Today is the day when the Ministers will join us, having wasted a significant amount of CO2, money and travel time to join us busy biodiversity bees here in The Big Fridge. Of course they are welcome, but it is a bit unclear what these high-level people are actually going to do in Pyeongchang, except for listening to yet another select group of Friends of the Secretariat who will tell them how to conserve biodiversity. They will not make statements, which seems like a helpful innovation as 95% of us tends to fall asleep during Ministerial statements (especially when we come from another time zone…). But one should not forget how Ministerial statements at COPs can help holding Ministers accountable for biodiversity-related commitments at home. Meanwhile, the Ministers have not come to negotiate or even think about biodiversity either, as everything they could have negotiated seems to have been cooked up for them by our kind Korean hosts; The Gangwon Ministerial Declaration has already been carefully prepared behind closed doors by Friends of the Host Country.
However, it should be cautioned that the famous Korean kitchen includes some rather cold dishes that do not exactly heat you up unless you put a lot of spice to it, and the proposed Gangwon declaration tastes a bit like Bibimbap without hot sauce in this respect. There are few things wrong with it, but it lacks the spice of some of the important outcomes this COP will hopefully produce. These include, hopefully, a groundbreaking Plan of Action on Customary Sustainable Use, a firm Gender Mainstreaming decision (which will this time hopefully even be complied with by the men and women in the Secretariat), and a set of milestones for badly needed reform of perverse incentives, which forms the cornerstone of success of the Strategic Plan; Biodiversity will simply not be conserved as long as most public funding supports activities and sectors that destroy it, like bioenergy, unsustainable livestock production and fossil fuels. COP outcomes will hopefully also include an important decision on poverty eradication, a proposed methodology to value the indispensable contribution of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, women and collective action in general to biodiversity conservation, a decision to use 21st century terminology like indigenous peoples and, maybe, even a firm decision to comply with Article 20 and 21 of the Convention and previous commitments to provide all the ODA needed for the Strategic Plan. Yet, almost all these great achievements of hard-working negotiators have been ignored in the proposed outcome of COP12’s High Level Segment!
Let us hope they will at least be fully reflected in the so-called Pyeongchang Roadmap, which is supposed to be based on the decisions of this COP. However, rumor goes some Korean Cooks are already busy with that dish as well. One could also wonder whether we would want to name such an important roadmap after a place that might become a symbol of destruction. For unless something changes radically, the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games will become yet another symbol for the biodiversity loss triggered by major sports events. To facilitate 3 days of skiing, a 500 year old forest on nearby Mount Gariwang is currently being logged for the construction of a ski slope, despite the existence of alternative locations that could comply with Olympic rules. The Pyeongchang Games also show the perversities of ‘biodiversity offsets’; it has been proposed to compensate for the destruction of this ancient site of great biological and cultural importance for the Korean people by planting a few saplings. So we strongly call upon the Korean government and other Parties to include a firm commitment in the Pyeongchang Roadmap that the 2018 Olympic Games, and sports events in general, will be organized in compliance with the zero deforestation aspiration of the Aichi Targets. Now that would at least add some spice to the Bibimbap!
Simone Lovera, Global Forest Coalition, Paraguay