1.1. Origins of the term "Biodiversity"
The term "biodiversity" is quite a recent term, that was coined in the USA during the "National Forum on Biodiversity," which took place in September 1986 under the patronage of the National Academy of Science and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. Originally the term was derived from "biological diversity". The word BIODIVERSITY originates from the Greek word BIOS = LIFE and Latin word DIVERSITAS = VARIETY or DIFFERENCE. The whole word BIO DIVERSITY generally therefore means: VARIETY OF LIFE. Biodiversity should serve as a keyword, which connects impartial scientific realisations and conceptions of moral values, in order to clarify the decrease of biological diversity as central problem of mankind. The contributions from the "Forum on Biodiversity" are found in the book "Biodiversity" written by E.O. WILSON (1988).
Biodiversity in the meantime has attained enormous popularity and significantly stepped into the focus of public interest. During the Earth Summit of Rio 1992, where 150 states signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD), the term "biodiversity" gained political meaning.
1.2. What does Biodiversity mean?
The term biodiversity or biological diversity is not always uniformly used. In a sense the word biodiversity represents the basis of all life on our planet. The earth's biosphere consists of a functional structure of diverse ecosystems, composed by complex partnerships. Each organism from this partnership has individual genetic information. Biodiversity covers the diversity of life on all these levels, the diversity within species (genetic level), between species (species diversity level) and the variability of habitats (ecosystems level).
In nature protection and in a broader public, biodiversity is frequently reduced simply to the "diversity of species." Thus the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is often designated as the "Species Protection Convention". This simplification of the complex term "biodiversity" is unjust, since it considers only the level of species diversity.
Biodiversity in its complexity is difficult to define and explore because of its holistic approach and that it covers quasi all life on earth. Therefore only individual sectors of biodiversity can be represented and investigated, which again have their own definitions (e.g. a -, ß-, ?- diversity).
World-wide is biological diversity on all levels severely endangered. Through numerous factors such as changes of land use and habitat destruction are whole ecosystems (e.g. rainforests or coral reefs) and many species (e.g. Pandas) severely threatened. In order to work against this trend, it was decided at the Conference of the United Nations for Environment and Sustainable Development (UNCED) in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro to have a Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Over 193 Contracting Parties, including Germany, joined this international nature protection agreement at the end of 2011.
2. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
Although the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force only in 1993, suggestions for a convention were already proposed in the year 1971. In November 1971 the report "Limits to Growth" was submitted by the OECD Industrial States "Club of Rome" The inventory of the world-economic situation of the OECD report sketched a disaster scenario of scarcity of raw materials, environmental pollution and recession. A chief characteristic attributed to this report is the fact it was not provided by environmentalists, but instead by experts of the OECD Industrial States and also the enormous public attention it obtained.
Nearly at the same time of the publication of the OECD report, on an initiative by the USA and Scandinavia, and through the Plenary Assembly of the United Nations, it was decided to organise a Conference over the human environment in Stockholm in the Summer 1972. In the same year the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with its seat in the Kenyan capital Nairobi was started. The Canadian, Maurice Strong, who led the environment conference in Stockholm and 20 years later provided guidance on the Earth Summit at Rio, was ordered to be the first Executive Director of UNEP. Later the former German Minister for the Environment, Dr. Klaus Toepfer led the UNEP and today Achim Stiener is head of UNEP.
In 1987, a further report was submitted, which again received a large response from the public. The Report of the World Commission for Environment and Development, provided under the guidance of the Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, underlined again the stated realisations of the OECD report from 1971. For the first time with the Report of the World Commission, the term "sustainable development" was introduced.
Overall the topic "environmental degradation" since the 1970's became more ingrained into the consciousness of the broader public. The topic made a break through in 1992 at the UN Summit on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.
Through this conference, the topic "environment & sustainable development" was set as a world-wide example, in order to ensure for the survival of mankind in a halfway intact environment. To make possible the implementation of this guidance, the majority of the participating states signed the Agenda 21 and different international agreements - the "Convention on Biological Diversity (United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity - CBD)"- that have a more or less binding character.
The Convention on Biological Diversity was signed in Rio in 1992 by more than 150 states. It was entered into force on 29 December 1993 according to international law and ratified at the end of 2011 by 193 states and the European Union - including Germany.
2.2. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
The United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed in 1992 on the occasion of the UN-Summit on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro by more than 150 states. It was entered into force on 29 December 1993 according to international law and ratified at the end of 2003 by 188 states and the European Union - including Germany.
