Wetenschap - 21 oktober 2010

Thursday, 21 October: Synergies: One step forward, two steps back?


Wageningen scientist Ingrid Visseren-Hamakers is in Nagoya to attend the Convention of Biological Diversity. She keeps a diary for Resource.

The negotiations have really started. The COP is moving beyond the presentation of opening and general statements to working in small groups to discuss specific issues. The number of Friends of the Chair groups, expert groups, and contact groups is expanding by the hour. These groups are supposed to develop texts that all parties can agree on.
One of the issues that I am following closely is the question whether the three so-called Rio conventions, the CBD, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) could collaborate more closely, often referred to as the synergies discussion. I am really interested in this topic, since it is a perfect example of what international relations scientists call 'institutional interaction'. The reasons for collaboration among the Rio conventions are obvious, since the issues are closely related, and the work of the different conventions overlaps and influences each other. One of the often used examples is the current discussion under the UNFCCC on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), which overlaps with the work of the CBD on forest biodiversity.
Little time 
A lot of work has been done over the past few years to encourage the closer collaboration. A few years ago I analyzed this process, and the general picture was that the CBD is proactively trying to influence the UNFCCC in order to avoid that climate change policy has a negative impact on biodiversity. The UNFCCC on the other hand, is so busy with its own work that it acknowledges the need for integrated policy, but has little time or room to really do anything about it.
Little ambition 
The picture in Nagoya is different. Several parties, including China, Brazil and Japan (the host of the COP and thus an important party here), show little ambition in the synergies debate. At least, this is their position in the negotiations until today. Other countries, including the European Union, want to move forward on the issue. The negotiations are difficult. The last CBD COP in 2008 already suggested several possible concrete joint activities for the Rio conventions. The current discussions are taking two steps back, calling very generally for joint activities - again. All other proposals, including a joint work program, a joint preparatory meeting or a joint high-level meeting, are getting little support.
It is not clear to me why parties want to take two steps back. It also is really amazing, if you take a minute to reflect. Most countries are parties to all three Rio conventions. Working on synergies would seem like a logical thing to do if you have promised to implement them all. But then again, politics is usually not based on logic.... 

Ingrid Visseren-Hamakers, assistant professor at the Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group (FNP).
Resource dedicated an article to her prior to the conference.