Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Deconstructing Biocultural Diversity and Conservation

From April 25-26, Natural Justice attended a seminar on biocultural diversity and conservation in Sabah, Malaysia. It is the first of three seminars and part of an interactive course designed by the Global Diversity Foundation (GDF) and funded by the Darwin Initiative UK. This seminar, facilitated by Dr. Rajindra Puri (University of Kent), was entitled "Reframing Our Ecology: Concepts and Debates for Research and Advocacy in Human-Environment Relationships". Drawing on a selection of recent academic literature and case studies from around the world, participants explored concepts and methods of biocultural diversity; community-based conservation; protected areas; and poverty and conservation. Community researchers from Ulu Papar and Bundu Tuhan also presented on their experiences and activities over the past several years, which have included a range of participatory research and communication techniques such as demographic surveys, mapping, video, and photography. The next seminar will be held in June.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bhutan: Will ABS Make Us Happier?

The National Biodiversity Center of Bhutan hosted a two-day multi-stakeholder capacity development workshop on Developing a National Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Policy for Bhutan. The workshop was facilitated by Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice) and Morten Tvedt (Fridtjof Nansen Institute). The workshop explored a number of issues arising from the Nagoya Protocol on ABS, including regulating access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge in Bhutan, ensuring compliance with Bhutanese ABS law, and the rights of Bhutanese communities.

The workshop had 32 participants representing Bhutan's Ministry of Forests and Agriculture, civil society organizations, community groups, and research and private sectors. One of the most interesting aspects of the workshop was a collective visioning process of what a potential ABS policy for Bhutan could look like. The visioning process sought to use Bhutan's Gross National Happiness indicators to analyze whether Bhutan needed ABS as an incentive for conservation considering that 70% of Bhutan's lands are under forest cover. The participants decided that Bhutan required an ABS policy to secure benefits and livelihoods to be able to justify their strong conservation policies to a growing population. However, they wanted to take the time to develop an ABS policy with a difference - one that would generate livelihoods, develop Bhutan's research capacity, collaborate with ethical companies, focus on products that are environmentally friendly, and stay true to their cultural and spiritual values.

The workshop will be followed by further planning meetings facilitated by Bhutan's National Biodiversity Center. The meetings will be held with the aim of developing a road map for an ABS policy that is widely consulted in Bhutan and is rooted in the criteria of Gross National Happiness.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Attempts to Justify Land-grabbing Criticized by Global CSOs

From April 18-20, the World Bank will be leading discussions of how to operationalize "responsible" large-scale land acquisitions, centred largely around their "Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment that Respect Rights, Livelihoods and Resources" (RAI). According to a broad global coalition of social movements and civil society organizations, the push for RAI is "about creating an illusion that by following a set of standards, large-scale land acquisitions can proceed without disastrous consequences to peoples, communities, ecosystems and the climate... Even if done 'transparently', the transfer of large tracts of land, forests, coastal areas and water sources to investors is still going to deprive smallholder farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk and other local communities from crucial, life sustaining resources for generations to come. In many countries, there is an urgent need to strengthen systems that protect land tenure of peasants and small-scale food producers, and many social movements have been fighting for recognition of their rights to land for many years. The RAI principles will make any progress on agrarian reform or land rights meaningless."

The coalition continues by stating that the "path to food sovereignty and justice" must be rooted in the "broad consensus [that] has grown over the past several years around the real solutions to hunger, the food crisis and climate chaos, namely that:
  • peasant agriculture, family farming, artisanal fishing and indigenous food procurement systems that are based on ecological methods and short marketing circuits are the ways forward toward sustainable, healthy and livelihood-enhancing food systems;
  • production, distribution and consumption systems must radically change to fit the carrying capacity of the earth;
  • new agricultural policies that respond to the needs, proposals and direct control of small-scale food producers have to replace the current top-down, corporate-led, neoliberal regimes; and
  • genuine agrarian and aquatic reform programmes have to be carried through to return land and ecosystems to local communities."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New Article on Biodiversity and Climate Change Law

