Folder The COP 10 in 10 Questions

1.   What is biodiversity and why must we preserve it?

2.   What are the five main threats to biodiversity?

3.   What is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)?

4.   What is the COP 10 and who is participating?

5.   How does the COP 10 in Nagoya relate to the COP 15 in Copenhagen?

6.   What is at stake at the COP 10?

7.   Which themes are discussed at the COP 10?

8.   How does the COP 10 proceed?

9.   What are the goals of the European Union at the COP 10?

10. What is Belgium's role at the COP 10?

1.  What is biodiversity and why must we preserve it?

Biodiversity is the variety of all life on Earth. It comprises millions of living organisms: all plants, animals, moulds, and micro-organisms. It also entails all ecosystems; this means the different environments that consist of the species that live in a particular area and their interactions. Finally, genetic diversity is also an important aspect of biodiversity: the differences in shape, colour, size... between the individuals of the same species. We are also part of this biodiversity!

The interactions between all these individuals, species and ecosystems make up a complex web. If one part of the web doesn't function well or drops out, all the other parts are affected.

The well-being and the life of man depend on biodiversity. Imagine a life without pure air, food, potable water, medicines or building materials... Biodiversity fulfils all our daily needs. It provides pollination for crops and fruit trees, and fertile soils. It provides us with energy sources, regulates the climate and reduces flooding. At the same time we enjoy biodiversity when we set out on an adventurous trip or take a relaxing nature walk. We can't survive without biodiversity.

2.  What are the five main threats to biodiversity?

At a rough estimate, one species disappears on Earth every 13 minutes. There are five very important reasons for this dramatic loss of biodiversity.

  • The change, fragmentation and destruction of natural surroundings. This is the main cause of the loss of biodiversity worldwide. Deforestation, agricultural activities or infrastructure works such as the construction of motorways, residential areas and industrial areas put the survival of many species on the line and are fatal to biodiversity.
  • Pollution and overfertilization. Man affects biodiversity both by polluting and by supplying the natural environment with too much nutrients.
  • Overexploitation: the excessive use of natural resources. Known examples are overfishing, excessive logging or depletion of farmlands.
  • Climate change. Most species are not capable of adjusting their way of life in time to the speed with which temperatures and patterns of precipitation change.
  • Invasive species. When exotic species are introduced to a different environment, which lacks their natural enemies, they can pose a threat to the indigenous biodiversity.

3.  What is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)?

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a global agreement that was drawn up at the World Summit of 1992 in Rio de Janeiro in order to tackle the preservation of biodiversity on a worldwide scale. The Convention is adopted almost universally: 192 countries and the European Union have endorsed it. The CBD comprises three main objectives:

  • the conservation of biological diversity,
  • the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity,
  • the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources (Access and Benefit Sharing or ABS).

4.  What is the COP 10 and who is participating?

COP is short for 'Conference of the Parties', the governing body of the Convention on Biological Diversity. These Parties are the 192 participating countries and the European Union, which is why they are called 'Parties'. The COP meets approximately every two years to negotiate on concrete policy measures in order to put the Convention on Biological Diversity into practice. The tenth COP on biodiversity is held in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan from 18 to 29 October. Two years ago, the COP 9 was held in Bonn, Germany.

About 10,000 delegates attend the COP 10: the Parties with their official delegations on the one hand and the 'observers' on the other hand. To the latter belong both countries that aren't Parties (such as the US) and international organizations, NGOs, representatives of native peoples, etc. The participants of the official delegations of the Parties are chiefly government representatives (administrations), some scientists and field workers, and relatively few NGOs.

A large delegation represents Belgium at the COP 10, as the country holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union this year and is responsible for the European coordination. The delegation that represents Europe in Nagoya consists of 66 people: 36 negociators of several government institutions, 3 scientific correspondents, a logistics team of 8 persons and a local producer, a ministerial delegation of 16 and 2 stakeholders.

5.  How does the COP 10 in Nagoya relate to the COP 15 in Copenhagen?

Quite a number of people confuse the COP 10 in Nagoya with the COP 15 that was held in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. COP isn’t short for ‘Copenhagen’, but for ‘Conference of the Parties’. These conferences work in the same way, but treat a different subject. The COP 15 in Copenhagen was the fifteenth conference that was held about the Convention on Climate Change, whereas the COP 10 in Nagoya solely deals with the Convention on Biological Diversity. A different subject also implies a different delegation: especially biodiversity policy experts participate this time.

