Cross-posted from The Guardian
Nagoya is another ill-tempered bout between the global haves and wanna-haves in which the fiercest blows are landing on the natural world
One week down, one left to go. With time running out for a global biodiversity deal, there ought to be frenetic movement, a spirit of compromise and a sense of urgency at the United Nations COP10 conference in Nagoya.
But at this half-way stage, delegates appear more interested in protecting their national interests than reversing the precipitous decline of animal and plant life on Earth.
The conference started last Monday with the usual declarations of hope and exhortations to action. But the first week ended with scant progress, positions more entrenched than ever and a widespread mood of disappointment and frustration.
Wealthy nations, mostly in the European Union, are accused of holding back the money needed for protection of biodiversity hotspots in poorer countries and for failing to share the benefits that might come from exploiting the genetic resources of such areas (such as western companies creating drugs from plants in developing countries).
Without a deal on these issues, Brazil and other developing nations – which are home to most of the world’s natural capital – are holding up international efforts to establish a strategic plan to halt biodiversity loss by 2020.
Meanwhile, Canada is blocking discussion on bio-piracy and the rights of indigenous people. China is torpedoing moves to significantly expand maritime reserves. And the United States is once again playing by a completely different set of rules – having never signed the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in the first place.
In other words, Nagoya is another ill-tempered bout between the global haves and wanna-haves in which the fiercest blows are landing on the natural world that both sides claim to be protecting.
The parallels with last year’s Copenhagen climate conference are depressingly evident. Then, as now, the talks made no progress by the halfway point. Then, as now, the developed and developing world were at loggerheads. Then, as now, hopes for a breakthrough were pinned on the imminent arrival of political leaders.
Last year in Copenhagen, we were waiting for Barack Obama, Wen Jiabao, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy to fly in and save the day, but even that political A-team was barely able to cobble together a hodgepodge, watered-down accord.
This time, we await a far less heavy-hitting bunch of potential saviours. According to the organisers, only five heads of state will attend this summit, including the queen of Palau and the crown prince of Monaco. Most other countries will be represented by ministers, including the UK’s environment secretary, Caroline Spelman.
That does not, of course, mean a deal is impossible. There is no shortage of activity and endeavour. Some negotiators were working through the night last week to reduce the number of contentious brackets in the negotiating text (the sections that countries are yet to agree on). NGOs continue to push for an ambitious deal that will expand nature reserves, increase conservation funding and prevent bio-piracy.
But, unless a huge amount of progress is made this week, the likelihood once again at an UN environment conference is of no deal, a weak deal, or putting off the big decision until the next conference. Anyone for more déjà vu in India in 2012?