Elisa Morgera (University of Edinburgh) has written a working paper entitled, "Faraway, So Close: A Legal Analysis of the Increasing Interactions between the Convention on Biological Diversity and Climate Change Law". The abstract reads: "The legal and policy implications of the impacts on biodiversity of climate change, as well as of mitigation and adaptation measures, have been progressively addressed by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This process experienced a steep acceleration at the tenth meeting of the CBD Conference of the Parties (COP X - 18-29 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan) that resulted in a host of unprecedented and far-reaching decisions related to climate change. This article will first discuss the increasing understanding of the links between global biodiversity loss and climate change, and then review the main climate change-related outcomes of the CBD COP X. It will conclude by discussing the legal relevance of this significant rapprochement of international biodiversity law to climate change law."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

European Biofuel Policies "Unethical"

Credit: Naomi Johnstone.
A report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics blasts European Union (EU) biofuel targets as unethical. The EU Renewable Energy Directive, which calls for biofuels to comprise 10% of transport fuel by 2020, was originally put foward as part of Europe's climate change strategy. It has since been heavily criticized for driving an unsustainable expansion of biofuel production, especially in developing countries, driving deforestration, rising global food prices, and the displacement of Indigenous peoples and local communities. The Nuffield report says that existing policies should be replaced by a new enforceable strategy and strict ethical and environmental standards backed by a certification process. Six principles are suggested as the basis for future biofuel policies, including: respecting people's rights to food, work and health; equitably distributing costs and benefits; environmental sustainability (including using less land, pesticides, and fertilizers); contributing to a net reduction in total greenhouse-gas emissions; and adhering to fair-trade principles.

Critics voice serious concerns about the viability of certification schemes and the production of any amount of biofuels. According to Robert Palgrave (Biofuelwatch), "There is no scientific credible way of calculating the full climate impacts of agrofuels. Indirect impacts are not just about 'hectare for hectare' displacement; they are also about the interaction between land prices and speculation, about the impacts of roads, ports and other infrastructure on forests, about policy changes which affect land rights, about scarcely-understood interactions between biodiversity, ecosystems and the climate."

Download the full report, entitled "Biofuels - Ethical Issues". Read accompanying press coverage in BBC News and NatureNews.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bolivia About to Pass Law of Mother Earth

An April 10th article in The Guardian reveals that Bolivia is set to pass the world’s first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country's rich mineral deposits as "blessings" and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry. It will establish 11 new rights for nature, including: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; the right not to have cellular structure modified or genetically altered; and the right not to be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities. The law, which is part of a complete restructuring of the Bolivian legal system following a change of constitution in 2009, has been heavily influenced by a resurgent indigenous Andean spiritual world view which places the environment and the earth deity known as the Pachamama at the centre of all life. As Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera says, "It makes world history... It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration."

Thanks to Elsa from the TK Bulletin for the link!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

African BCP Initiative Inception Meeting in !Khwa-ttu

From April 11-12, the inception meeting of the African Bio-Cultural Community Protocol Initiative (BCP Initiative) is taking place in !Khwa-ttu, Western Cape. The meeting is hosted by Natural Justice in partnership with the Access and Benefit Sharing Capacity Development Initiative for Africa (ABS Initiative), the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development (CIKOD), and the COMPAS Network for Endogenous Development. The meeting is supported by the Shuttleworth Foundation, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, the Christensen Fund, the ABS Capacity Development Initiative for Africa, and the Heinrich Boell Foundation.

Over the coming years, the African BCP Initiative will support stakeholder partnerships in three selected pilot countries, while working systematically towards the legal recognition of BCPs within national policies. It brings together key CBOs, community representatives, and legal practitioners from the seven pilot countries (South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Benin) as well as a number of experts from other countries on the continent. During the first day of the inception meeting, participants shared their experiences in developing BCPs in their local contexts, while others who are considering developing BCPs shared some of the challenges they face that they aim to address through protocols.

On the second day of the meeting, participants will develop a roadmap of their requirements, plans, and goals for the next year of the African BCP Initiative and also highlight how they can work collectively to successfully achieve the objectives set out in the roadmap. The report of the meeting is available for download on the Natural Justice website.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bolivia in Bangkok: "You Can't Cheat Nature"

In an impassioned and well-evidenced press conference, the Plurinational State of Bolivia called for more ambitious pledges from developed countries to reduce emissions at home. He noted that even the sum of the highest-end pledges fall far short of what is required in order to restrict the global increase in temperature to just 2 degrees Celsius. Instead, the highest-end pledges will lead us on a path towards an increase in at least 4 degrees Celsius - "a scenario of catastrophe".

