Conclusions of the Study

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Conclusions of the Study

This survey and workshop have given the opportunity to take stock of the follow-up activities at a national level which have begun in EEA Member Countries during the four years since the adoption of the Convention and its signing at Rio. The Convention contains many examples of actions which Contracting Parties are advised to undertake. This requires not only the commitment to plan these actions, but also to ensure that policy is translated into action: there must be measurable actions with real targets. It is important to realise early successes, even if these are modest, and to set these targets in place for sustainable use as well as conservation of biodiversity.

The workshop addressed such targets in agreeing a set of "minimum criteria for success", described above. However, the survey showed that in reality many EEA Member Countries seemed to have been slow in their implementation of the Convention, and little or no information was provided in the responses on how they would react once their strategies and plans were ready. For example, in all sixteen Member Countries which replied in full, procedures for environmental impact assessment were already in place, but it was not clear that the results were acted upon. Subsidies which had adverse environmental consequences were identified in only three Member Countries, and would be phased out to a greater or lesser extent; the issue was being actively considered in just one other Member State.

An important question to be considered in examining the national responses to the survey questionnaire is "has the Convention actually changed policies and actions at a national level, or would these have been adopted without the Convention?". Most countries reported that they intend to adapt or use existing legislation in order to meet obligations under the Convention. For example, the establishment of protected areas was frequently linked to the requirements under the Habitats Directive and to the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, or to other previously existing protection schemes, but was not sufficient to meet the obligations of the Convention (Article 8). Action plans for ex-situ conservation (Article 9) in general promoted the extension and development of existing programmes.

A number of common themes highlight a set of requirements for the successful implementation of the Convention:

Cooperation and coordination

  • It is necessary to identify a department responsible for the coordination of activities in following up the Convention, and for a multi-disciplinary group wider than official government departments to provide an oversight of the national response. Only ten countries have such a body. The Convention requires there to be a cross-sectoral approach, but the survey responses showed that of groups consulted in the development of national strategies and plans, the interests of business and industry had been given greater priority than those of farming and fishery, for example. NGOs appeared to play an important role in the follow-up activities in several countries. Progress was made in several countries by broad circulation of the draft strategy. In several countries cooperation (on sustainable use) was not linked closely to sectoral plans.
  • A general problem for Federal States was that the national response to the survey referred to delegation at state (regional) level without indicating what kind of response these regions had given to the relevant Articles in the Convention. It is not clear what national actions are being taken in these situations.
  • At an international level, cooperation with east European countries was important for EEA Member Countries, as was the importance of biodiversity to the wider issue of sustainable development. Seven countries had, or soon would have, joint programmes with other countries for research on genetic resources. Only two countries, however, had measures that required the private sector to cooperate with government institutions and the private sector in developing countries in this respect. Eight countries mentioned programmes for exchanging the results of technical, scientific and socio-economic research, as well as information on training and surveying programmes, specialised knowledge, and indigenous and traditional knowledge.

Action Points for Member Country Governments:
  • identify a multi-disciplinary group to provide an oversight of the national response to the Convention
  • establish a mechanism to achieve a cross-sectoral approach which is transparent, identifying which sectors are involved
  • set implementation standards for reporting, control and evaluation mechanisms, together with a system for internal control
  • state for what areas and what types of accidents and emergencies, and with which countries, mechanisms for dealing with cross-boundary incidents have been established

Gathering knowledge, education and dissemination of information

  • Compared to other broad environmental problems, such as climatic change or acidification, it is much more difficult to quantify the assessment of biodiversity and of changes in the state of the biotic environment. Extensive biodiversity monitoring programmes had yet to be implemented in most countries, and in most cases these impacts on biodiversity had not been compared with the overall status and trends in biodiversity. ETC/NC reports in 1995 on monitoring and indicators had stated the need for further research and development of appropriate methods, and also the need for the harmonisation of approaches.
  • Scientists must translate their information into a form which can be used and understood by administrators. Governments should demonstrate what information and research already exists, and what they are going to do to maintain and improve research and training levels. The lack of biodiversity professionals in some sectors of society was perceived as a problem. There is a need for standardised forms and guidelines of criteria and indicators to give to the policy makers, and these should be reviewed and updated regularly.
Action Points for Member Country Governments:
  • implement biodiversity monitoring programmes
  • compare impacts on biodiversity with the status and trends in biodiversity
  • initiate further research on methods for monitoring and develop appropriate indicators
  • disseminate scientific information in standardised forms which can be understood and used by administrators and policy makers