Still, the COP 10 in Nagoya overlaps partially in content with the COP 15 in Copenhagen. For climate change is one of the most important threats to biodiversity and comes up for discussion in Nagoya this year.

6.  What is at stake at the COP 10?

The 2010 Target was launched during the 2002 World Summit in order to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on earth. That is why a framework was established to support actions and indicators were laid down to measure the status of and the trends in biodiversity. Meanwhile, it is clear that the agreements haven’t been achieved and that biodiversity continues to disappear at an increasing rate. In anticipation of the COP 10, it is clear that the 2002 targets were too ambitious.

The COP 10 will evaluate the 2010 Target thoroughly and draw up a new strategic plan for the next ten years. Consequently, the stakes are high: the plan that has to be adopted will not only have to be ambitious but also realistic in consideration of its implementation. Another crucial point of this COP 10 is 'Access and Benefit Sharing' or ABS: after years of negotiations, the Parties hope to reach an agreement on an international protocol on the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. The points that are negotiated also have to be financed, and this Resource Mobilization Strategy is the third crucial subject of the conference. The three dossiers are also very interdependent: every decision that is made in one can influence the results of the other two.

7.  Which themes are discussed at the COP 10?

About twenty themes are discussed at the COP 10. The most important and sensitive subjects are explained on this blog. The controversial issues this year are the 'Strategic plan 2011-2010', the 'Access and Benefit Sharing' (ABS) and the 'Resource Mobilization Strategy'.

Other important subjects this year include the preservation of farmland biodiversity (with a special focus on biofuels), biodiversity in forests, inland waters, marine and coastal areas, and, more general, in protected areas. The effects of climate change on biodiversity are also discussed at the COP 10, as is the relationship between biodiversity and poverty alleviation.

8.  How does the COP 10 proceed?

Before the start of the COP 10, the President of the Council of the European Union (currently Belgium) negotiates with the other member states in order to coordinate the European positions. The other Parties also actively prepare their positions, both on a national and on a regional level. For example, the African Group consults all African Parties and the GRULAC defends the collective interest of the South and Central American countries.

During the first week of the COP, the Parties present their initial positions. The EU will present its position in each dossier as a regional group. Not all groups use such a strict unanimity. For example, the GRULAC representative might take a certain position and some of the GRULAC countries could present their own positions.

The most difficult negotiations, such as those on the strategic plan or on Access and Benefit Sharing, already start in the first week and mostly continue until the end. Other dossiers can be concluded in a day. The agenda is more or less fixed for the first week, but the programme for the second week depends on how the negotiations are getting on.

Finally, a ministerial segment takes place from 27 to 29 October. It serves to ratify decisions that were already made or to cut political knots. During the ministerial segment, a lot of activities are organised that aim at the press and the general public. The decisions are only officially communicated when the last plenary session ends – on Friday afternoon or even late that night.

9.  What are the goals of the European Union at the COP 10?

In 2002, the European Union set itself the ambitious target to stop biodiversity loss within its borders by 2020. As it is clear that the target hasn’t been achieved, Europe agreed on a long-term vision and a consequential mission for 2020.

The long-term vision states “that by 2050 European Union biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides – its natural capital – are protected, valued and appropriately restored for biodiversity's intrinsic value and for their essential contribution to human wellbeing and economic prosperity, and so that catastrophic changes caused by the loss of biodiversity are avoided.”

For this vision to be achieved, the EU agrees on a headline target of “halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, and restoring them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss.”

10.  What is Belgium's role at the COP 10?

Belgium holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union since July 2010 and will be the mouthpiece of the European Union and its 27 member states at the conference. Being the President, Belgium has to start the coordination long before the COP 10. First, it prepares a neutral position per dossier in order to reach a compromise between the member states of the EU. Then the 26 European member states and the European Commission give their opinion, and finally Belgium puts forward a coordinated European proposal. This proposal is defended by Belgium as a neutral Party at the COP 10. So our role is very important this year!



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