Following breakfast I checked out of the hotel, stowed our luggage and headed for the conference centre via the underground train. It was raining. I had a meeting with some fellow experts in deep-ocean / high- seas governance at lunchtime prior to our side event on the GLOBE Marine Ecosystems Recovery Strategy. We met under the tented coffee area in the main atrium of the conference centre. The news from the CBD meeting for high seas issues was not very encouraging. Efforts to get the CBD involved in designation of Ecologically and Biologically Sensitive Areas in the high seas had been contested by several states. This appeared to be for several reasons, the first being that some considered that this would effectively mean identifying Marine Protected Areas and the second being that this was placing too much emphasis on the high seas compared to coastal waters. Diplomacy had swung into action but the text that was left at the end of the meeting was severely weakened over what everyone had wanted to see. Moreover, it left states with complete oversight of the designation of EBSAs and little opportunity for a fully transparent process. However, the whole discussion had identified that nobody currently had the legal competence to initiate Marine Protected Areas on the high seas. This had focused attention on the UN General Assembly as the institution that should begin to set up the legal framework for the initiation of high seas Marine Protected Areas.
Following a brief lunch we proceeded to the meeting room. The side event was attended by a relatively small crowd of people, but this included representatives of the European Union and other states including Malaysia and Zambia. I gave a presentation on the Marine Ecosystems Recovery Plan and then the Zambian representative gave a speech which centred on international agreements related to marine pollution, particularly oil pollution. There followed a presentation by a colleague, Kristina Gjerde, a marine lawyer, who spoke about governance on the high seas and then a presentation from Marjo Vierros, from the UN University who discussed the relevance of the Marine Ecosystems Recovery Plan on Coral Reefs for CBD. Marjo, in particular gave us some new insights into how the Marine Ecosystems Recovery Plan for Coral Reefs fitted in with the CBD and gave some important views on interactions between GLOBE and CBD in this area in the future. There followed a question and answer session for all the panellists which was quite lively and with the Zambian representative pointing to the role of parliamentarians in finding solutions to the problems in the oceans.
Following this we packed up and headed back to the hotel with a short diversion to a department store for some presents. I managed to find some three-dimensional puzzles of marine creatures for my children (they were in closed boxes but turned out to be a butterfly fish and a nautilus, the latter of which took an hour to make!). Simon, one of the GLOBE marine team and I headed for Tokyo on the bullet train laden with our luggage and the GLOBE posters. In Tokyo it was also pouring with rain, the leading edge of an approaching typhoon, but we headed out and had dinner at a noodle bar. This was a small shop where the meals were eaten standing up and we then followed this with another snack at a bar before heading back to the hotel. Our flight was the following morning.
What were my impressions of the 10th Conference of Parties for the Convention on Biological Diversity. I was on the periphery of the main action of the meeting. Our talks about the GLOBE project and the Marine Ecosystems Recovery Plan went extremely well and were well received by parliamentarians from various states, including both G20 and non G20 nations. We had done the best job we could and our Marine Ecosystems Recovery Strategy was accepted by GLOBE members. The next phase for this was implementation and that depended on funding for GLOBE to continue from the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility. I returned to the UK to the news from some quarters that the CBD COP had been a success but this had not been my impression for the marine environment. Marine issues had played too small a role in the negotiations given the size and importance of the oceans to humankind. Targets for conservation of marine ecosystems were left in tatters and the negotiations around the designation of Ecologically and Biologically Sensitive Areas had been severely hampered by a few states for reasons of national interest or otherwise. Climate change, the elephant in the room, had, in my view remained that, a problem that did not seem to figure in the remit of CBD, which in my view was tragic. The climate change negotiations require a very clear message that failure to reach an agreement on immediate and deep cuts in CO2 emissions will result in a major extinction event and which risks severe disruption of the integrity of the Earth system as we know it. CBD is (or was) one of the platforms that can (could have) delivered this message. It is clear that a more mature approach to global politics and our management of the ecosystems of the planet are required desperately.