Biodiversity talks lack French leadership

| 3rd May 2019
French Ministries under fire for lack of presence during intergovernmental biodiversity negotiations hosted in Paris.


Representatives from the world's governments are gathered in Paris to finalise negotiations over the text of a UN report that will deliver a comprehensive assessment of the state of our global biodiversity, the life support system that we all rely on to survive and thrive.

The report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), is the first of its kind and represents the most current knowledge we have on the health of the planet. The previous report launches that inform this Global Assessment have been attended by Heads of State, first in Malaysia and then in Colombia.

But at the opening of the plenary discussions for this landmark report, we saw muted opening ceremony, with no-one from the hosting French Ministries in attendance, and certainly no Head of State.

Critical moment

What hope do we have when have to take actions if these discussions are not treated with requisite importance?

This would have been a very welcome moment for France to signal its position on these issues to the world, given the increasing public anger over governments' lack of action on environmental issues, and the anticipated bad news contained within the Assessment on species extinction, forest loss, climate change and impacts to indigenous peoples and the global south in particular.

The IPBES report comes at a critical moment, ahead of the IPCC Land report in August, and off the back of increasing public and media scrutiny in the state of the natural world.

The report will be adopted ahead of an important year for both climate and biodiversity issues, and will inform the discussions on a new framework and targets to reverse nature loss at the UN Biodiversity conference in 2020 in Kunming, China.

It is reasonable that some of the stark warnings and policy tools contained in SR15 will be echoed in the IPBES report, following the IPCC 1.5 Special Report last October, and given the shared drivers behind climate change and biodiversity loss.

Continued inaction

We know the global south will be hit first and worst by continued inaction on biodiversity loss, just as with climate change.

We are not on track to meet the Paris Agreement and the SDGs will be compromised by our collective lack of movement.

The food system - production and consumption - is a key driver of biodiversity loss and also one of the highest emitters of GHGs - it accounts for one third of GHG emissions and big agricultural corporations are responsible for almost as much emissions as the fossil fuel industry and 27 percent of global forest loss can be attributed to deforestation to make way for the growing of commodity crops.

But we have many of the solutions we need to tackle these linked crises and there are a series of no regrets actions we can and should be taking now.

We know that local and indigenous communities are often the best guardians of forests, which are vital in the fight to decarbonise our society. The pathways laid out in the IPCC 1.5 report make it clear that not only do we need to protect existing forests, we also need to actively restore other ecosystems (such as wetlands, mangrove swamps) and consider giving over land to planting new forests. We also know that empowering smallholders is the best way to feed the world fairly, and with the most positive outcome for how we manage stewardship of the land.

Future impacts

We need transformative change of our society and this needs to start now if we are to minimise future impacts.

No government is currently close to doing enough, which brings us back to France and our hopes that we see more intent and action from a country more usually known as a champion for the environment.

It is a busy time for the host nation. As well as the IPBES-7 plenary, France is presiding over the G7 in 2019, with the Environmental Ministers meeting set to take place in Metz, France, on the 5 and 6 of May - overlapping with the IPBES report launch.  

We hope to see more leadership from France over these coming days. We ask the country to show leadership not just at IPBES-7 but also in the G7 environment ministerial, in prioritising biodiversity loss and championing nature.

From the Amazon, we say to the scientists and officials gathered in France once again: there is no more time, the Pachamama is in danger.

Everyone's opportunity

There have already been enough discussions, reports and forums. The time for talking is over. 

Communities around the world need to see governments starting to attach budgets to their rhetoric. We need to act now, and France must keep its word, and set an example to other countries.

It is time to know the truth, and act in truth of justice. The traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples has the answer to the almost terminal crisis of the planet.

This is the opportunity for our indigenous peoples and peasant communities to save the planet with our knowledge. Because our opportunity is everyone's opportunity.

This Author

Gregorio Mirabel is president of COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin).

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