One Leap Backwards for Biodiversity, One Giant Step Forward for Industry Biodiversity loses at UN convention on biodiversity

In the July-August 2008 edition of Z Magazine:

One Leap Backwards for Biodiversity, One Giant Step Forward for Industry Biodiversity loses at UN convention on biodiversity

By Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle; photos by Langelle

[Note: IPOs stand for Indigenous Peoples Organizations]

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) emerged, along with its cousin the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), out of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Its mission is ostensibly to recommend solutions to the escalating biodiversity crisis, which is manifesting in the extinctions of hundreds of species every day and which threatens the existence of entire races of people.

The CBD was thought to be one of the more approachable UN bodies-where non-governmental organizations and indigenous peoples' organizations could air their concerns and have a chance to win important precedents on key issues. In 2000, organizations brought concerns about "terminator" seeds (seeds genetically engineered to pass on sterility traits) to the CBD, demanding a moratorium on their use. Backed by a strong, global grass-roots campaign, their effort was a success.

Those days are apparently over.

In a world that is seeing the effects of climate chaos, one could hope that a conference dubbed as the First Biodiversity and Climate Summit, would attempt to solve this disaster. Instead the Conference turned to the same culprits that got us into this mess into the first place: business, industry, and market-based approaches.

At their 2006 Eighth Conference of the Parties (COP-8), the CBD made their first pro-business decision, launching the "business and biodiversity initiative." This year's 2008 Ninth Conference of the Parties of the CBD (COP-9) was the grand unveiling of this new business-oriented conservation strategy. The new focus on attracting business to the Convention on Biological Diversity has led some to rename it the "Convention on Buying Diversity.

"If we want to implement the goals of the CBD and safeguard the natural basis of life for future generation, it is indispensable to involve all spheres of society, and in particular, businesses," said Gabriel Sigmar, the German minister of environment, president of COP-9.

The CBD's Business and Biodiversity Initiative states, the "Conference aims to visibly integrate the business sector..." The CBD made available many publications that were extremely pro-business, such as "Business.2010," "COP-9: Business and Biodiversity in Bonn," and "Banking for Biodiversity."

COP-9 also included numerous side events put on by business to showcase their market-driven conservation solutions. These events were quite blatant in their aims, with titles such as "Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Commodity Supply Chains" or "Biotrade Opportunities in Developing Countries." One especially memorable side event entitled "A Dialogue on Building Biodiveristy Business: Experiences and Opportunities," was co-hosted by Shell and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Sandy Gauntlett, chair of the Pacific Indigenous Peoples Coalition (PIPEC), said, "The parties to the CBD are fast becoming the world's largest organization dedicated to opposing equitable social change, with industry playing an increasingly larger role in commodifying the planet's environmental resources." She [authors' note He] concluded, "Many of the parties are lining up for their slice of the cake."

For entire article with photos:

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