Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

Convention on Biological Diversity and its birth, signatory, main objective, main organ, duty and conference of the parties will be introduced in this part, through which you will have a better understanding of Convention on Biological Diversity. 

Overview of Convention on Biological Diversity

Convention on Biological Diversity is an international convention for the protection of the earth’s biological resources. It was adopted at the 7th meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi on June 1, 1992. On June 5, 1992, the signatory countries signed it at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Convention entered into force on December 29, 1993. The permanent secretariat is located in Montreal, Canada. The Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity is the highest decision-making body in the world to implement the Convention. All major decisions regarding the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity must be adopted by the Conference of the Parties.

The Birth of Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD)

In 1972, the United Nations General Assembly on the Human Environment held in Stockholm decided to establish the United Nations Environment Programme. Governments of various countries signed a number of regional and international agreements to deal with issues such as wetland protection and management of international trade in endangered species. These agreements, together with relevant agreements to control pollution by toxic chemicals, slowed down the trend of environmental destruction, although this trend has not been completely reversed. For example, international bans and restrictions on hunting, digging and reselling certain animals and plants have reduced indiscriminate hunting and poaching.

In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development came to the conclusion that economic development must reduce environmental damage. This landmark report, entitled “Our Common Future”, pointed out that human beings already have the ability to realize their own needs and sustainable development without sacrificing the needs of future generations. The report also called for “a new era of healthy and green economic development”.

In 1992, the largest UN Conference on Environment and Development attended by heads of state was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At this “Earth Summit”, a series of historic agreements were signed, including two binding agreements: the Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The former aims at industrial and other greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2. The latter is the first global agreement on biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. The Convention on Biological Diversity has been quickly and widely accepted. More than 150 countries signed the document at the Rio Conference. Since then, 175 countries have ratified the agreement.

Signatory of Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention currently has 196 signatories, including China, Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, etc. That is to say, most countries in the world have signed the Convention. The United States has signed but not ratified the treaty.

Main Objectives of Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity has a wide range of objectives and deals with major issues concerning the future of mankind. It has become a milestone in international law. The main objectives are:

  • To protect biodiversity;
  • To ensure the sustainable use of biodiversity components;
  • To share commercial benefits and other forms of utilization of genetic resources in a fair and reasonable way.

The Convention reminds decision makers that natural resources are not inexhaustible. The Convention establishes a new concept for the 21st century- sustainable use of biodiversity. Past conservation efforts have mostly focused on the protection of certain special species and habitats. The Convention believes that ecosystems, species and genes must be used for the benefit of mankind, but this should be obtained in a way and at a speed that will not lead to a long-term decline in biodiversity. Based on the precautionary principle, the Convention provides a guideline for decision makers: when biodiversity is significantly reduced, the lack of sufficient scientific findings cannot be used as an excuse to take measures to reduce or avoid this threat. The Convention affirms that the protection of biodiversity requires substantial investment, but at the same time emphasizes that the protection of biodiversity should bring us significant environmental, economic and social returns.

Main Organ of Convention on Biological Diversity

The highest authority of the Convention on Biological Diversity is the Conference of the Parties, which is composed of governments (including regional economic integration organizations) that have ratified the Convention. This body checks the progress of the Convention, sets new priority protection for member states, and formulates work plans. The Conference of the Parties may also amend the Convention, establish a consultant expert group, examine the progress reports submitted by member states and cooperate with other organizations and conventions. The Conference of the Parties can obtain expertise and support from other institutions established by the Convention, such as:

  • Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice(SBSTTA): SBSTTA is composed of experts from relevant fields of member states and plays a key role in providing scientific and technical advice to the Conference of the Parties.
  • Clearinghouse Mechanism: It is an Internet-based network that promotes scientific and technological cooperation and information.
  • Secretariat: Based in Montreal, Canada, it is in close contact with the United Nations Environment Programme. Its main functions are to organize meetings, draft documents, assist member states in implementing their work plans, cooperate with other international organizations, and collect and provide information. In addition, the Convention of Parties may set up special committees or mechanisms when it deems it appropriate. From 1996 to 1999, the COP set up a working group on biosafety and working group on indigenous knowledge and local communities.
  • Global Environment Facility: Developing countries can receive financial support from the financial mechanism of the Convention, such as GEF, when carrying out activities related to the Convention. The GEF project supported by the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank promotes international cooperation and provides financial support in four areas that play a major role in the global environment: loss of biodiversity, climate change, depletion of ozone layer and depletion of international water resources.

The Duty of Convention on Biological Diversity

As an international convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity recognizes common difficulties, sets complete goals, policies and universal obligations, and organizes technical and financial cooperation. However, the main responsibility for achieving this goal lies with the parties themselves. Private companies, land owners, fishermen and farmers are engaged in a large number of activities that affect biodiversity. The government needs to play a leading role by formulating laws and regulations to guide its use of natural resources and protecting biodiversity in state-owned land and waters. According to the Convention, the government undertakes the obligation to protect and sustainably use biodiversity. The government must develop national biodiversity strategies and action plans and incorporate these strategies and plans into broader national environment and development plans, which are especially important for forestry, agriculture, fisheries, energy, transportation and urban planning. Other obligations of the Convention on Biological Diversity include:

  • Identify and monitor important biodiversity components that need to be protected;
  • Establish protected areas to protect biodiversity and promote the development of the region in an environmentally friendly way;
  • Cooperate with local residents to repair and restore the ecosystem and promote the restoration of threatened species;
  • Respect, protect and maintain the traditional knowledge of sustainable use of biodiversity with the participation of local residents and communities;
  • Prevent the introduction, control and elimination of alien species that threaten ecosystems, habitats and species;
  • Control risks caused by organisms changed by modern biotechnology;
  • Promote public participation, especially in evaluating the environmental impact of development projects that threaten biodiversity;
  • Educate the public and raise public awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the need to protect it;
  • Report on how Parties have achieved their biodiversity targets.

Conference of the Parties to Convention on Biological Diversity

As the highest deliberation and decision-making mechanism of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Conference of the Parties is held every two years. The results of the Conference will guide the development trend of the Convention on Biological Diversity process and indicate the direction for global biodiversity protection. The The 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held in December 2016 decided that The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020 would be held in China.

On September 3, 2019, in Beijing, Chinese Minister of Ecological Environment Li Ganjie and Dr. Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD), jointly released the theme of the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15)- “Ecological Civilization: Building a Community of Life on Earth”. It has been confirmed that CBD COP15 will be held from October 19-31, 2020 in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China.