There were remarkably few surprises during the final plenary of CoP19 on Friday. The plenary largely adopted or rejected proposals in line with recommendations of the committees. Japan expressed concern over the inclusion of blue sharks as lookalikes in the requiem sharks proposal, calling it “unfair” because blue sharks are sustainably harvested and play a role in the food security of certain communities. But instead of reopening debate over the proposal, Japan simply asked the Secretariat to record its statement and objection. Although Gabon attempted to reopen debate on the pod mahogany, the CoP voted strongly against the idea and adopted the original proposal.
Most controversial at the end of the CoP, as with the beginning of it, were proposed changes to the Rules of Procedure. Despite nearly two weeks to come to some kind of consensus, parties remained passionately divided on whether to change the order of the consideration of proposals from the “least” to the “most” restrictive effect on trade. Rather than putting the matter to a vote, the CoP opted to aim for consensus down the road by directing the Standing Committee to review the rule and propose amendments, as appropriate, to CoP20 in 2025.
During impassioned closing remarks, parties thanked Panama for hosting a “phenomenal” conference and reminded each other that while the CoP was done, the real work of CITES implementation continues apace. In a powerful moment for many, Ukraine took the floor and condemned the Russian Federation for “its unprovoked invasion” of their territory and announced hopes of someday hosting a future CITES meeting. “Ukraine will stand, Ukraine will win,” the delegate said, to loud applause in the room. Several on the plenary floor were overheard hoping the same will eventually be said for all the wild flora and fauna now regulated under CITES. The meeting was gavelled to a close at 2:40 pm.
All ENB photos are free to use with attribution. For CITES CoP19 please use: Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera