Can we expect more communal singing today?
It is still dark on the streets but there is a faint tinge of pink in the sky to the west as the CMS delegates are making their way to the conference centre for the first full working day of the COP.
In the big hall a few early delegates wander around slightly confused as their place names are not yet distributed, so they cannot home in on where to sit. Their migration has been interrupted. A few enthusiastic NGOs sit respectfully towards the back of the room (we know our place) and await their place names too. A small legion of secretariat staff soon move around the room and country designations are soon distributed. But then they are picked up by a more senior member of secretariat staff and repositioned. Country delegates are now arriving in numbers and desperately hunt for their place names filling the narrow gangways to the centre and sides of the room.
A senior member of secretariat staff is holding Luxembourg behind his back. The Luxembourg delegate watches quietly from the back of the room. The Luxembourg plaque is then replaced on the stage in a pile alongside many others country names that are not quite ripe for positioning. After a while it is retrieved again and replaced on a table. The Luxembourg delegate moves elegantly across the room and takes his seat. Other nations waiting in the wings do likewise.
Meanwhile a team of strong people from WDCS and the Migratory Wildlife Network are distributing to delegates a copy of the weighty tome that is the second version of Erich Hoyt’s superb text on Marine Protected Areas for Cetaceans.
No NGOs name plates are distributed. They mill around gently vying for position at the back of the room.
Elizabeth the Executive Secretary of CMS comes to the microphone to apologise for the confusion and notes that in the coffee break all delegates should leave the room, so name plates can be properly located.
The Chairman of the Standing Committee opens the meeting and he and Elizabeth welcome everyone. She waves the new CMS publication, Living Planet-Connected Planet, in the air. It will be formally launched today. She hopes it will guide us. She again welcomes everyone and thanks partners and others for their support. Amongst other things she speaks of the new CMS website but she also stresses the need for adequate resources for the work of the convention. Does the African elephant need new resources?
A list of some half a dozen new countries that have adhered to the convention is noted and one of these, Armenia, takes the microphone to wish the meeting well and notes some relevant initiatives in his country. Ethiopia does the same and thanks the host for its warm hospitality.
The Kingdom of Swaziland reports that they are planning to join the convention and they are in the process of completing adherence. They are committed to the conservation and sustainable use of their migratory species.
We are reminded by Elizabeth of rule 15.2 which deals with voting rights. In the unlikely event that the COP decides to take a decision by vote (which she stresses has never happened in the history of the convention) countries must have paid their dues. The rules of procedure are then adopted, as the Chair sees ‘nodding’.
The Chair of the Standing Committee now seeks a Chair for the main COP and its main working group, which is known as the Committee of the Whole and it is traditional that the host country provides this. The Norwegian delegation proposes a name and there is applause. (We hope to clarify this name in due course.)
Chile proposed Uruguay for Chair of the Committee of the Whole. This is accepted.
The Chairman of the whole conference is established as Mr Oystein Storkersen from Norway. He moves to the stage clutching his faux skin conference bag and makes a short speech.
There are problems looming in the sky he says. (We cannot see the sky as the blackout blinds are down – possibly to get us used to the fact that daylight in these parts is scarce.) There were two main issues at the mini-CoP that is the Scientific Council he continues. We are good at making guidance and resolutions. We should look at what we are good at but strive not to overlap with other initiatives. Many of our resolutions are difficult to comply with across the world. He also notes the ‘crucial’ Rio 20+ meeting next year. We should seek to enable it to do a better job. There is no point in making more resolutions if they are not implemented at a national level. He is applauded and delegates are ushered out.
A long coffee break follows. People leave coats, bags and computers on seats which rather thwarts plans to reorganise the name plaques. It should be easier tomorrow.
Several working groups are now established. One is financial; another is marine species. The Future of the Convention will also be discussed alongside these. There will also be a Saker Falcon working group. The participation in these working groups is to some extent based on regional representation, so this is next discussed. The UK is chairing the important finance working group.
It is noted that various USA national entities are attending. The USA is not a party.
A long list of NGOs is then read out, including WDCS. Technically they are asking formally to be admitted. The Chair asks if we accept all these groups. A flag is raised. It is Argentina and she asks to see a written list before they approve admission. The Chair agrees. A few NGOs were not listed, including WWF and UNEP WCMC and they rush to microphones to note that they are in fact here.
The spoon-billed sandpiper now takes the stage. An expert, Professor Dave Wilcove, from Princetown University now addresses the Conference. He explains that it is the abundance of many migratory species that makes them so important. For example, the Salmon in the Columbia River Basin: in the 1800s there were 350-500 pounds of salmon in this system but now only 26-30 million pounds. Many non-migratory species, including bears, are dependent on this migratory species and will suffer because of its decline.
In North America, 6-21 million pounds of defoliating insects per day are consumed by migratory songbirds. What would be the effect of losing these birds?
Many uncertainties affect migratory species. Often we have incomplete knowledge about many migratory species. Scientific uncertainty will diminish. We are entering, he claims, the ‘Golden Age’ of migration science, as new technologies will give new insights. Some uncertainties will, of course, continue. In the US there is a migration of dragon flies but we don’t know why and where they are going. (A monitoring tag has recently been fitted for the first time to an insect species.)
Climate change will affect temperature and precipitation patterns. He takes the case of a flycatcher which has not changed the timing of its migration, whilst its food resource has responded to climate change. Such mismatches may be increasing important in the future. He notes the climate threat to sea turtles too.
Invasive species can also be expected to spread around the world: another threat to migratory species.
He proposes five steps to create effective ecological networks for migratory species.
1. Create a ‘red list’ of declining migratory species. (He notes here the threat to the highly migratory monarch butterfly where deforestation in Mexico at one end of its range is adversely affecting it).
