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While the 11th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) moved towards the financialization of nature, social movements resisted by defending traditional knowledge, native seeds and ancient agriculture practices by local communities.
This is how Lucia Ortiz, coordinator of the program Economic Justice, Resisting Neoliberalism of Friends of the Earth International, summarized the talks. The COP on Biological Diversity was held in Hyderabad, India, from October 8 to 19. Ortiz did not attend the meeting but had sources from social movements and organizations at the COP. Friends of the Earths International’s coordinator of the Forests and Biodiversity program, Isaac Rojas, reported for Real World Radio from the talks (article ’Nature as Business’ published on October 15).
Ortiz warned about the corporate lobby at the United Nations and said the CBD is moving in the same direction as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “The climate talks opened the doors to the commodification of nature by introducing Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) and carbon markets”, she said.
Big corporations are part of the group considered as “civil society” in these UN spaces, explained Ortiz. Besides, the corporations are sometimes part of the delegations of non governmental organizations that defend corporate interests, or within the countries’ official delegations. The environmental activists mentioned the example of Brazilian mining corporation Vale, which was part of the Brazilian delegation. Ortiz exposed cases of “revolving doors”, which means big businessmen and bank executives, after their work in UN spaces, get jobs at UN agencies.
Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest environmental federation with groups in almost 80 countries, prepared a statement with allied movements and organizations that demands to free the UN from “corporate capture”. Hundreds of groups from all over the world signed the petition that was delivered to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June.
“So far we have had no response as to what the UN is going to do to stop the excessive weight of corporations within the organization”, said Ortiz.
About the CBD talks, she mentioned a study exposed by the federation about “the economy of ecosystems and biological diversity”, written by bank executive Pavan Sukhdev, a renowned banker at the Deutsche Bank that was conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “This is a proposal to estimate the value of biodiversity that involves payment for environmental services, financial bonds that can be traded in the market, so it is a false solution to protect biodiversity”. It is a way of “creating private funds in a speculative market, to invest in the conservation of biodiversity”, said Ortiz. Sukhdev “was the mastermind of this project and of the green economy advocated by the UN, and especially by the UNEP. We are very concerned that green economy, the process of financialization of nature are also present at the CBD talks”.
Ortiz explained that the climate talks have more actors than the CBD, but also mentioned that big polluting corporations are more and more present at the CBD. “Either to greenwash or to directly appropriate biodiversity, these are the same corporations and banks that are operating at the Climate Conference”.
“Financial institutions see the increasing opportunity of creating new funds from financial products for speculation and of creating new bubbles in the financial market based on trading biodiversity bonds to offset the environmental degradation caused by big corporations”.
The activist is exposing the actions through which big corporations can destroy forests, while they buy biodiversity bonds from projects touted as sustainable in different parts of the world. So the companies get a compensation to continue destroying the environment, while they have a document that says they are socially and environmentally responsible. It is a way of paying to continue destroying and polluting, says Friends of the Earth.
A very similar thing happens with other mechanisms used to “tackle” climate change, by selling emissions reduction certificates from projects in the global South, which are publicized as clean, which are bought by polluting corporations to offset their emissions.
Ortiz warned that some negotiators at the CBD wanted to overturn a moratorium on geoengineering, like a special moratorium on ocean fertilization, but there was strong opposition from social movements.
The activist highlighted the coordinated work of social movements from India and the world to value traditional knowledge, rescue native seeds and traditional uses of land. But “we need to stay strong and alert in our resistance” because the agenda of green economy and financialization of nature is moving forward”, she said.
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