How will India meet the new global targets for nature?


Two blackbirds, a species of antelope native to the Indian subcontinent. Today, it is restricted for the most part to protected areas. (Image: Alamy)

In December 2022, the world’s governments agreed on a series of actions to address the rapid disappearance of wild plants and animals everywhere.

For India, turning these goals into reality will require a focus on habitat connectivity, neglected ecosystems and financial support from developed countries – while respecting the rights of local communities to benefit from local wildlife – they explain. the experts to The Third Pole.

in the fifteenth meeting of the parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversityheld in December 2022 in Montreal (Canada), known as CBD COP15, 196 countries agreed to the “Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework” (GBF). This framework -which is supposed to serve as a guide for countries to stop and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2030- includes four general objectives and 23 targets, related to the restoration of ecosystems and the prevention of the extinction of species; ensuring that people can benefit from the sustainable use of wild species; the equitable sharing of benefits from genetic resources; and obtaining adequate resources to implement the framework.

Prominent among these goals is conserving 30% of the world’s land and oceans by 2030, known as the “30×30” goal.

Can India reach 30×30?

“India can comfortably reach the 30×30 target by 2030,” recently stated Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav told the Hindustan Times, adding that almost 27% of the country’s geographical area is already subject to some kind of conservation measure. This figure includes formal protected areas such as sanctuaries and national parks, which represent somewhat more than 5% of the land area of ​​India, as well as other areas with tree and forest coverlike bushes, reserve forests and unclassified forests. According to government statisticsthe forest and tree cover accounts for 24.62% of the total geographical area of ​​India.

But one potential cause for concern is the fact that plantations, including monocultures that harbor very little biodiversity, have been classified as “forest cover”and their inclusion may be artificially inflating the number of lands subject to conservation measures.

Currently, India has a National Action Plan on Biodiversity that fits the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, predecessors of the FGD. The Aichi Targets were adopted at the CBD COP10 in 2010. “The challenge now is to find a way to internalize the new 23 targets [del FGB]”, explains to The Third Pole Vinod Mathur, former president of the National Biodiversity Authority of India (NBA) and longtime negotiator from India in the CBD.

According to Neha Sinha, policy officer at the Bombay Natural History Societyone of the most effective ways to implement the 30×30 target in India could be to focus on habitats that are often overlooked in conservation action, such as grasslands, seagrass beds and wetlands.

“If we consider the Central Asian flyway as a planning unit, there are several places that need protection and should be considered as connected to each other, such as beaches, coastal areas and inland waters,” Sinha explains. The Central Asian Flyway is a major migratory route for birds that breed in Central Asia, China, and Russia and travel to South Asia for the winter. The 30×30 target – which speaks of protected areas “well connected” and “integrated into wider landscapes, seascapes and oceans” – provides India with “a boost” to strategically plan to protect places that have historically been overlooked and improve habitat connectivity, he says.

A new conservation model?

Many commentators have expressed concern about the risk that the possible expansion of protected area networks in South Asia will dilute the rights of communities. Talking about the relationship between fishing communities and marine protected areas, Naveen Namboothri, a marine biologist and program manager at the Dakshin Foundation, a non-profit organization, explains that in India these areas are often “no-take zones.” fishing”, which means that communities cannot fish in them.

While the 2006 Forest Rights Act protects the property and access rights of forest-dwelling communities in terrestrial protected areas, there is no equivalent law to safeguard the rights of fishing communities.

Among these objectives, the one of conserving 30% of the world’s land and oceans by 2030 stands out, known as the “30×30” objective.

The FGB adopted in Montreal specifically states that the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities – as well as their “customary and sustainable use” of wild species – must be respected and protected throughout its application.

The management of India’s marine protected areas has also been criticized for being based on training and experience geared towards terrestrial ecosystems. “It’s an exclusionary and unfair system that often has no positive results for either conservation or fishing communities,” says Namboothri.

