Update on the Negotiations at COP-10: Will Biodiversity Survive the Process?

Note: Below is an update written by Anne Petermann on the negotiations at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Tenth Conference of the Parties (COP-10) in Nagoya, Japan.  It is followed by her intervention duing the negotiations on “Biofuels and Biodiversity” that she delivered on October 21st.

–The GJEP Team

__________________________

Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project Executive Director and North American Focal Point for the Global Forest Coalition.

Wednesday (yesterday) began the CBD COP-10 Working Group negotiations
directly related to the work of Global Justice Ecology Project.  The first
item on the agenda: Biodiversity and Climate Change, under which fell
topics including geoengineering–on which ETC Group is here leading a
valiant effort for a strong moratorium–and REDD, the Reducing Emissions
from Deforestation and forest Degradation scheme.

While several countries spoke in favor of a moratorium on geoengineering,
REDD received extensive support.  With all of the propaganda here in
favor of REDD and other market-based conservation schemes, this outcome is
hardly surprising.

Out of the 6 hours of official negotiating time allotted yesterday, the
agenda item on climate change took approximately 4.5 hours, with countries
running on and on in their interventions and most positions firmly
entrenched.

After sitting in that oppressive lifeless artificial room for so long,
when the item finally concluded at 5:15pm, I fled to find some fresh air
and natural light.  The next item on the agenda was dry lands
biodiversity, and as the negotiations were scheduled to end at 6 pm I
concluded there was no way they would get to the next agenda item–forest
biodiversity–before the end of the day.

At 6:30 pm, however, Simone Lovera–our colleague from Global Forest
Coalition, arrived late to our scheduled side event on REDD and informed
me that not only had they started negotiations on forest biodiversity,
they had actually finished them in less than one hour, with no observer
organizations allowed to speak.

One hour?!  How to protect forest biodiversity is one of the key issues at
this COP.  With REDD coming down the pike, not to mention all the new and
emerging pressures on forests, the discussions around how to protect
forest biodiversity should have been a central focus of the negotiations.
Instead, they were swept under the rug.

And no observer organizations were allowed to speak.  ”You can submit your
comments in writing…”  The excuse used to cut off the observers from
speaking was that the translators needed to leave.   I was advised by a
colleague to go back first thing in the morning and request permission
from the Chair of the Working Group to make an intervention before the new
agenda item was started, since there was no time the night before.  This I
did.  ”No”—was the answer.  ”Sorry, the item is closed.  We have to
stick to our schedule.  Submit your comments in writing.”

Right. Fine. Swell.

Today’s agenda was filled with agricultural biodiversity followed by
biofuels and biodiversity.  On the first item, there were numerous
comments from developing countries cautioning about the impacts of
industrial agriculture, including GMO crops, and especially “climate
ready” GMO crops–Monsanto’s latest scheme to monopolize the food supply,
using climate change as the opportunity.

Following that item came the next big contentious debate–this one on
biofuels–also known as agrofuels.

This item was pretty clearly divided between countries that intend to
benefit from biofuel production (led by Brazil, the global biofuel king)
and those countries whose lands and people are being negatively impacted
by the growing demand for land to grow biofuel crops.  This sector was led
by the African delegation.  In typical fashion, Canada, New Zealand, and
the EU made interventions that largely supported weakening the
precautionary text on the item, and emphasizing the “benefits to
biodiversity” from biofuels.  Short of the escape of GMOs or synthetic
organisms into the environment, which I suppose would technically add new
species into the ecosystem, it is unimaginable to me how biofuels could
increase biodiversity.

Just before the Working Group reconvened after lunch, I overheard one of
the participants say, “REDD is the ultimate intelligence test for
humanity.”

While the speaker meant this to mean that it is imperative to get forests
into the market as the best and only chance to save them and stop climate
change, I interpreted it quite differently.  It is an intelligence test
alright.  Will dominant culture change its ways in the face of full-scale
ecological crisis, or will it not?  If this COP meeting is any indication,
it ain’t lookin’ too good.

Einstein famously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over
and expecting a different result.”  One could easily apply that logic to
REDD and the attempt to use the market to protect biodiversity.

We’ve seen for centuries how the use of the market on natural resources
has impacted those resources.  We have the climate crisis, the
biodiversity crisis, the ocean crisis, the food crisis, the water
crisis…  Privatizing and marketing natural resources has driven Planet
Earth to the point where, to quote John Trudell, “civilized man may make
survival on Earth for civilized man impossible.”

Miracle of miracles, the Chair of the Working Group decided to allow some
observer organizations to make comments at the tail end of the biofuels
and biodiversity section.  What follows is the intervention that I made on
behalf of Global Justice Ecology Project.  It is a bit short because,
while “Parties” (i.e. countries) were allowed to go on endlessly, observer
organizations were strictly limited to one-minute interventions.  (The
marginalization of social justice and Indigenous Peoples Organizations at
these UN events is quite striking–the climate COPs are even worse.)

Intervention on Biofuels and Biodiversity:

Thank you Madam Chair.  I am speaking on behalf of Global Justice Ecology
Project.

Demand for trees for bioenergy is growing exponentially.  Second
generation biofuels will add to this problem.  Before emissions from
deforestation can be reduced or biodiversity protected, this rapidly
growing demand on forests must be stopped.  You cannot simultaneously
support REDD and promote biofuels and bioenergy.

The UN definition of forests must also be changed so that it is
science-based. As it is, it allows destruction of forests for conversion
into biofuel and bioenergy tree monocultures. Saying a tree monoculture is
a forest is like saying a cornfield is a native grassland. Even socially
and ecologically destructive genetically engineered trees are possible.

Demand for biofuels and bioenergy is also driving GMO tree development.
In the Southern U.S. alone, industry plans to plant half a billion GMO
eucalyptus trees every year just for bioenergy and biofuels.  These
plantations will replace some of the most biologically rich forests in the
world.  GMO eucalyptus should be considered an invasive alien species.
It’s ability to escape and colonize native ecosystems, destroying
biodiversity, is well documented.

In conclusion, demand for wood for fuel production is predicted to lead,
by 2050, to the almost total replacement of forests and grasslands with
biofuel and bioenergy monocultures.  This is an unparalleled threat to
biodiversity and to the land security of Indigenous and Local Communities.

There are no positive impacts on biodiversity from biofuels or bioenergy.
All references to positive impacts should be deleted.  This body must
protect biodiversity by enacting a moratorium on large-scale biofuel and
bioenergy development, and by prohibiting the use of GMO trees or
synthetic organisms in biofuel or bioenergy production.

Thank you.

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