UN Convention on Biological Diversity

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Earth Journalism Network, Global

INTRODUCTION
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is an international treaty that was set up to tackle threats against biodiversity, or the variety of live on Earth.

Biodiversity is the measure of the variety of organisms present in different ecosystems. This encompasses genetic variation, species variation and ecosystem variation.

The major cause of the loss of biodiversity is habitat destruction by human activities. Processes such as deforestation, pollution and climate change make some habitats unlivable for organisms.

The CBD has three aims – to conserve this biodiversity, to ensure that it is used sustainably and to ensure that the benefits from its use are shared fairly and equitably.

Almost all countries are party to the convention, which is legally binding. The United States is a notable exception as it has signed but not ratified the treaty.

In 2000, the parties to the CBD created a subsidiary agreement called the Cartagena Protocol which aims to protect biodiversity from risks posed by organisms modified by biotechnology – such as genetically modified crops.

The protocol – also known as the biosafety protocol – allows countries to ban imports of such organisms if they feel there is not enough evidence for their safety.

In 2002 parties adopted the 2010 biodiversity target. It aimed to achieve by 2010 “a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on earth”.

However, this target was not met and in much of the world biodiversity is still in steep decline. In 2010, parties to the convention adopted 20 new targets – the Aichi Biodiversity Targets — and a ten year strategy to meet the goals.

Also in 2010, after years of negotiations, parties to the CBD agreed on legal regime to manage access to biodiversity and how the benefits from its use are shared (for background see this opinion article from SciDev).

This new legal agreement is called the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization. It entered into force October 2014.

The CBD is one of many Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). It entered into force on 29 December 1993.


REPORTING TIPS
A big challenge for journalists reporting on biodiversity is to make it relevant to their audiences.

On way to overcome this challenge is to show how biodiversity underpins human health and brings immense economic and livelihood benefits.

More than half of commonly prescribed drugs — tens of billions of dollars’ worth — are derived from natural products. And about 60 per cent of people in developing countries rely on traditional medicines — mostly plant-based — for their health care.

Additionally, biodiversity is an indication of a strong and adaptable ecosystem, making it a good tool for conservation.

For other tips, see this IIED briefing on biodiversity and the media.

Good sources of information include the CBD secretariat, which is the official home of the convention. Its website includes press releases, background information and photo galleries.

The CBD requires each party to prepare national reports on their implementation of the convention and to develop a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) – and most have now done this. These are available online and are good sources of relevant and local information for journalists.

The CBD website also has a roster of experts on access and benefit sharing.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin provides daily reports during each Conference of Parties to the UN CBD and each Meeting of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol. It is a good source of neutral information on each negotiating session.

The bulletin is produced by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, which also runs Biodiv-L, an email-based mailing list for news and announcements about climate policy, which is another good source for journalists.

For other perspectives on the biodiversity convention, journalists can turn to the CBD Alliance, a network of civil society organizations, community groups, indigenous peoples organizations and social movements.

Mongabay.com and SciDev.Net are good sources of background information and story ideas.


FURTHER READING
CBD- official website
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
IUCN audio interview – what next for biodiversity targets

SciDev.Net – biodiversity facts and figures
Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries
Best Blogs on Biodiversity
SpeciesBanking.com