Convention on Biological Diversity: From National Conservation to Global Responsibility

In Steinar Andresen, Elin Lerum Boasson and Geir H√łnneland (eds), International Environmental Agreements: An Introduction. London/New York, Routledge, 2012, pp. 119-133.

The loss of biodiversity is estimated at about 100 times the natural background rate, i.e. without human intervention. This loss affects the great range of ecosystem services such as local/regional water and climate regulation, soil protection, pest control and crop pollination in addition to the provision of food, fodder, and building and biotechnological materials as well as cultural, spiritual, recreational and other intrinsic values of biodiversity. The main bulk of terrestrial biodiversity is found in tropical areas and the financial mechanism of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) represents an acknowledgement that developing countries cannot carry the full costs conservation of biodiversity. The CBD tries to balance conservation, access and equitable sharing of benefits from use of genetic resources, and legal protection (patents) to biological material. The development of modern biotechnology has brought about a need for - and the application of - patents. Biotechnology made it possible to fulfil the legal patent criteria for inventions involving biological material, but it has proved difficult to provide similar legal protection of the traditional knowledge about these resources. Without progress on the equity dimension to boost the legitimate will in developing countries, the goals for biodiversity conservation can hardly be successfully implemented. This necessitates compatible legislation on access & benefit sharing in user countries in the North. An overall explanation of the lack of implementation of the CBD, also in a rich country like Norway, is lack of political will, lack of compatible regulations on access and benefit sharing, and insufficient financial resources for conservation. As long as biodiversity is not included in the general economy, the concern for biodiversity is unlikely to find sufficiently strong allies against economical and industrial interests in land use change. Conservation of biodiversity will be costly, in Norway as well as in other parts of the world. It is problematic that the value of diversity through ecosystem services is still taken for granted in most resource budgets.