rights abuses and tax evasion. Senior employees and palm oil executives from these three firms appeared to confess to using child labour, paying police to threaten villagers, bribing officials including a government minister and tax evasion. Researchers found that palm oil and its derivatives from “tainted” plantations were allegedly sold on to brands, including Kellogg’s and Nestlé.
differently to Global Witness findings. For example, Nestlé said it had not received palm oil from one of the mills mentioned in the report since 2019. It said that it had asked Earthworm – a foundation that helps its member companies eliminate deforestation from their supply chains – to investigate allegations. “If any mill was involved in deforestation or had failed to seek proper consent from traditional landowners, it would suspend them”, continued Nestlé. Kellogg’s said it was taking the investigation seriously and had reached out to “three potentially impacted suppliers”. ENB denied that it used bribery, child labour or engaged in tax evasion, Channel 4 News
FUNDERS: The report also raised concerns about banks and global financiers for palm oil who Global Witness says are “bankrolling” deforestation, a key issue at COP15 and COP26. Malaysia’s Maybank, “whose record of lending to the palm oil [industry] is well-established”, counts as its shareholders the BlackRock subsidiaries, UK’s Pyrford International Limited and Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM). The latter manages Norway’s oil fund and has excluded companies on human rights, environmental and climate grounds in the past.
In response to Global Witness’ requests for comment
, Pyrford said it had raised the report’s concerns with Maybank. NBIM said it had “proactively engaged” with banks in Southeast Asia on lending to companies that contribute to deforestation since 2018, but said it did not provide information about its engagements with individual companies. BlackRock said it could not “exclude any particular companies from the indices selected by [its] clients” but that its focus was on engaging with companies to understand how they were managing sustainability issues. Maybank, citing banking secrecy laws, said it closed its PNG subsidiary in 2015 and did not respond to allegations of firms operating without community consent.
WHY IT MATTERS:
“In Papua New Guinea, we host 13% of the world’s rainforest and 6% of the world’s biodiversity. We have the most forested land cover in the world”, said
PNG prime minister James Marape
at COP15 on Tuesday. The Global Witness report estimates that his government plans to increase land under palm oil cultivation ten-fold by 2030. According to Global Witness, these forests store billions of tonnes of carbon and have been protected by Indigenous communities for millennia. “The destruction of these rainforests by palm oil companies erodes their value as a precious carbon sink and also releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide,” lead investigator Lela Stanley
told Carbon Brief. “Keeping Papua New Guinea’s forests standing is not only critical for the lives and livelihoods of people who depend directly on them, but it’s also crucial in the effort to tackle the climate emergency,” Stanley said.
A dry summer across much of Canada means that harvests of key crops such as peas and wheat were 40-50% lower than normal, multiple outlets reported. Pea production in Canada was at its “lowest levels in a decade”, the Times
said, leading to a “global shortage” of the crop. Metro
catalogued pasta shortages in several parts of the UK, writing that “a shortage of durum wheat after a drought and soaring temperatures” was to blame for the empty supermarket shelves. Both the Times and Metro noted that excessive rains in Europe had further affected key crop harvests.
added that pea protein is a key ingredient in certain types of plant-based burgers, which will “inevitably” rise in price as a result of the poor harvest. Metro
warned that UK shoppers may have to “pay up to 50% more for pasta in the future”. Miguel Patricio
, the chief executive of Kraft Heinz – one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies – said that his company was “raising prices, where necessary, around the world”, BBC News
reported. Patricio blamed a “broad range of factors”, including higher energy prices and labour shortages for the increases.
The UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, Tomas Ojea Quintana
, called for the easing of sanctions on that country to avert a humanitarian crisis, according to Reuters
. In a report prepared for the UN, Quintana wrote that “access to food is a serious concern” in North Korea. Last month, BBC News
reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un
“highlighted the danger of climate change” in a speech. The outlet noted that typhoons, drought and monsoon rains have all affected “vital crops” over the past two years.