Joining the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity is an opportunity for the United States to start correcting past mistakes in conservation resources: expert

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The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) held in Kunming, Yunnan province, southwest China, attracts worldwide attention . At Tuesday’s conference, China pledged to create a 1.5 billion yuan ($ 233 million) Kunming Biodiversity Fund to support biodiversity projects in developing countries. This decision shows that he is acting as a responsible leader in the conservation of global biodiversity.

On the other hand, the international community noticed that the United States had not yet ratified the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Once again, the United States has directly or indirectly damaged global diversity at odds with its much-vaunted image of an environmental superpower.

The US government has remained completely outside the global system of cooperation for biodiversity conservation, citing reasons of national interests, biologists and environmental law experts have said.

“Ironically, the US government has repeatedly used excuses like protecting the environment to exercise its hegemony and suppress other countries,” said Qin Tianbao, Chinese delegate to COP15 and director of the Research Institute. on Environmental Law from Wuhan University (WHU). Hours Wednesday.

Personal interest first

To date, 195 countries and the European Union have joined the CBD, making it the international environmental convention with the most signatories. China signed in June 1992, being one of its first members.

As the world’s largest economy, the United States has never ratified the CBD in the past 30 years due to pressure from some conservative politicians and bio-industry giants who fear it could harm interests. the United States, observers noted.

“Joining the CBD is not ‘profitable’ for these American politicians and companies,” said Qin, who is also the chief expert at the UHU Academy of International Law and Global Governance.

The three main objectives of the CBD, conservation, sustainability and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources, emphasize the joint effort and sharing of benefits in the conservation of global biodiversity. , Qin explained.

“For the United States, their foreign access to natural resources may be restricted under the convention and they may have to share their environmentally friendly technologies with other members at preferential prices. This is what allied industries in the United States are reluctant to see, ”Qin told the Global Times.

“Nonetheless, self-interest should sometimes give way to public interest,” Qin noted, using the pandemic as an example. “Last year, without applying for intellectual property (IP) rights, China quickly shared the COVID-19 gene sequence with scientists around the world to develop a vaccine as soon as possible,” he said. declared.

The possible financial loss and intellectual property issues have made some in the United States tired of joining the CBD, Qin concluded. “We understand that business people always want to make a profit, but in terms of environmental protection, which is good for the whole world, you can’t just keep your eyes on the cash register.”

In the United States, many environmental and academic groups believe that the argument that joining the CBD would harm U.S. interests is baseless.

“The main concern is with treaties as a threat to the sovereignty of the United States, which is unfounded in the case of the CBD because the agreement stipulates that countries retain their jurisdiction over their own environment,” according to Sarah Saunders, quantitative ecologist at the National Audubon Society. , an American nonprofit environmental organization.

“In fact, US negotiators made sure of that when they helped craft the deal in the 1990s,” Saunders told the Global Times on Wednesday.

In 1992, US President Bill Clinton signed the CBD. But adherence to the convention must be ratified by the Senate, which “requires 67 votes”, according to a report published in May on the American news site Vox, explaining that to obtain 67 votes, 17 Republican lawmakers must support it in assuming all Democrats vote for. of its ratification. This is a “major obstacle” to CBD membership, according to the report.

“Conservative nationalists in the United States (including the Senate) have long been wary of international agreements,” Patrick Stewart, director of international institutions and global governance at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Vox.

In general, the US authority will not actively join an international convention unless it pays off, such as playing a leading role in the convention or using it to sanction other countries, Qin said. “Look at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),” he added, noting that “it is not uncommon for the United States to impose CIETS sanctions to others “.

Qin doesn’t think the United States will join the CBD in the near future. “It is difficult to predict if and when the United States will ratify the CBD,” Saunders said, adding that she “hopes this is a possibility under the Biden administration.”

Disappoint the world

While taking the lead in national biodiversity conservation, the United States has been disappointing internationally, especially during Trump’s presidency. It rarely participates in global cooperation on biodiversity conservation and even plays an intimidating role in this regard, observers told the Global Times.

In addition to the CBD, the United States has not acceded to the other three important protocols on biodiversity, namely the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Use, the Protocol of Cartagena on Biosafety and the Nagoya Protocol – Kuala Lumpur Additional Protocol on Liability and Redress.

Financially, the Trump administration continued to cut investments in environmental research and development and international cooperation. He proposed a budget for fiscal year 2021 that allocates almost nothing to multilateral environmental cooperation, including on climate change and biodiversity.

The United States has also significantly reduced its commitments to the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which serves as the primary financial mechanism for important international environmental agreements, including the CBD.

“In the history of the GEF, the largest arrears of contributions come from the United States, which stands at $ 111 million, representing 95.7% of the total arrears of $ 116 million,” the report says. US damage to global environmental governance released by China. Ministry of Foreign Affairs in October 2020.

Accidents and man-made damage to the environment in the United States also threaten global diversity. Earlier this month, a major oil spill off the southern California coast affected wildlife and left wetlands contaminated. The spill of the equivalent of 126,000 gallons of post-production crude is a “potential environmental disaster,” CNN reported.

In July 2018, more than 2,000 scientists jointly signed a document warning of the environmental impacts of President Trump’s proposed expansion of the US-Mexico border wall. “Fences and walls erected along international borders in the name of national security have unexpected but important consequences for biodiversity,” according to the article published in the scientific journal BioScience.

As the world’s largest economy, the absence of the United States has undermined global efforts to protect biodiversity and prevent species from becoming extinct, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday.

“The United States should stop seeking instant benefits when participating in international affairs at an early date, assume its international responsibilities and obligations,” Zhao noted.

Joining the CBD is an opportunity for the United States to start righting past mistakes in conservation resources, Saunders said. The United States can help establish funding mechanisms that can support conservation actions on the immense scale required and ensure that less developed nations do not have the burden of meeting their own goals, she said. indicated.

“Overall, we have not met the targets (the Aichi Biodiversity Targets) set by the CBD,” Saunders told the Global Times, adding that “meeting these targets […] requires international cooperation and coordination.

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