Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf interview

08 October 2010 | Article

On the occasion of the International Year of Biodiversity and with the 10th meeting of that Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity fast-approaching, we interview Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, Ph.D, Executive Secretary of the CBD. We pose four questions to Dr. Djoghlaf about business engagement in the CBD as well as his expectations for the upcoming COP 10.  

1. What are your expectations for COP 10 and how do you think the outcomes will affect society as a whole and business more specifically?

Business interest in biodiversity and ecosystem services has been growing since a clear decision was taken to engage business at the eighth meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2006 in Curitiba, Brazil.

At COP10 environment officials from 192 countries will take part in the discussions towards a new Strategic Plan for the Convention, to cover the period 2011-2020. This will provide a framework for the establishment of national and regional targets and for enhancing coherence in the implementation of the Convention’s three objectives. The strategic plan once adopted in Nagoya will be the foundation for governments’ rules and regulations on biodiversity for the business sector at national level.

There are both serious risks and considerable opportunities for business as new regulations will emerge to stop biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. We therefore want to engage business in our post-2010 efforts. In this context a high-level dialogue between Chief Executive Officers and Government Ministers will take place on 28 October, coinciding with the Messe Nagoya technological fair on biodiversity. In a similar vein, the final phase of the report The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) will be made public at COP10. Earlier phases of the TEEB have estimated the annual cost of biodiversity loss to 3 trillion dollars, the equivalent of the gross of three major sectors of the world economy in a year, the car industry earning 1.9 trillion, the IT industry 0.95 trillion, and steel 0.6 trillion.

2. How has the CBD engaged business in the past and could you give some examples of successes deriving from this engagement? How do you see the role of business evolving post-2010?

The CBD supported the first global meeting on business and biodiversity in London in January 2005, followed by the second in São Paulo in November 2005 and a third this past December in Jakarta. In Jakarta more than 200 companies, non-governmental organizations and governments produced a charter recognizing that biodiversity needs to be protected because biodiversity-based business can be more profitable than other economic activities, and because biodiversity already forms the basis of many economic sectors.
At COP8 in Curitiba in 2006, the first ever decision on business and biodiversity was adopted by 4,000 attending participants. Following this, in July 2009 a Brazilian project called “LIFE certification” was launched in Curitiba, which aims to both quantify and officially recognize actions by companies related to biodiversity conservation.

At COP9 in Bonn the First International Business Initiative for the Protection of Biodiversity was launched at the initiative of the German government. Bringing together a group of 34 companies from Germany and other countries, the initiative aims to more closely involve the private sector in achieving the CBD’s objectives.

As host of COP10, Japan is also reaching out to the private sector. Nippon Keidanren, the Japanese Business Federation, is launching a business and biodiversity initiative, while the Japanese Ministry of the Environment has prepared guidelines on the topic.

3. The issue of Access and Benefit Sharing is getting a lot of attention from business but also from the local communities that rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. What do you think would be a balanced regime for an equitable and efficient system of benefit sharing?

A balanced regime would give greater legal certainty and clarity to both users and providers of genetic resources by providing an incentive for public and private sector research while ensuring that a fair and equitable share of benefits arising from this research accrues to the countries providing the genetic resources. The benefits may include the sharing of the results of research, the training of local scientists and technology transfer which will contribute to development of capacity in the provider countries and provide incentives for the conservation of biodiversity. A balanced Protocol should improve the current situation for all sides by strengthening compliance and monitoring frameworks, promoting biodiversity conservation, and contributing to the long-term profitability of industries that draw upon genetic resources.

4. How do you think business could support the Convention in making better use of innovative financial mechanisms?

The revised strategic plan, once adopted in Nagoya, will require the initiative of the business community to mobilize private capital for achieving the agreed targets. A number of innovative and market mechanisms have been espoused by the CBD as a way for the business community to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It is important that the business community takes advantage of these agreements and utilizes and even creates opportunities for themselves. By being proactive and not always waiting for all the policies and regulations to be in place they can be suitably rewarded by informed consumers while empowering governments to act as well. There are good examples, such as Mexico generating over 300 million USD for forest conservation in the past seven years through its ‘Payments of Hydrological Environmental Services of Forests’ scheme. Such excellent initiatives, which exist in many countries, should be rapidly scaled up and replicated widely.

About Ahmed Djoghlaf

Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf has been the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) since 2006, and before that the Assistant Executive Director of UNEP from June 2003. As Director and Coordinator of UNEP's Division of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), he played a key role for raising UNEP’S profile and increasing the GEF project portfolio. He was also the General Rapporteur of the Preparatory Committee of the “Rio Summit”, the Vice Chairman of the 11th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Science and Technology for Development and the Vice President of the Negotiating Committee on the Framework Convention on Climate Change as well as Chair of two committees of the Convention to Combat Desertification. Prior to joining the United Nations, Dr. Djoghlaf held a variety of important posts in the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was advisor on environmental issues to the Prime Minister of Algeria and to three Ministers of Foreign Affairs.