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Conflict Weekly
Global Biodiversity Framework and the EU's gas price capping regulation

  IPRI Team

Conflict Weekly #155, 22 December 2022, Vol.3, No.38
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI and India Office of the KAS

Akriti Sharma and Ankit Singh


COP 15: Countries sign the historic Global Biodiversity Framework

In the news
On 19 December, at COP 15 hosted by Canada and chaired by China, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was adopted by 190 countries.

On 17 December, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had said: "We are finally starting to forge a peace pact with nature." Reflecting on the current state of affairs, he had remarked: “We are waging a war on nature. Ecosystems have become playthings of profit. Humanity’s war on nature is ultimately a war on ourselves.”

On 15 December, Chinese President Xi Jinping had urged the contracting parties to “turn ambitions into actions” as "humanity lives in a community with a shared future." He added: “We need to build global consensus on biodiversity protection.”
 
Following the GBF, Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu said: “The declaration will send a powerful signal, showing the world our determination to solve the problem of biodiversity loss, and our stronger actions on the issues discussed at this high-level meeting.” His Canadian counterpart, Steven Guilbeault said: “It is truly a moment that will mark history as Paris did for climate.”

However, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Environment Minister Ève Bazaiba protested, saying: “We didn’t accept it. We didn’t have the agreement. We will go back home. Maybe the president of COP 15 and Canada will continue negotiations with countries before the next COP. We are open to that. I am sad to see that they didn’t respect the procedure” of an agreement by consensus.

Issues at large
First, a background on the Conference of Parties (COP 15). The COP is the governing body of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) signed in 1992 aimed at the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of resources. The COP meets once in two years to monitor the implementation of the CBD. The latest COP (COP 15) concluded with the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) which set the agenda for biodiversity post-2020. It is considered to be the most ambitious global plan ever developed for protecting biodiversity.

Second, the outcome of COP 15 in 2022. The agreement includes 23 targets aimed at addressing biodiversity loss, restoring ecosystems, and protecting indigenous rights. The targets focus on halting and reversing nature loss and putting 30 per cent of the planet and 30 per cent of degraded ecosystems under protection by 2030. Currently, only 17 per cent of land is protected. Additionally, it seeks to halve global food waste and phase out or reform subsidies that harm biodiversity by at least USD 500 billion per year. Moreover, the rights of indigenous people and local communities are to be respected while implementing the GBF.

Third, the issue of finance. The agreement also pledged to mobilise at least USD 200 billion each year from public and private sources as biodiversity-related funding. The issue of finance has remained at the core of negotiations at COP 15 like the recent COP 27 in Egypt for developing countries. At least USD 30 billion each year is expected to flow from developed to developing countries as part of the agreement.

Fourth, bridging biodiversity and climate change. The agreement is being compared with the significant Paris agreement for climate action making countries accountable for their actions towards biodiversity loss. It has intertwined climate action with nature and biodiversity protection and resulted in a coherent policy framework. Last year, the scientific body behind COP 27 and COP 15, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a joint report on the need to achieve climate and environmental targets highlighting the link between climate change and biodiversity loss.

Fifth, the opposition by the global south. Many developing countries have flagged their concerns over the funding mechanisms. Delegates from Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia walked out of the discussion complaining that they were not being heard. While the developing countries prefer establishing a new fund for biodiversity, the developed countries prefer continuing with the existing Green Environment Facility. The DRC’s objection to the current agreement stems from its reservations regarding the proposed funding mechanisms. A few countries have also opposed the 30 by 30 target fearing the potential displacement of indigenous people.

In perspective
First, a significant step in pushing the biodiversity agenda to the forefront. The agreement is a remarkable step towards bringing the global biodiversity agenda to the forefront at par with climate action. Such policy frameworks can inspire countries to set ambitious targets and implement them in specific areas like biodiversity.

Second, more focus on implementation. Climate targets of countries reflect how declaring intent and ambition alone is not enough. The Global Biodiversity Framework, likewise, faces challenges in monitoring and implementation. Given that previous commitments on biodiversity have not been met, the current agreement needs to put in place appropriate monitoring mechanisms to ensure its implementation.

Third, the need for coordination between developing and developed countries. The debate over financing has been at the core of the global environmental agenda and developing and developed countries need to arrive at a workable solution to address their historical responsibilities while raising the requisite funds for the effective implementation of the GBF. 


