If Ferdinand Magellan revealed the true dimensions of our Earth by circumnavigating it, its true limitations have been revealed to us in the 20th century, said Magellan’s compatriot, the Portuguese Prime Minister José Manuel Barroso.
In our time, air and water have become dangerously polluted, and many life forms have disappeared. Ozone layer depletion, the green house effect, melting of the arctic ice, rising sea levels and erratic monsoons have been most worrying.
In 1992, the United Nations held its Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit, at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. This watershed event resulted in the famous Rio Declaration on Environment and Development – endorsed by all the nations of the world. A voluntary agreement called the Forest Principles dealing with how forests should be managed and conserved, and another non-binding blueprint for sustainable development in the 21st century called Agenda 21 were released at the Earth Summit.
The Earth Summit at Rio also issued two important Conventions: formal agreements between sovereign states are called Treaties or Conventions. A Convention is drafted under the aegis of an international body like the UN, and is updated through additional Protocols which are the result of further rounds of negotiations.
The Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aims to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and has been ratified by 195 countries. There have been further negotiations at meetings of State Parties at Kyoto, Copenhagen, Doha etc.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) aims at conservation of biological diversity, its sustainable use and a fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources. It has been ratified by 193 countries and is governed by a Conference of Parties i.e. all the countries which have ratified the Convention. Its secretariat is in Montreal in Canada.
There have been additional Protocols to the CBD: at Cartagena in Colombia where countries agreed on safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology. At Nagoya in Japan, in 2010, another Protocol has been agreed upon, dealing with a transparent legal framework for ‘Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS)’. The next Conference of Parties is now scheduled to be held in Hyderabad in October 2012 and its primary objective is to review the status of the Nagoya protocol and to understand where each country stands in that regard. A Hyderabad Declaration on Biodiversity is likely to be issued.
But are Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh ready for such an important event?
Preparing for the Conference of Parties which will bring some 10,000 diplomats to Hyderabad is not the work of the Tourism department alone! And it will not be enough to improve signages on roads and to handle traffic efficiently which seems to be the main focus of the preparations!
What should Hyderabad do to deserve a permanent place in the historic efforts to save our planet?
The state which has many environmental issues first needs a modern, scientific, people oriented policy on Biological Diversity and Sustainable Development.
It is time for the Bureaucrats and Ministers to wake up to this important responsibility and they could declare it ahead of the Conference of Parties in October.
Enlightened citizens should help our policy makers and stakeholders understand that the Earth does not belong to us – we belong to the Earth.