COP14: beautiful speeches... serving green capitalism

In November 2018, COP14 was held in Egypt.  We believe it is important to revisit the outcomes that emerged from this last conference of the stakeholders of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to highlight why relying on these conferences to prevent biodiversity decline is dangerous.  Our reading of the COP14 outcomes is based on the decision documents approved by the parties present at the convention.

One does not have to dig very far into the archives of COP14 to realize how this international summit does not help the cause it claims to serve. In the very first document (14/1 Updated assessment of progress) approved by the convention, the participants of COP14 clearly underline that none of their objectives have been achieved and that they are not on the way to be achieved. However, this does not prevent them from congratulating themselves candidly and repeatedly for having carried out assessments that have revealed the alarming state of the situation. The oscillation between the serious and celebratory tone of the COP14 shows that governments are acting like comedians. They go there to look good, knowing full well that biodiversity is far behind economic growth.

The third document (14/3 Mainstreaming of biodiversity) of the convention is undoubtedly the most interesting since it addresses its relations with extractivist multinationals (oil, mining, etc.), central banks and governments; in short, with all the actors at the root of the biodiversity crisis. The clarity of this document is striking: it is not about criticizing those who are leading us to disaster, but about inviting them to integrate biodiversity considerations into their business model. This has two main consequences. On the one hand, the COP14 relies on the social responsibility of companies - which in fact have only economic interests - to solve the decline of biodiversity, which has largely proven to be ineffective.

On the other hand, mainstreaming biodiversity to businesses is intended to highlight the economic potential of biodiversity use to businesses. For example, Article 16A calls on the organizations present to promote the implementation of biodiversity mainstreaming in the business and financial sectors by "enhancing the recognition by the business of the importance and value of biodiversity in these sectors. In other words, COP14 sends a clear message to those with plenty of money: they can always make more if they compensate by investing in the exploitation of biodiversity. As explained in the text "The commercialization of nature" (on page 12 of this journal), these investments can only be counterproductive.

The COP14 documents also repeatedly mention the importance of consultation with indigenous communities when it comes to the exploitation of biodiversity. We believe that this is a great hypocrisy. Many of the States present at COP14, particularly in South America, have not consulted these communities at all since 2018 before brutally relocating them and then destroying their territory. In "Canada", the State recognizes in its negotiations with the Aboriginal communities only the political bodies that it has itself put in place, namely the Band Councils. Historically, the Aboriginal communities, today under the authority of the Canadian State, had hereditary chiefs who were chosen by the elders and who had no formal authority over the communities.  These hereditary chiefs frequently oppose Canadian extractivist projects, such as the proposed pipeline through Wet'suwet'en territory, but are never listened to because they are not recognized by the Canadian state.

Finally, we want to highlight the hope that COP14 puts in the development of a miraculous technology that could allow us to continue to lead shitty lives while having a small footprint on biodiversity.  Has religious faith returned to the hearts of our proudly atheistic scientists?  This vision of redemptive technology is reflected in Article 13.K, which encourages "the application of technology, research and development, and innovation that focus on integration in the energy and mining, infrastructure, and manufacturing and processing sectors. No technology can allow an oil company to be anything other than what it is: a company that generates tons of profit by massacring the land and allowing motorists to emit ever more CO2.

Basically, what COP14 offered us was a nice speech praising a "green capitalism" where the big polluting companies would admit their share of responsibility and would decide to change their practices at the expense of their profits.  We have never seen that happen.  We will never see that happen. At COP15, let's not let the same rotten people throw this absurd rhetoric in our faces and waste the little time we have left to act.