The Biodiversity Convention, in its basic fundamentals goes way beyond the contents of earlier environmental protection and species protection agreements (e.g. The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS); the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora - CITES). One the hand, the term biological diversity is further defined and on the other hand, the goals are clarified under which the protection and the use of biodiversity world-wide are to be seen (Art.1 CBD).
The CBD has three aims (Art. 1 CBD):
The conservation of biological diversity
The sustainable use of its components
The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources
The CBD links the protection and the use of the biological diversity with economic, political, administrative, legal (personal property and human rights) and scientific instruments on the national and international level, over the operability of ecosystems and for maintaining the life base of mankind world-wide and in the long term. In the CBD, not only is attention dedicated to the conservation of biological diversity (Art. 8 & 9 CBD), research and training (Art. 12 CBD) and the public education and awareness (Art. 13 CBD), but also to the use of biological diversity, in particular access to genetic resources and the transfer of technology (Art. 15-19 CBD). Biological diversity use may take place in the sense of the CBD only according to the sustainable principals, which interconnects ecological, economic, social and political interests. Principles for sustainable use are provided in the "Ecosytem approach" of the CBD (Dec. COPV/6).
A further characteristic of the convention is that the member nations do not only commit themselves by the ratification of the agreement, to preserve the biodiversity in their own country, but also to support other countries (in particular developing countries) during their implementation of the convention goals. Apart from the aspect of sustainable use another key function "benefit-sharing" comes into play.
The complete convention text is found in six languages (Arab, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) as pdf file on the homepage of the internationalen Clearing-House Mechnismus (www.biodiv.org). A German version of the CBD is available on the web page of theGerman Clearing-House-Mechanism.
In the sense of the CBD (Art. 2) "biological diversity" means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.
In the sense of the CBD (Art. 2) "sustainable use" means the use of components of biological diversity in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of biological diversity, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations.
What does one understand as "Benefit-Sharing"?
The CBD specifies that access to biological diversity must be accompanied with the principle of fair "benefit sharing." According to the CBD, fair benefit-sharing is for all those countries and/or affected local groups concerned to receive financial reimbursement for providing access to their genetic resources or traditional knowledge over their use for international participants. Necessary for fair-benefit sharing is prior informed consent (PIC; Article 15.5) and mutually agreed terms (MAT; Article 15.4) for access to genetic resources.
2.2.1. Conference of the Parties (COP)
The CBD is an outline agreement, which provides an orientation framework and guidelines for the national policy of participating states in a relatively general way. This is made possible, on the one hand that the convention can cover a broad spectrum at topics, on the other hand, the framework character of the convention also reduces states' commitment. For this reason for specific topics there are separate regulations made on the international level - which are found in the form of minutes and appendices.
The Conference of the Parties - COP is the decision-making organ of the CBD and is usually summoned every two years.
Who participates in the Conference of the Parties?
In the Conference of the Parties, delegated member states take part as voters and as a non-voter observers are members of NGO's, non-contracting states and UN special organisations (e.g. UNESCO).
Where do the COP take place?
The last COPs took place in:
What occurred at the COP?
At the Conference of the Parties, can decisions (Dec.) be accepted or changes in minutes, appendices and the convention text be met. The decisions are provided with a numeric code, whereby the first number indicates the Conference of the Parties in Roman numbers, and the different decisions of this conference are indicated in Arabic numerals (Example: Dec.V/3 means decision number three of the fifth Conference of the Parties ). Decisions are binding according to international law and must be converted by the member states.
The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) is an advisory scientific committee, which discusses special topics in preparation for the Conferences of the Parties and gives recommendations to the COP. Besides the SBSTTA there are further expert committees and teams of experts that all have an advisory function e.g. Ad-hoc Technical Expert Group - AHTEG. The teams of experts provide their recommendations (Rec.) to the COP for further adoption, whereby the numbering of the recommendations follows the same principle as with the decisions.
2.2.2. Clearing-House-Mechanism (CHM)
To implement the Convention on Biological Diversity an abundance of data and information (e.g. research results, inventory of species, entrance regulations, etc.) is needed. Much of this information already exists somewhere in a different form. Therefore with a "clearing-house mechanism" a system needs to be created that provides access to information about biological diversity and thus simplifies the work for implementing the goals of the CBD. The "clearing-house mechanism" is a kind of an information network from the electronic and non-electronic media. The internet part is developed by different focal points on the international, regional and national level which possess either an email connection or their own homepage.
As a central focal point, the Secretariat of the CBD functions in Montreal (International CHM) and as main focal points are the national CHM webpages. The German Webpage of the Clearing-House-Mechanism lies at present at the Federal Office for Nature Protection (BfN). On this site all important information on the actual convention and Germany's implementation can be called up. The European Union is likewise a drafter of the CBD and a "clearing-house mechanism" is needed. The "European Community Clearing-House Mechanism" is found under the website: www.eionet.eu.int/ec chm/.
