UN Convention meets to decide how to enhance corporate profits by marketing biodiversity

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Profit-making and protection of biodiversity are directly opposed and can never be reconciled


by Anne Petermann
Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project
and North American Focal Point of Global Forest Coalition
Climate Connections October 17, 2010

Governments from all over the world are gathering in Nagoya, Japan for the next two weeks to discuss the creation of a new 10 year plan for “biodiversity conservation” at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s tenth bi-annual Conference of the Parties (COP-10) though the development of a “green economy.”

Activists, non-governmental organizations and Indigenous Peoples from around the globe are also participating in COP-10 to ensure that these strategies created to supposedly protect biodiversity focus on enhancing the rights of peoples with biodiversity-rich lands and do not impact negatively on biodiversity or these peoples by forcing them into the free market.

“There’s so much at stake here for the world’s small scale farmers, fishers and Indigenous Peoples. They’re at the frontlines of preserving biodiversity and knowledge of that diversity,” said Chee Yoke Ling of Third World Network.

COP-10 is also drawing increased attention due to its attempt to collaborate with the UN Climate Convention on schemes such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). REDD has been highly controversial because of its aim to put forests into the carbon market and to use forests to offset industrial emissions in the North. Indigenous Peoples around the world have been highly critical of REDD due to the fact that it is already leading to massive land grabs by corporations who see the future economic return from controlling large areas of forests. This has led to the displacement of the very communities that protected those forests.

COP-10 will also look at the impacts on forests from other climate mitigation strategies, such as biofuels and bioenergy. The rapid advance of biofuels as a supposed solution to climate change, for example, has led to the widespread conversion of forests into biofuel crops–which has worsened climate change and caused huge losses of biodiversity. The growing demand for wood to burn for electricity production is also driving destruction of native forests and is even being used as an excuse for the commercialization of fast-growing genetically engineered trees, all of which will also worsen climate change, not to mention devastate biodiversity. Profit-making and protection of biodiversity are directly opposed and can never be reconciled.

Because of this focus on climate strategies, however, COP-10 is being considered a crucial step on the road to Cancun (where the UN Climate Conference will take place in December).

“New and Innovative?”

Another highly controversial piece of the negotiations in Nagoya will be the creation of “new and innovative” financial mechanisms for biodiversity protection.

In particular, the CBD is taking failed models created by the UN Climate Convention for use in biodiversity conservation. One such model is the carbon market. By putting a monetary value on biodiversity, as was done with carbon, the idea is there will be more incentive to protect it. Carbon markets, however, have done nothing to curb carbon emissions, and are rampant with crime, corruption and incompetance. Biodiversity is even harder to measure than carbon and creating a market in it will be utterly ineffective in protecting it.

The CBD Alliance points out, “the move toward market approaches is about privatizing and commodifying peoples’ commons and bypassing governance systems in the South, in order to achieve ‘northern style’ conservation.” Northern style conservation refers to the NGO-Imperialist model of “protecting” land by kicking out the communities that live there.

The mechanisms for putting biodiversity into the markets include the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP), which is being overseen by Conservation International, and the Green Development Mechanism–modeled after the disastrous Clean Development Mechanism of the UN Climate Convention. Both of these models will enhance the ability of corporations to destroy biodiversity by allowing them to purchase so-called “biodiversity offsets.” The main goal of biodiversity offsets is to continue business as usual while pretending to be green, which is why BBOP members include Rio Tinto mining company, Shell and Chevron.

Biodiversity offsets justify, and will escalate, destruction of biodiversity. Biodiversity offsets allow a company like International Paper to clearcut a native forest in one place as long as they ‘protect’ one somewhere else. Biodiversity offsets result in a net loss of biodiversity. The offset model–whether carbon or biodiversity–goes completely against science and common sense.

But then common sense has never been a real strong point of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity…

Note: Anne Petermann will be blogging from Nagoya throughout the first week of the COP-10 for the Climate Connections blog


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  • George Monbiot writes:

    “The danger is not that the governments discussing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will fail to agree, but that they will agree all too easily: to a set of proposals so vague, so lacking in either content or ambition that they can do nothing to address the extinction crisis facing animals and plants all over the world.The result will not just be the loss of species but also the ‘work’ they do for the environment — cleaning water, absorbing carbon and improving soils.

    “Unless something changes, governments intend to decide that wild species and wild places will not be allowed to compete with special interest groups or industrial lobbyists, however narrow their interests or perverse their desires. Wildlife doesn’t fund political parties, control newspapers or threaten to take its business elsewhere. As soon as money can be made from its destruction, it goes.”