Is green certification good for biodiversity?

Posted on January 15, 2012

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Hej, LUMESians! It was long break! Isn’t it? Batch 14 is now struggling for their thesis projects in Sweden, India, Turkey, Japan, Finland, Denmark, US, Canada, Australia, England, Colombia etc. At the moment, many people are away from Lund and back to their hometown.

This is an article from Forbes. I read it one night. And, suddenly, I came up with bunch of thoughts. Basically, it made me rethink of certification system. I am not sure whether tax or certification system is the ultimate way. Of course it could be one of methods to regulate non-green behaviours. But, as always, I wonder whether there is no better way to deal with it. ( oops! one pessimistic or cynical opinion, here. maybe due to gloomy weather of Lund. perhaps.)

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When we buy an organic-certified banana or drink a cup of coffee certified by the Rainforest Alliance or print on FSC-certified paper are we saving nature? Are green certifications schemes good for biodiversity? The answer appears to be that we are not really sure.

Yesterday, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP WCMC) and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) UNEP-WCMC and the CBD Secretariat organised a one-day workshop at Jesus College ofCambridge University in the UK to discuss the findings and recommendations of their recent review of standards and certification schemes. These findings are to be released in report in Tokyo in mid-December at a meeting of the Global Platform on Business and Biodiversity.

I joined a select group of standards and certification experts at the meeting to further develop a set of recommendations and priorities for the CBD leading up to its 11th Conference of Parties scheduled to take place next October in Hyderabad, India. The discussion made clear that there is much work still to be done.

The UNEP-WCMC and CBD review looked at 36 biodiversity-relevant standards and certification schemes such as the IFOAM norms, the RSPO Principles and Criteria, the IFC’s new Performance Standard 6, the FSC, the CCBA, the FairWild Standard and the MSC. It identified a number of areas where these standards could be strengthened with respect to biodiversity conservation including the use of internationally-recognised definitions, safeguarding priority conservation areas, and adopting ‘no net loss’ approaches.

The workshop was particularly useful in that it highlighted some of the key issues and concerns of the ‘conservation community’ with regard to the use of voluntary standards for biodiversity. In particular, the workshop reinforced the need to agree on what we are talking about. Concepts like biodiversity, ecosystem services, sustainable use, and modified habitats can mean different things to different people in different circumstances. One key benefit of having our governments sign up to international agreements such as the CBD is that such agreements usually have agreed definitions of key terms. Green standards could benefit from adopting the international definitions of terms – a small but critically important matter so that we can begin to agree on what we are talking about.

The workshop was also useful in highlighting that none of the standards have really figured out how to measure and report on their biodiversity impacts. This is not because of a lack of interest or commitment, but because biodiversity is so terribly difficult to measure. Unlike internationally-traded commodities like maize, gold, petroleum and even carbon, biodiversity cannot be easily measured and weighed. It makes little sense to speak of a bushel, a troy ounce, a barrel or a metric tonne of biodiversity. Because biodiversity everywhere is unique in terms of ecosystems, species and habitats, it cannot easily be commoditised and traded, like we have done for greenhouse gas emissions. (The future of GHG trading is in the balance as our governments are currently meeting on climate change in Durbin South Africa.)

Nevertheless, there is a clear ‘market’ for biodiversity. The international demand for biodiversity conservation is evidenced not only by the support for biodiversity-related conventions like the CBD and the worldwide programmes of environment and development NGOs, but also by the increasing demands from consumers and investors for companies to be biodiversity-responsible. Hence, green certification schemes would very much want to be good for biodiversity if they could only figure how to verify it.

One possible approach which was discussed in the margins of the meeting is to certify biodiversity-responsible land management as being proposed by the Green Development Initiative (GDI). The metric could be a ‘certified hectare’ which would be used to measure areas under CBD-compliant biodiversity-responsible management which in turn could also be providing certified bananas, coffee or pulp. If we want ensure that green certification schemes actually do conserve biodiversity, it appears that we need to somehow link responsible consumption to responsible land management.

trackback

http://www.forbes.com/sites/francisvorhies/2011/12/01/is-green-certification-good-for-biodiversity/

-H-

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