The EU: The new gas price capping regulation

In the news
On 19 December, European Union energy ministers reached a consensus on a market correction mechanism on recent fluctuations in liquified petroleum gas (LNG) prices. The regulation, a price capping mechanism for LNG trade is likely to be implemented by 15 February 2023 and will be activated if the LNG price at the Dutch Title Transfer Facility (TTF) is above EUR180/MWh (USD4.34/mmBtu) for three consecutive days on TTFs front month contracts. Once the mechanism is triggered, trade would not be permitted on the front-month, three-month, and front-year TTF contracts at a price more than EUR 35/MWh above the global reference LNG price.

On the same day, the Czech Minister of Industry and Trade, Jozef Síkela, who holds the rotating EU Presidency said: “We will set a realistic and effective mechanism, which includes the necessary safeguards that will steer us clear from risks to the security of supply and financial markets stability. Once again, we have proved that the EU is united and will not let anybody use energy as a weapon.”

Issues at large
First, energy crises due to price fluctuations. Europe has been reeling under an unprecedented energy crisis following the Russia-Ukraine war which has triggered record levels of inflation. The conflict has pushed Europe to look for alternatives to avoid being blackmailed on energy security by Russia and compelled governments in the EU to arrange for extra funds. The highly volatile LNG trade has witnessed an increase of around 264 per cent since January 2022, while the drops in prices have also been over 200 per cent in the past 11 months.

Second, disparities and affordability issues within the EU. The excessive LNG pricing has exposed the faultlines in a seemingly united EU. The deal was supported by most EU members but its biggest consumer, Germany, had initially objected to the gas pricing mechanism and finally relented. The shift happened after its demands for changes to another regulation on speeding up renewable energy permits and stronger safeguards were added to the cap. The Netherlands has doubled its LNG import capacity to 24 Bcm/year and its LNG terminals will soon reach their full capacity, according to a report by SP Global. The Netherlands has also abstained from supporting the regulation as it fears the low cap could cause the sellers and LNG exporters to look for better-paying customers. The TTF has also maintained that it is reviewing the consensus reached by the EU; it had indicated earlier that it may move gas trading out of the EU if the price cap was approved. Hungary also voted against the mechanism.

Third, market intervention by the neo-liberal EU. Dutch energy minister Rob Jetten said: "Despite the progress the last couple of weeks, the market correction mechanism remains potentially unsafe." Goldman Sachs sees the mechanism as a factor that could further cause market disruptions as the sellers were not consulted and the demand side remains oblivious to corrective mechanisms that the EU could impose on itself to calibrate with current circumstances. The intervention by the EU on LNG has disrupted the global LNG supply routes and many developing countries are suffering from gas shortages as the EU could offer a higher price.

In perspective
First, seeking guarantees without adequate infrastructure. Europe is on a path to substitute its reliance on Russian energy in an attempt to deter energy from being used as a weapon. The ground reality, however, is Europe’s lack of LNG import terminals has exasperated the importers who have to wait for the offsetting of the LNG in terminals to be released into inland Europe while those who could not afford the expensive LNG wait in vain in cold and dry winters.

Second, the increasingly important role of the US in the EU’s LNG imports. The US now exports more than a third of its LNG to Europe, while Russian exports which used to be around one-third have been reduced to 17 per cent. The US has come to rescue Europe by supplying 70 per cent of its LNG cargoes diverting them from Asia to Europe.

Third, from market intervention to a market correction. The price mechanism caps the maximum price of LNG that the EU members are willing to pay at USD 5/mmBtu, which is not much higher than the global average. This has the potential to cause speculations in the market resulting in adjusted expectations and creating scope for other countries to plan on paying the LNG bill. Europe’s rich man status assures guaranteed payments, however, the price cap being almost in line with the global average makes the price cap redundant. This points to the possibility of the mechanism signalling an anti-Russia agenda rather than ensuring energy security, at least in the medium term.


Also, from around the World

Avishka Ashok, Sai Pranav, Joel Jacob, Akriti Sharma, Bhoomika Sesharaj, Sethuraman N. Apoorva Sudhakar, Anu Maria Joseph and Padmashree Anandan 

East and Southeast Asia
China: Proposal at Biological Weapons Convention is common will of developing countries, says Ministry
On 19 December, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson stressed China's proposal at the Biological Weapons Convention, calling it the common will of the majority of the developing countries amongst the member states. On 16 December, the ninth review of the convention concluded, approving an accord to ban bio-weapons, including its development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. The spokesperson said: "The outcomes of the just-concluded convention marks important progress in global bio safety governance that is in line with the common interest of the international community."