Developing countries have already pledged more emissions reductions than developed countries. Developed countries have said that they will only increase pledges when firm rules are set for market-based mechanisms (for example, REDD) and Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF). Further, much of developed countries' pledges are double-counted in global tallies because they are comprised in part of offsets in developing countries. The bulk of reductions efforts will thus fall upon the shoulders of developing countries while developed countries continue to refuse to reduce emissions at home, resulting in net reductions lower than promised. Reflecting upon this, the Bolivian delegate warned that "You can't cheat nature".

UNFCCC Executive Secretary's Views of the Bangkok Process

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, spoke to the press on the final day of Ad Hoc Working Group negotiations in Bangkok. According to Figueres, there is no country that is fundamentally opposed to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, though "whether they individually intend to participate is another issue". (Japan, for example, refuses to sign onto further commitments if the US and China do not do the same.) She said that while talks in Bangkok have taken longer than hoped and discussions have not been easy, Parties have demonstrated dedication, commitment, and seriousness about engaging with the process.

She noted that Cancun was a major step forward, but that it did not solve the broader problems. Echoing the main argument of developing countries, she emphasized the need to keep issues of the Bali Action Plan that were not agreed on in Cancun on the table. She referred to agriculture and maritime and aviation emissions in particular as “small font” issues unresolved in Cancun, while global goals, emissions peaking, and the legal nature of the next chapter of the climate regime are considered the “big font” issues still to be decided.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Calling on ASEAN for a Fair, Ambitious, and Binding Climate Deal

A press conference held today called for the 10 governments of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to work together more effectively as a bloc in the UNFCCC negotiations to push for the needs of the region's 600 million citizens and towards low-carbon development. While acknowledging the differences in opinions amongst the ASEAN member governments, the speakers argued that the common excuse of national sovereignty is no longer acceptable, as climate change and its impacts do not recognize national borders; the main underlying problem is instead lack of political will.

"Impasse" in Bangkok: Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance

Saying that we are currently at an impasse, a press conference today hosted by the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) blasted developed countries for failing to take action and make concrete commitments at the UNFCCC Ad Hoc Working Group negotiations in Bangkok.

Mithika Mwenda (PACJA) noted that poor communities in Africa, particularly women and children, are the most vulnerable and most impacted by climate change, even though they have contributed the least to global emissions. For a continent that depends largely on rain-fed agriculture, huge declines in food production and damage to coastal infrastructure are expected to have wide-ranging impacts. However, he also argued that we need a fair, equitable, and just deal not just to save Africa, but also to save humanity, as the impacts currently felt just by the most vulnerable will eventually be felt by the whole world.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Implications of Cancun Agreement for Indigenous Peoples

A press conference hosted today by TEBTEBBA focused on the implications of the Cancun Agreement, specifically the text on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) for Indigenous peoples and local communities.

Vicky Tauli-Corpuz (TEBTEBBA) noted that any decisions on REDD will directly impact millions of forest-dependent peoples around the world. The Cancun agreement recognizes the need to respect the rights and knowledge of Indigenous peoples and local communities, to ensure the conservation of biodiversity, and the need for good forest governance. However, there is a critical need to address the drivers of deforestation, insecure land tenure, land uses, and gender considerations. Robust baselines, including on forests and customary and positive laws, and Indigenous- and gender-sensitive indicators must be established, monitored, and analyzed in order to assess whether we are meeting aims of mitigation and adaptation. All REDD-related activities must be undertaken with full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples and local communities, including with support and capacity-building for participatory mapping.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

UNFCCC Negotiations Resume in Bangkok

Natural Justice is in Bangkok, Thailand, this week to attend the first negotiations of 2011 under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The meeting, held from April 3-8, comprises both the 14th session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperation Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) and the 16th session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP).