According to Vinod Mathur, India is unlikely to focus on expanding protected areas such as sanctuaries and parks that could result in the displacement of local communities and restrictions on their access rights. “We already have many sanctuaries and parks, and we recognize that there is resistance to declaring new areas as such,” says Mathur. Currently, India has 106 national parks and 567 wildlife sanctuaries.

According to Mathur, India is now focusing on other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs). This term, officially recognized in the CBD in 2018, refers to biodiverse areas that exist outside of protected area networks and where conservation objectives could be achieved as a by-product of area management.

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In June 2022, the Indian Ministry of Environment and the United Nations Development Program released a report to identify potential OECMs in the country, which included traditional farming systems practiced by the Apatani tribe in Arunachal Pradesh, the tribe Chakhesang in Nagaland and saffron farmers in Kashmir, as well as several areas that are privately owned.

This interest in OECMs is part of an effort to redefine conservation to include areas with fewer restrictions on human activity and more focused on co-benefits and management than traditional protected areas, Mathur says. “It’s not just about tigers and elephants. Issues like soil conservation are also important, because there’s a lot of degraded land. And we need urban biodiversity,” adds Mathur.

Eliminate harmful subsidies

One of the goals that India fully committed to during the CBD COP15 discussions concerns agricultural subsidies. India, along with some other South Asian countries, urged governments to carefully consider which subsidies may actually be harmful to biodiversity and which may bring benefits. For example, Mathur noted that cooking gas subsidies can reduce reliance on forests for fuelwood, which can help improve the health of forest ecosystems.

In countries like India, decisions around farm subsidies have important socio-economic ramifications, because millions of poor farmers are dependent on public support. In a statement, Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav has said there should be no numerical target for the phasing out of pesticides, and that it should be left to each country to decide how to manage the phasing out.

The final text on FGM subsidies now refers to the “reform” of biodiversity-damaging subsidies, rather than focusing exclusively on phasing out, and includes a warning that this process should be done “proportionately, fairly, equitable and efficient”. Another goal talks about reducing “the global risk of pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals.”

To explain what subsidy “reform” might mean, CP Goyal, Director General of Forestry at India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, says that some subsidies to the agricultural sector could be redirected towards alternatives, such as subsidies for gas bottles. Goyal was part of the Indian delegation in Montreal.

“Those farmers who want to give up pesticides and other harmful chemicals, and those who can afford it, can do so,” Goyal tells The Third Pole, adding that other farmers would still need aid.

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Raghu Prasad and Chandra Prakash Goyal, from the Indian delegation at CBD COP15, speak with Alue Dohong, Indonesia’s Deputy Minister of Environment and Forests, in Montreal (Image: Mike Muzurakis / IISD/ENB)

Many developing countries share similar concerns when it comes to protecting biodiversity, including the huge number of people who depend on wild ecosystems for their livelihoods. In India, more than 300 million people depend on forests. This is why, Mathur explains, from the early stages of the GBF deliberations, India coordinated with neighboring countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to reach common positions that reflected their needs, including on the responsibilities of developed countries when providing financial assistance.

Ultimately, these discussions led to an agreement whereby developed countries would mobilize at least $20 billion a year by 2025 and at least $30 billion by 2030 for the implementation of national biodiversity action plans and strategies in developing countries. .

One of the goals that India fully committed to during the CBD COP15 discussions concerns agricultural subsidies.

Overall, countries committed to mobilizing at least $200 billion annually from all sources to support implementation of the framework by 2030. Currently, reports point to an annual biodiversity finance gap of $598,000. and 824,000 million dollars. Unless biodiversity finance increases substantially from year to year, the United Nations Environment Program estimates a shortfall of just over $4 trillion by 2050.

“Now [con el GBF] We have a goal of protecting 30% of the world’s land and seas by 2030,” says Goyal, contrasting the agreement with previous Aichi targets, which were considered vague. “Whether or not we meet the goal depends on the capabilities and financial resources, but at least there is a clear objective towards which we can start working,” he adds.

Note: The article was originally published in English on The Third Pole. The reproduction of the same in Spanish is done with the proper authorization. Link to the original article:

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