A promising start but will the Conference of Parties (COP) deliver?
Discussions have kicked off today at the UN meetings on the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in Cancun, Mexico, and there's plenty of enthusiasm in the room. Over 6,000 registrants and countless delegations representing nearly every country in the world are present, along with plenty of civil society groups. These parties have all come together in order to advance our collective, global effort to protect life, in all its diversity.
Chaired by Rafael Pacchiano, Mexican minister of the environment, the opening statements were very optimistic and full of praise to the secretariat of the CBD, for all their hard work and the advancement of the Cartagena and Nagoya protocols over the last 20 years. Even though governments have failed to solve the biodiversity crisis, the CBD has led to progress and some significant steps forward, such as the CBD’s global Programme of Work on Protected Areas, adopted in Kuala Lumpur in 2004, which kick-started an increase of funding and political action to establish more and better managed nature reserves.
Since 1992, protected areas have increased by more than third, altogether now covering a land area as large as the Russian Federation. However, only 7 percent of the world's coastal waters and 1.4 percent of oceans are protected. Recognizing the unique risk posed by genetically engineered organisms to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, governments adopted the Cartagena Protocol. It's clear that there is forward momentum.
When civil society were offered the floor a very different story began to be told: Youth groups pleaded for a more concerted effort to protect wildlife and the environment; and women's groups reminded the audience that women are still not afforded equal rights and treatment, thus impeding progress on efforts of human advancement, including protecting biodiversity. Unfortunately, pro-science groups, like the delegation organized by PRRI, were not given the floor and allowed to share their opinion. But nonetheless, it was impressive to see and be part of such a dynamic, internationally and professionally diverse group of pro-science advocates.
Let's see what place science will take in the days ahead.