Convention on Biological Diversity Began (1993)

The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, spawned many developments in the journey for global sustainability.  One of those is the Convention on Biological Diversity, which came into force on December 29, 1993, ninety days after the 30th country ratified the treaty.

            And that is what it is—a treaty.  The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has 196 national parties, each of which has agreed, by law, to abide by the convention’s requirements.  Only one major nation is not party to the CBD—the United States.  By all accounts, the way the U.S. addresses biodiversity conservation was the basis for the convention, and U.S. representatives to the Rio conference were prime negotiators on its content.  President George H. W. Bush, however, declined to endorse the convention.  Later, President Clinton did sign the convention, but the Senate, which is required to approve all treaties, has never acted to ratify it.  Therefore, the U.S. participates as an “observer” in CBD activities, unable to negotiate on its implementation or amendment.  Nonetheless, the conservation laws and management practices of the U.S. meet the CBD requirements.

            The CBD has three main objectives, as stated in Article 1 of the Convention itself:  “The objectives … are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources….”  So, the convention recognizes not only that biodiversity should be preserved, but also that its benefits should be used sustainably and justly among developed and developing economies.

            That is a tall order, and the CBD has served more as a global conscience for protecting biodiversity than as a set of specific objectives or the mechanisms to achieve them.  A ten-year strategic plan set in 2001 was largely aspirational, and the results were disappointing—biodiversity had continued to decline since the start of the millennium. 

            A new strategic plan was crafted, covering the decade from 2011-2020.  It included five strategic goals and twenty targets, known as the “Aichi Biodiversity Targets.”  Most of those targets are still qualitative rather than quantitative; Target 1, for example, states that by 2020 “people are aware of the values of biodiversity” and how to use and conserve it.  Some targets, however, are more specific and measurable, like Target 5, which asks that “the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved.”

            The element of the CBD which has garnered the most international attention seems to be its work on the international movement of “living modified organisms,” or LMOs.  LMOs are a more inclusive label that includes GMOs. The convention approved the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in 2000 (entered into force in 2003).  The Protocol sets conditions for the export and import of living organisms that were produced by modern genetic biotechnology, specifically as they relate to impacts on native biological diversity.  The U.S. is not party to this protocol, but it does act in accordance with its requirements.

            Now that 2020 has begun, the CBD Secretariat (which operates from offices in Montreal, Canada) is working on the strategic plan for the next decade.  Let’s hope that this plan can move from being our conscience on biodiversity protection to become our roadmap for achieving a sustainable world.

References:

Convention on Biological Diversity.  Aichi Biodiversity Targets.  Available at:  https://www.cbd.int/sp/targets/.  Accessed January 17, 2020. 

Convention on Biological Diversity.  History of the Convention.  Available at:  https://www.cbd.int/history/. Accessed January 17, 2020. 

Defenders of Wildlife.  The United States and the Convention on Biological Diversity.  Available at:  https://defenders.org/sites/default/files/publications/the_u.s._and_the_convention_on_biological_diversity.pdf. Accessed January 17, 2020. 

UN Food and Agriculture Organization.  2004.  Living modified organisms:  new guidelines for risk assessment.   Available at:  http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2004/43684/index.html Accessed January 17, 2020.

This Month in Conservation

February 1
Afobaka Dam and Operation Gwamba (1964)
February 2
Groundhog Day
February 3
George Adamson, African Lion Rehabilitator, Born (1906)
February 4
Congress Overrides President Reagan’s Veto of Clean Water Act (1987)
February 5
National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)
February 6
Colin Murdoch, Inventor of the Tranquilizer Gun, Born (1929)
February 7
Karl August Mobius, Ecology Pioneer, Born (1825)
February 8
President Johnson Addresses Congress about Conservation (1965)
February 8
Lisa Perez Jackson, Environmental Leader, Born (1982)
February 9
U.S. Fish Commission Created (1871)
February 10
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, born (1944)
February 11
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 12
Judge Boldt Affirms Native American Fishing Rights (1974)
February 13
Thomas Malthus Born (1766)
February 14
Nature’s Faithful Lovers
February 15
Complete Human Genome Published (2001)
February 16
Alvaro Uglade, Father of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Born (1946)
February 16
Kyoto Protocol, Controlling Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Begins (2005)
February 17
R. A. Fischer, Statistician, Born (1890)
February 18
Julia Butterfly Hill, Tree-Sitter, Born (1974)
February 19
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Established (1962)
February 20
Ansel Adams, Nature Photographer, Born (1902)
February 21
Carolina Parakeet Goes Extinct (1918)
February 22
Nile Day
February 23
Italy’s Largest Inland Oil Spill (2010)
February 24
Joseph Banks, British Botanist, Born (1743)
February 25
First Federal Timber Act Passed (1799)
February 26
Four National Parks Established (1917-1929)
February 27
International Polar Bear Day
February 28
Watson and Crick Discover The Double Helix (1953)
February 29
Nature’s Famous Leapers
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