2. Protect high-quality habitat across the entire migratory latitudinal and longitudinal range of the species
3. Identify and protect stop-over points.
4. Use incentives and regulations to maintain flexibility.
5. Stronger alliances to address threats to migratory species and here he mentions that even those technologies that seek to address climate change can be a problem for migratory species.
We can do more – we must not do less. The great migrations are irreplaceable, he concludes to supportive applause and the Chair notes that this is all food for thought. Egypt asks for a copy of the presentation to that it can be changed into Arabic.
Into the Future
Before lunch the Chair of the Intercessional Working Group on the Future Shape (of the CMS) gives an update on this work area. He introduces ERIC – the Environmental Regulation and Information Centre – which has made an independent assessment of this issue. He outlines the work to date and concludes that investing in biodiversity is investing in mankind’s future.
The meeting then breaks for a signing ceremony – for new parties to various legal instruments within the CMS family - and we shall come back to this matter after lunch.
Various countries now come forward to sign the Shark MOU, the Aquatic warbler MOU, the Raptors MOU. Italy for example takes to the stage to applause and signs the Shark and Raptors MOU. Germany does the same, as does Romania. A little later the EU signs the Shark MoU. Others follow.
Many people quietly check their emails, pausing only to clap.
A lunch break arrives and delegates set off for lunch in another part of the conference hotel which is a couple of blocks (and potentially a significant soaking) away. Not only is there ample and excellent food here provided by the host nation but a side event on ecological networks.
To provide a flavour of the context of CMS here follows a list of some of the species that it caters for:
Sharks – CMS oversaw the Second Meeting on International Cooperation on Migratory Sharks in 2008 and now we have the MOU in place for them, as signed earlier by various nations and the EU.
African Elephants – there is an MOU for West African elephants too. Its first meeting happened in Ghana in 2009. One of the issues brewing here at the COP is how many species of African elephant should be recognised. Some favour two others, including the CITES Secretariat as we heard last week in the Scientific Council only one and obviously this has implications for their conservation.
Aquatic Warblers and other avian species – they have an MOU too; so do the Siberian Cranes and also the migratory grassland birds of Southern South America. Then there is a houbara bustard MOU.
Saiga Antelopes – another MOU and the Bukhara deer have one too!
Dugongs – and another and its signatories met in 2010.
Bats – there is a fully fledged Agreement for bats in Europe known as ‘Eurobats’, and its party nations last met in the Czech republic in 2010.
Cetaceans – ASCOBANS is the agreement for small cetaceans only in Northern Europe and ACCOBAMS covers all the cetaceans in the Mediterranean and Black Seas (and the adjacent patch of the Atlantic); not to mention the Pacific cetacean MOU and the one for West Africa.
These are all the ‘babies’, as Elizabeth called them yesterday, of CMS. And CMS has been busy striving to help many species, including cetaceans. Can this continue against the backdrop of world economic issues? We shall see.
Other issues here over the next few days include those surrounding the bobolink? So we better find out what that is.
Lunch comes and goes.
We are quorate says the Chair. That means at least half of you are here. He repeats that all working groups are open-ended anyone can join. Each working group needs to appoint its own chair.
ERIC now gives its report on the Future Shape of the CMS and its Family (and presumably its babies). She talks about how the various CMS bodies work cooperatively. Some more than others but there is not, she says, a real family of integration, although ASCOBANS and ACCOBAMS work closely together. There is no infranet to help. Scientific bodies tend to be separated. Some MOUs also do not have a coordinator. She goes on to compare staffing levels in CMS with those in other bodies. Staffing seems to be comparable but CMS does support many more separated bodies.
The gorilla body receives little separate funding. It is mainly funded by the Secretariat.
She next details the estimated costs associated with possible changes. For example the working group on the Future… has recommended a number of key reforms and she considers a range of costs.
What issues do you want to focus on? she concludes.
In answer to a question from Pakistan she notes that part of the proposal is for a single scientific body for the whole family.
The EU now takes the floor for the first time and it is the Polish delegate speaking. They do not find the report sufficient. More work needs to be done; anything that needs additional funding will not be acceptable. They propose that COP 10 proposes that a new strategic plan should be developed.
Norway is prepared to develop in further discussions and looks forward to stream-lining and to link the Future process with the strategic plan.
Bert Lenten from the Secretariat, the Deputy CMS Executive Secretary, now gives some details of the work of the secretariat; noting with some conviction that we need to protect species before they disappear and also the long hours worked by the Secretariat as they try to cope with their heavy work load.
Total fix costs are 5.9 million Euros. Costs have increased because of inflation, increased staffing costs and the expansion of work. There is nothing currently in the small grant fund. If Parties want a new website, this will also cost. Bert notes that where there is a will there is away, for example the billions of Euros suddenly found by Europe to save the euro-zone.
Bert gets some applause and the Chairman says we also need to think of innovative ways forward. He tries to move to a coffee break but Mr Salmon of the UK is waving his flag (well actually his name plaque). The Chair says he now sees there is a desire to comment on what Bert said. The EU is given the floor first. She says different costs for different options need to be shown clearly. She is looking for a table to allow comparison with the different budget.
The UK thanks Norway for hosting and congratulates the chair and asks for the practical arrangements of when we meet. Madagascar gives the usual compliments. Would it not be possible to develop a funding mechanism?
The Chair says please do participate in the finance group. Argentina notes that the payment of contributions can turn out to be very expensive for developing nations.
The various working groups are now announced. The important (to us) working group on marine issues will include Germany, Norway, Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Argentina and Ecuador. The other working groups are the ‘Future Shape’ and the ‘Strategic Group’.
Can we expect more communal singing today?