At the core of the debate was the so called ‘Access and Benefit Sharing Protocol’ (ABS), which obliges in particular the pharma and cosmetic industries to share their profits from genetic resources with the countries these resources originate from. Finding a solution to this issue was a prerequisite for getting an agreement on the other objectives of the biodiversity convention. The Protocol gives hope for putting an end to the era of biopiracy and has the potential of paving the way for a new solidarity between industrialised and developing countries. The compromise, which was found in the last hours of the conference, establishes that the country of origin needs to give its consent to the use of its genetic resources and that a clearing-house mechanism will be set up, serving as a ‘means for sharing of information related to access and benefit-sharing. In particular, it shall provide access to information made available by each Party relevant to the implementation of this Protocol.’ It also calls for collaboration in technical and scientific research as well as for transfer of technologies.
After the failure of the UN conference in Copenhagen, this breakthrough on global biodiversity protection is a shimmer of hope that the global community is still able to find global solutions to global problems.
A second cornerstone of the convention was a Strategic Plan for 2011-2020, setting targets on safeguarding our natural capital and ecological diversity. The TEEB study (The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity), which was presented in Nagoya, has underlined with hard facts and figures the enormous economic contribution of the earth’s ecosystem to our way of living. It became very clear that preventive and protective measures must be a priority for action on all levels. The ‘Aichi Target’, as the Strategic Plan was called, adopted 20 headline targets that address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, reduce the pressures on biodiversity, enhance the benefits provided by biodiversity, and provide for capacity-building. The Plan now includes global Action programmes for the protection of ecosystems, in particular the safeguard of oceans against over-exploitation of fish stocks and of tropical forests against deforestation. The target of protecting 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of marine and coastal areas was agreed.
In the future, the users of natural resources should need to pay for the protection of our nature capital. We can no longer accept that the use of these resources benefits individual companies while the effects of the loss of natural capital have to be shouldered by the society.
The weakest link in the new agreement is the so-called ‘strategy for resource mobilization’, thus the financial part. It is not sufficient to look for funding in public budgets only, but one also needs to make more use of private sources. In the EU the social democrats are advocating a financial transaction tax, which could generate revenues that can be used for biodiversity protection measures. The tax has a potential of sweeping 190bn euro into Europe’s cash boxes, a potential that should not be left to further speculation but should be put to good use for the protection of our ecosystems.
The Nagoya Summit and the Nagoya Protocol can be seen as truly historic for the global efforts on biodiversity protection. Now, it will be important to link the three Conventions and to better integrate the biodiversity agenda with the ones on climate change and the land degradation. This is the big task of the ‘Rio +20’ conference in 2012.