Highlights and images of main proceedings for 23 May 2021

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Convention on Biological Diversity – CBD

Synthetic biodiversity

Photo courtesy of iStock

The second set of SBSTTA24 plenary meetings started on Sunday, to prepare for the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) and the adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF). Delegates resumed discussion on the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) programme of work, followed by the agenda item on synthetic biology.

Ntakadzeni Tshidada, South Africa

During the continued discussions on the IPBES programme of work, several parties welcomed a second global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services, as well as a new one on ecological connectivity. Many also supported strengthening collaboration between IPBES and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Parties also touched upon the importance of incorporating IPBES deliverables into the CBD process, as well as on the national and sub-national level.  A number of parties asked for IPBES involvement in implementing and monitoring the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.  

Ken Bopreang, Cambodia

IPBES reported on its ongoing work, including on assessments and the reports from the workshops on biodiversity and climate change, and on biodiversity and pandemics. She said both these, which received broad approval from parties, will contribute to the thematic assessment of the interlinkages between biodiversity, water, food and health. Representatives from major groups stressed the importance of including Indigenous knowledge, as well as community-based monitoring. They also encouraged the CBD to adopt a more holistic approach to match the transformative change needed, and IPBES to explore gender mainstreaming across its platforms.

Joji Cariño, on behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB)

Cristhian Fretes, on behalf of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN)

Noting common understandings, Chair Hesiquio Benitez said a CRP on the issue will be prepared for consideration during the third plenary block in June.

On synthetic biology, statements from parties touched upon a number of issues. Some brought up the question of whether synthetic biology should be classified as a new and emerging issue. Several also asked for clarification of the linkages with other processes, stressing the importance of upholding rules and procedures under the Cartagena and Nagoya Protocols. Many parties reiterated the need to adopt a precautionary approach regarding synthetic biology, as well as ensuring that assessments take into account socio-ecological and cultural risks. There was broad support for the establishment of a multidisciplinary technical expert group to assist the horizon scanning and continue to fill gaps in knowledge on potential benefits and risks stemming from synthetic biology.

Representatives from major groups stressed the risks associated with synthetic biology, noting that it does not constitute a solution to the biodiversity crisis. Parties were urged to ensure the full and effective participation of Indigenous representatives in the multidisciplinary technical expert group. One group called for an immediate global moratorium on the release of gene drives into the environment, asking parties to elaborate clear rules for liability and redress.

A contact group was established, co-chaired by Ntakadzeni Tshidada (South Africa) and Werner Schenkel (Germany). The meetings will be held Tuesday, 1 June, and Thursday, 3 June.

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