China: Surge in COVID-19 cases prevents restricts normality despite withdrawal of  zero-COVID policy
On 19 December, China's National Health Commission reported two COVID-19 deaths, weeks after withdrawing its zero-COVID policy. The rising cases pose a challenge to the Communist Party of China as the country tries to quell the outbreak of cases and protests. The sudden surge has strained China's health infrastructure and other facilities. The crematoriums are crowded with citizens waiting to cremate their families and also demand hefty fees to securely receive the services. The nursing homes have shut the facilities from the outsiders, demanding the nurses and workers to remain at the facilities to prevent the spread of infections. Schools in Shanghai have shut again. There is also a heightened strain on the healthcare workers in China, which was brought to light after a medical student cum doctor died while working at the hospital.

China: Satellite photos show China building on unoccupied territory in South China Sea
On 21 December, the Strait Times reported that China was accused of building unoccupied land features in the South China Sea. The action is considered to be China's long-term strategy to claim the region as its national territory.  Although China has previously built on reefs, islands and land formations, the report stressed that this was the first known instance of the country building on unoccupied land features that it does not occupy. The news report is based on satellite photos which display a Chinese vessel releasing an amphibious hydraulic excavator, like the one used in Spratly Islands in 2014.

South Korea: Joint air exercise held with the US
On 20 December, South Korea and the US conducted joint aerial drills involving Washington’s B-52 strategic bomber and F-22 stealth fighters and Seoul’s F-35A stealth jets and F-15K fighters. The aerial exercise was held in South Korea’s air defence identification zone, southwest of Jeju island. The drill aimed to strengthen the operational capabilities of the newer generation fighters in escorting and protecting the strategic bomber and intensify their military equipment compatibility.

North Korea: Pyongyang fires two ballistic missiles at the East Sea
On 18 December, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that North Korea fired two medium-range ballistic missiles towards the Korean Peninsula’s eastern coast. Both missiles flew 500 kilometres and landed in the East Sea outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. South Korea and Japan condemned Pyongyang’s missile test and stated that it escalated regional tensions.
 
North Korea: Pyongyang tests its first military surveillance satellite
On 19 December, North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) tested its first military reconnaissance satellite. Pyongyang aims to complete the satellite by 2023. North Korea’s state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released two black-and-white, low-resolution pictures of South Korea’s Seoul and Incheon. The US and South Korean researchers criticised the quality of the image and called the satellite imaging crude. In response, North Korea said that the US and its allies were lying about its technology and warned the US and its allies against undermining their technological capabilities.

Malaysia: Flood and landslide kills 25 people including children
On 17 December, the death toll from a landslide near a town outside capital city Kuala Lumpur rose to 21, including five children. On 20 December, the government data showed that five people, including a 15-month-old child, had died and 56,159 people were displaced from floods in five states. The fire and rescue operation director said that aerial monitoring to assess the situation on the ground helped in the ongoing rescue missions. Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim visited the affected areas and promised financial aid to the families of the deceased.

Thailand: 31 sailors missing from the warship which sink in the storm
On 19 December, a Thai navy spokesperson reported that 31 sailors were missing after warship HTMS Sukhothai, carrying more than 100 crew, capsized in a storm in the Gulf of Thailand. The navy rescued 75 sailors and is searching for the  remaining 31 sailors. The navy announced an investigation into the disaster as an active usage warship has never sunk before.

South Asia
Bangladesh: Railway Protection Force of Northeast Frontier Railway holds nine Rohingyas
On 18 December, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) of the Northeast Frontier Railway said nine Bangladeshi Rohingyas had been held at the Agartala railway station. The development took place while the RPF, along with the local railway patrol team, conducted a “special” check against illegal migrants on all incoming and outgoing trains at the station. The RPF said that the migrants did not produce any “valid documents” and only later admitted that they were Rohingyas from Bangladesh. They were handed to the government for “further legal action.”

Nepal: Import of medicines from 16 Indian firms banned
On 20 December, Nepal’s Department of Drug Administration banned the import of medicines from 16 Indian pharmaceutical companies for reportedly disobeying and “failing to comply” with the World Health Organisation’s “good manufacturing practices.” This comes after the WHO issued an alert on Indian-made cough syrups for allegedly killing children in the Gambia. The ban entails mainstream Indian pharmaceuticals, along with Divya Pharmacy, which manufactures Yoga Guru Ramdev’s Patanjali products. The WHO traced the deaths in the Gambia to four cough and cold syrups produced by Maiden Pharmaceuticals whose operations were busted by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation.

Sri Lanka: Navy seizes ice meth and heroin worth USD 12.46 Mn from a trawler
On 18 December, Sri Lanka’s Navy conducted a special operation with the State Intelligence Service and Police Narcotic Bureau in the seas about 229 nautical miles from Dondra. The Navy captured a local fishing trawler and seized a consignment of ice meth and heroin, along with 14 suspects. The seized drug, worth more than USD 12.46 million, included over 128.327 kg of crystal methamphetamine (ice meth) and 106.474 kg of heroin. The Sri Lankan Police said that in 2022, more than 100,000 persons had been arrested in drug cases over 13,000kg of different types of illegal drugs had been seized. The Sri Lankan Navy estimated the value of seized drugs in 2022 at USD 76 million.