AWG-LCA 14 will address: the global goal; the Adaptation Committee; monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) for developed countries; MRV for developing countries; a registry; financing for actions in the forestry sector; a Standing Committee on long-term finance; new market-based mechanisms; the Technology Mechanism; capacity building; review; economies in transition; and legal options. AWG-KP 16 will focus on Annex I emission reduction commitments for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. Daily coverage of the negotiations is provided by IISD-Reporting Services.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Inception Meeting of the Asia Regional Initiative Held in Sri Lanka

From April 2-4, Harry Jonas and Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) were in Digana, Sri Lanka, for the inception meeting of the Asia Regional Initiative on Biocultural Community Protocols. Other Initiative partners and colleagues in attendance represented the COMPAS Network for Endogenous Development, the League for Pastoral Peoples (LPP), Society of Animal, Veterinary and Environmental Scientists (SAVES, Pakistan), Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS, Tamil Nadu), Future in Our Hands (FIOH, Sri Lanka), Human and Environment Development Organization (HEDO, Sri Lanka), and Centre for Eco-Cultural Studies (CES, Sri Lanka).

On the first day of the meeting, we discussed the "history" of biocultural community protocols (including several examples from India and Pakistan), issues of standardization vs. ensuring quality and diversity of community protocols, and how to best consolidate lessons learned and develop appropriate guidance. On the second day, we met with representatives of a nearby community that has engaged in a participatory mapping, planning, and management process over the past 5 years to ensure sustainable use of forest products and conservation of watersheds and other ecosystem functions. Check out photos from the community visit on our Flickr page. On the third day of the meeting, among other things, we further explored the linkages between endogenous development, legal empowerment, and policy advocacy, discussed how to use community-driven processes such as protocols to support group learning and broader movements of livestock keepers' rights and farmers' rights, and contemplated issues surrounding the development of local supply chains to ensure in situ conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and landscapes. The report of the meeting is available for download on the Natural Justice website. We are hugely grateful to ETC-Compas for supporting the meeting and to Kaha for coordinating the logistics!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Supporting the Youth Movement in Sri Lanka

From March 29-April 1, Harry Jonas and Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) visited the Centre for Eco-Cultural Studies (CES) in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka. They worked with a group of about 25 youth to explore issues of legal literacy and different opportunities for constructive engagement with national and international environmental law and policy. Representing various NGOs from across Sri Lanka, the youth are part of a 3-month training and experiential learning programme that includes languages, organic agriculture, social mobilization, and development of sustainable economic opportunities based on local value chains. They are also preparing to represent the youth of Sri Lanka at the upcoming Rio+20 summit and the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2012. Many thanks to Sujeewa and Suda for your hospitality and insightful discussions; we wish you and the youth all the best!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

New Journal Issue on Environmental Laws and Sustainability

A special issue of the Open Access journal Sustainability, focusing on how law can and should be used to achieve sustainability, is available online. The guest editors introduce the issue by saying, "Sustainable development provides a framework for humans to live and prosper in harmony with nature rather than, as we have for centuries, at nature’s expense. Nonetheless, sustainability does not now have an adequate or supportive legal foundation, in spite of the many environmental and natural resources laws that exist. If we are to make significant progress toward a sustainable society, much less achieve sustainability, we will need to develop and implement laws and legal institutions that do not now exist, or that exist in a much different form." The issue includes articles such as "Losing the Forest for the Trees: Environmental Reductionism in the Law" (Klaus Bosselmann) and "Grassland Governance and Common-interest Communities" (Anthony Schutz).

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Article on Effective Ecosystem Governance Strategies

An article entitled, "Identifying governance strategies that effectively support ecosystem services, resource sustainability, and biodiversity" was recently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Academy of Sciences of the USA. The abstract reads: "Conservation scientists, national governments, and international conservation groups seek to devise, and implement, governance strategies that mitigate human impact on the environment. However, few studies to date have systematically investigated the performance of different systems of governance in achieving successful conservation outcomes. Here, we use a newly-developed analytic framework to conduct analyses of a suite of case studies, linking different governance strategies to standardized scores for delivering ecosystem services, achieving sustainable use of natural resources, and conserving biodiversity, at both local and international levels. Our results: (i) confirm the benefits of adaptive management; and (ii) reveal strong associations for the role of leadership. Our work provides a critical step toward implementing empirically justified governance strategies that are capable of improving the management of human-altered environments, with benefits for both biodiversity and people." The full article can be downloaded here.