At the first Conference of the Parties in Nassau/Bahamas in December 1994 the Contracting States committed themselves to the "clearing-house mechanism", embodied under Art. 18.3 of the CBD.
2.2.3. Programmes & Themes
Thematic Work Programmes
Since the entry into force of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) by the Conferences of the Parties, seven thematic work programmes were specified, which concern the following topics:
- Agricultural biodiversity
- Forest Biodiversity
- Dry and Subhumid Lands Biodiversity
- Marin and Coastal Biodiversity
- Montain Biodiversity
- Island Biodiversity
- Inland Water Biodiversity
The work programmes plan to specify strategies, guidelines and central sectors to work on, to formulate possible goals and to suggest a time framework, as well as the means, with which these goals can be attained. A regular examination of the implementation of each work programme by the Conference of the Parties and the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) is prescribed.
Cross sectional topics
In addition to the seven thematic work programmes, the Conference of the Parties is concerned with a number of fundamental problems, which are of importance for all topic areas. These cross sectional topics are derived content-wise mainly from the regulations of the convention, stated in the Articles 6 to 20. If necessary the cross sectional topics are coupled with thematic work programmes. The following cross sectional topics so far are covered:
- 2010 Biodiversity Traget
- Access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing
- Invasive alien species
- Traditional knowledge, innovations and Practices (Article 8 (j)
- Biological Diversity and tourism
- Climate change and biological Diversity
- Economics, trade and Incentive Measures
- Ecosystem Approach
- Global strategy for Plant Conservation
- Global Taxonomy Initiative
- Impact Assessment
- Assessment, Monitoring and Indicators
- Invasive Alien Species
- Liability and Redress -Articl 14(2)
- Protected Areas
- Communication, Education and Public Awareness
- Sustainable Use of biodiversity
- Technology Tranfer and Cooperation
Further information about current programmes and topics of the CBD refer to the webpage on "Programmes and Issues" at the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
In order to be able to undertake the numerous tasks of implementing the Biodiversity Convention and the Climate Change Framework Convention, substantial financing is needed. For this reason, the so-called "Global Environment Facility - GEF" was established as a world-wide environmental financing instrument, whose means are administered by the World Bank. The fund is financed in regular intervals by the international community of states.
2.3. Other International Conventions and Agreements
Besides the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) there are different conventions and agreements concerned with the protection of the biological diversity. Some are mentioned below:
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, whose secretariat is in Bonn. It is feared that a global warming by the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing unpredictable changes of the world climate. At present the negotiations, the so-called "Kyoto Protocol" is in the 7th round of the Conference of the Parties.
The Ramsar-Agreement is an intergovernmental contract, which specifies the basic conditions for international co-operation in the protection of humid area habitats. The "Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat" was decided in 1971 in the Iranian city Ramsar.
The World Heritage Convention - WHC of UNESCO protects places as world "cultural heritage" sites of special historical, archaeological or cultural importance, as world "natural inheritance" habitats of threatened plants or animal species as well as areas of value on scientific or aesthetic grounds.
Today many animal and plant types are world-wide endangered or threatened in their existence as consequence of commercial interests. In order to be able to meet this threat effectively the - Convention on International Trade in Endangerd Species of wild Fauna and Flora - CITES or known as the "Washington Species Protection Agreement (WA)" was adopted in 1973.
The objective of the "Convention on Migratory Species" (CMS) (also known as CMS or the Bonn Convention) (www.wcmc.org.uk/cms) is the world-wide preservation of migrating species living in the wild. The CMS was signed in 1979 on an initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Bonn-Bad Godesberg.
The Desert Convention is to work against the world-wide loss of arable soil and increasing desertification.
An international framework convention for the complex topic of fresh water does not exist yet. In December 2001 Germany hosted the International conference on fresh water in Bonn, in preparing for the Johannesburg Summit 2002.
3. International Day of Biological Diversity
World-wide the diversity of plants, animals and micro-organisms is decreasing. In order to work against this trend, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was decided. The 193 Contracting Parties, including Germany, joined this international nature protection agreement at the end of 2011.
The day of biological diversity is remembered every year on 22 May after the Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force.
HANDBOOK OF THE CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY vom Sekretariat to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Sekretariat der CBD.
WILSON, E. O. (Hrsg.)(1988): Ende der biologischen Vielfalt? - Der Verlust an Arten, Genen und Lebensräumen und die Changen für eine Umkehr. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag Heidelberg (ISBN 3-89330-661-7).