Central Asia, Middle East, and Africa
Armenia-Azerbaijan: Protesters block access to Nagorno-Karabakh
On 15 December, tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan rose amid protests and blockade on the Lachin Corridor connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia accused Azerbaijan of sending protesters to deny Armenia access to the region; however, the latter denied the allegations. Russia’s Foreign Ministry raised concerns over the development and said Russia Defence Ministry and peacekeeping troops were working towards de-escalating the tensions and restoring the transport links. 

Iran: Four security personnel killed near Pakistan border, says IRGC
On 19 December, Al Jazeera reported a statement by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which said that four Iranian security personnel had been killed in a firefight near the Iran-Pakistan border. One of the casualties was part of the IRGC and the other three belonged to the Basij forces under the IRGC. The IRGC, without naming anyone,  accused a “terrorist group” of the attack.

Iraq: Bomb and gun attacks claims nine lives
On 18 December, at least nine police officers and an assailant were killed in a bomb and gun attack near Kirkuk city in northern Iraq. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which began with a bomb blast near the Chalal al-Matar village, followed by “a direct attack with small arms.”

Israel-Palestine: Israel deports human rights lawyer to France
On 18 December, Israel deported Palestinian-French human rights lawyer Salah Hammouri who had been detained since March. The development comes despite the French Foreign Ministry’s position that Hammouri “must be able to exercise all his rights and lead a normal life in Jerusalem, his city of birth and residence.” Therefore, the ministry criticised the deportation after Hammouri reached Paris and said it had “taken full action, including at the highest level of the state, to ensure that Mr. Salah Hamouri’s rights are respected, that he benefits from all legal remedies and that he can lead a normal life in Jerusalem, where he was born, resides and wishes to live.” Meanwhile, Hammouri said he would continue to fight for his rights and would pursue his “right to resist against this occupation.”

Sudan: Security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the protests
On 19 December, Sudanese security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades on pro-democracy protesters in the capital Khartoum. The demonstrators were marching towards the presidential palace demanding an end to the military rule. Previously, On 5 December, Sudan’s pro-democracy coalition Forces of Freedom and Change had signed a new deal with the military leaders agreeing for a two-year civilian-led transition towards election. However the protesters dismissed the agreement calling it too vague. The protesters also claim that the deal doesn’t cover security reforms and that it would leave the military powerful and disrupt the democratic transition.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: UN eases arms embargo
On 21 December, BBC reported that the UN had eased arms embargo on the Democratic Republic of the Congo to assist the army in fighting armed groups. With this, countries can conduct arms sales to the DRC government without notifying the UN Security Council. The DRC government said easing of the embargo was a move to correct the “injustice.” In a related development, the UN also extended its peacekeeping mandate in the country’s east by one year.

Europe and the Americas
The Netherlands: Hague court upholds ban on assisted suicide
On 14 December, the Hague District Court upheld the ban on assisted suicide. The case was filed by activists led by the Cooperative Last Will group challenged the Netherlands’ ban on assisted suicide claiming that it violates the European Convention on Human Rights. In the Netherlands, the practice of euthanasia is legal where physicians are allowed to end the lives of patients by administering lethal doses of drugs under strict conditions. The practice of assisted suicide where a person who is not a physician supplies an individual with fatal substances to self-administer is banned in the Netherlands. The Court in its ruling said that while the ECHR protects an individual’s right to decide when to end their life it “does not go so far that there is also a right to obtain assisted suicide.” Cooperative Last Will’s Chairperson Frits Spangenberg expressed his disappointment with the court’s judgement and added that they will continue this fight. The Dutch Association for a Voluntary End of Life criticised the ruling and said that the court supports a “…situation in which the government derives its citizens of the right to die with dignity at their own discretion.”

The UK: Sunak announces construction of three naval ships in Belfast
On 15 December, UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the Defence Ministry contracted the building of three naval vessels in Belfast for GBP 1.6 billion. The move comes after Sunak’s first visit to Northern Ireland as the prime minister. The deal looks to thaw the icy relation between Northern Ireland and the UK regarding the Good Friday Agreement. Sunak called on Northern Ireland's parties to form a solution before the deadline for a new election comes up.