Commitment: political, moral, ethical and financial

  • Adequate progress is dependent on public awareness and political commitment. The systems of government organisation in Member Countries tended to conflict with the cross-cutting nature of the biodiversity issues involved, and this created institutional problems, financial difficulties, and the need for coordination of efforts.
  • Responses to the survey suggested that most countries have made no extra financial resources available to meet their obligations under the Convention within their own borders. Nine countries stated that they had provided new or additional funds to enable developing countries to meet their obligations under the Convention.
  • The main areas of need concern the identification of cash flows within national government, knowing at national level what regional and local authorities are doing, and knowing what is spent outside government. There should be, as a minimum standard, some reporting on finance; possibly on direct cash flows, and an evaluation of the use of positive and negative economic incentives.
Action Points for Member Country Governments:
  • adopt programmes for improved public awareness and increased political commitment
  • make additional financial resources available to meet obligations under the Convention within own borders, and provide new or additional funds to developing countries for this purpose
  • identify cash flows and establish reporting arrangements on financial arrangements

Legislation and enforcement

  • There is a legal basis for the policy framework and political decisions in that ratification of the Convention acts as the formal basis, and decisions should be taken (in parallel with ratification) to adapt laws as necessary. The Convention itself is not very strict in this respect, and a minimum standard might be outside the scope of the Convention.
  • In implementing the Convention, the main problem reported was the need to focus on the gaps in existing legislation. It should be noted that there is no mechanism to "police" whether minimum standards have been reached other than peer pressure from other contracting parties. The aim should be to share the benefits (for example, of sustainable use) among all stakeholders.
Action Points for Member Country Governments:
  • draw up list of legislation in place to implement the Convention
  • review the effectiveness of these laws at a later stage, focused on gaps in existing legislation

Targets and indicators

  • The setting of specific targets for maintaining biodiversity was seen to be a useful tool in meeting obligations under the Convention, but the establishment of these targets had been approached in a wide variety of ways. There has been limited progress on development of biodiversity indicators as indicators of sustainable development. This is a key area for future research. These indicators and targets are viewed as essential if land use incentives are to produce ecological gains. One country noted the need for indicators of sustainability.
  • Integrated environmental assessments (IEA, see Annex I) are necessary to examine the inter-relationships between the driving forces created by human activities in different economic sectors and their resulting pressures on the environment, and changes in the state of the environment, impacts on ecosystems and the consequent political responses (the so-called "DPSIR" framework). The survey was unable to discover examples of any such assessments currently in operation in EEA Member Countries.
Action Points for Member Country Governments:
  • establish specific targets for maintaining biodiversity
  • undertake research to develop biodiversity indicators of sustainable development
  • initiate procedures for integrated environmental assessment of biological diversity

North-South issues

  • These were fundamental to the discussions at Rio. Delegates to the workshop felt that government aid departments should be more involved because much of the pressure to see progress was coming from developing countries.
Action Points for Member Country Governments:
  • give evidence of governmental contributions to educational training for the specific needs of developing countries
  • show what research and training facilities are available to developing countries
  • carry out a needs assessment or have an evaluation mechanism

European Union issues

  • Despite being a signatory to the Convention, the EU lacks the following measures at present:
    • A legally binding instrument regulating liability for damage to the environment at EU level, in compliance with Article 14 of the Convention;
    • A Community Biodiversity Strategy, in compliance with Article 6 of the Convention (currently under development);
    • Guidelines for the management of protected areas and buffer zones in compliance with Article 8 of the Convention;
    • Little progress has been made on modifying economic instruments at the European level which impact on biodiversity at the national level.
  • The European Commission representative at the workshop agreed that the EU had in the past been reactive rather than proactive in its actions and recognised the need to coordinate the national efforts and an urgent need to see real progress now. The Commission was working urgently to complete the Community Biodiversity Strategy by mid-1997.
  • The EU 5th Environmental Action Plan for 1990-95 required that environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of other community policies (Article 130R(2)), and that biodiversity objectives be taken into account when developing sectoral policies. A report for the review of the 5th EAP was published by the EEA in 1995.
Opportunities for improvement
  • The need for a cross-sectoral approach and public participation is identified as the main cause of problems limiting progress on implementation of the Convention.
  • Access to genetic resources and national property rights is an area of ongoing international negotiation. Most national strategies make no commitments on these issues.
  • The international obligations of the Convention are often inadequately covered in national action plans. Little attention is paid to economic activities in developing countries.

   
 
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