The UK: Deportation of migrants to Rwanda is lawful, says High Court
On 19 December, the UK High Court ruled that the government's proposal to deport migrants to Rwanda is lawful and that it did not violate the UN Refugee Convention or other human rights laws. The UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the government had always been confident about the policy and would now focus on implementing it at the earliest. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak termed the ruling a “common sense position” that “the vast majority of the British public" desired. However, the Labour Party said the policy was “unworkable” and “unethical.”

Russia: To conduct naval drills in East China Sea
On 19 December, TRT World reported that Russia and China will conduct naval drills from 21 to 27 December amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. The exercise, involving military and artillery firing in the East China Sea, aims to strengthen the relations between China and Russia. The Russian Defence Ministry said: “The main purpose of the exercises is to strengthen naval cooperation between Russia and China, and maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Sweden: Supreme Court denies extradition of Turkish journalist
On 19 December, the Swedish Supreme Court blocked the extradition of the Turkish Journalist Bulent Kenes to Turkey. It has cited that there are several obstacles to the extradition, including the risk of persecution, and the “political nature” of the extradition. Kenes, previously working in the Zaman Daily, was accused by Turkey of supporting Fethullah Gulen and being involved in the 2016 coup attempt. Sweden’s stand on the extradition may complicate the accession process, as Turkey's key conditions was to extradite Kenes to support the membership of Sweden and Finland into the NATO.

Finland: President accepts amendments to the Abortion Act
On 20 December, President Sauli Niinisto approved an amendment to the existing Abortion Act. The new amendment, in line with the Oma Tahto 2020, was approved after Social Affairs and Health Committee submitted a report. The act mandates that for terminating a pregnancy before the end of twelve weeks only the assent of the woman is required. Earlier, the provision for abortions after the twelfth week, was only been given for cases when the woman’s life was in danger or due to other complications. The act also provides for counselling and psychological support services. The amendments would come into force from 1 September 2023, as other associated decrees are yet to be amended

Peru: Castillo’s family leaves for Mexico; Ministry expels Mexican ambassador
On 21 December, former President Pedro Castillo’s family left for Mexico while Castillo remained in detention. The development comes after Mexico granted asylum to the family and the Peruvian Foreign Minister ensured their safe passage to the airport. Meanwhile, Peru also expelled the Mexican ambassador for “the repeated statements by that country's highest authorities about the political situation in Peru.” Al Jazeera quoted Peru’s Foreign Ministry statement: “The statements by the Mexican president are especially grave considering the violence in our country, which is incompatible with the legitimate right of every individual to protest peacefully.”

Haiti: UN officials call for solidarity to Haiti amid rising gang violence
On 21 December, the UN Special Representative in Haiti informed the UN Security Council that 280 people had been murdered in November and over 1,200 people were kidnapped in 2022. This comes amid the rising gang violence in Haiti, which has restricted movement of people, goods and aid. The UN Deputy Secretary-General called for international solidarity and called on all countries to consider approving the government’s request for “an international specialized armed force to help restore security and alleviate the humanitarian crisis.” According to UN News, the Deputy Secretary-General said: “Now is not the time for the world to turn away from Haiti.”

The US: Gun violence targets Black community more, says report
On 20 December, a study published by the Journal of American Medical Association highlighted the long-term gun fatality trends among Black and white children. The study outlined that between 2013-20, firearm related deaths among the Black community rose by 108.3 per cent, while for young whites the deaths rose by 47.8 per cent. The rate of firearm related death per 100,000 was 5.2 on an average while for Blacks it was 17.4. 

The US: anti-abortion leader dismissed from Vatican priesthood
On 18 December, Father Frank Pavone was defrocked for his allegedly blasphemous communications on social media and his persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop. Father Pavone defended his stance as pro-life and revealed that for years there was a persistent effort to cancel his stand. He lashed out at his critics and called them the "dumbest in the world."  After former President Donald Trump lost the elections in 2020, he also questioned the validity of the elections.

The US: House panel recommends Trump to be charged with four crimes on January 6 fiasco
On 19 December, the US House of Representatives asked federal prosecutors to charge Donald Trump with four crimes, including obstruction, insurrection for his role in the riots at the Capitol on 6 January 2021, and conspiracy to defraud the US. The nine-member panel took 18 months to complete its probing and conducted more that 1000 witness interviews. The request, however, does not compel the prosecutors to act. 


About the authors

Akriti Sharma and Ankit Singh are Doctoral Scholars at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, NIAS. Apoorva Sudhakar, Avishka Ashok and Padmashree Anandan are Project Associates at NIAS. Anu Maria Joseph, Joel Jacob, Sai Pranav and Sethuraman N are Research Assistants at NIAS. Bhoomika Sesharaj is a research intern at NIAS.

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