It can be challenging to understand how international organizations work together to affect climate policy and what binds these state actors and scientific organizations to action or progress toward meeting the goals they collectively set. In this blog we summarize the history of COP27 and its role in pollinator health, and how our project fits in the picture.
What is COP27?
The United Nations Climate Change Conferences are annual conferences operated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which established an international environmental treaty to combat human interference in climate systems, partly by stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Signed by 154 global states at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992—better known as the Earth Summit—the collaboration called for ongoing scientific research, regular meetings, negotiations, and future policy agreements designed to allow ecosystems to adapt to climate change, safeguard global food production, and enable sustainable economic development.
In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was signed and ratified and was an important agreement because it served as the first implementation of the measures identified and approved by consensus at the UNFCCC. The Paris Agreement, which took effect in 2016, superseded the Kyoto Protocol and was essential and provided a pathway for developed nations to assist developing nations in their climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. The Paris Agreement was also a critical set of policies and practices because it created a framework for transparent monitoring, reporting, and boosting countries’ individual and collective climate goals. The UNFCC is the supreme decision-making body and meets annually at the Conference of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change. By 2020, 197 state parties were involved in UNFCC proceedings and policy-making.
The first COP meeting took place from July 8-19 in Geneva, Switzerland. Its ministerial declaration was noted (but not adopted), reflecting a position statement presented by the former Under Secretary for Global Affairs for the United States Department of State that established three key priorities:
to accept the scientific findings on climate change offered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC; the United Nations body for assessing the science of climate change);
reject uniform “harmonized policies” in favor of flexibility that better reflected local contexts;
and called for legally binding mid-term targets on climate action.
The potential impact of COP on pollinators
Today, a critical task for the COP is to review national communications and emission inventories and assess the effects of the actions taken by participant states, and progress toward achieving the ultimate objective of the Convention, which is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change. COP27 is currently taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, and a summary and analysis of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference COP26 can be accessed here. Among the many findings and recommendations of the COP26, there was a strong emphasis on the importance of reversing pollinator declines.
According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production, 75 percent of our food crops and nearly 90 percent of wild flowering plants depend to some extent on animal pollination. In addition, the annual value of global crops that depend on pollinators is estimated to be worth up to $577 billion. Without pollinators, coffee, almonds, and many cash crops would drastically suffer, and changes in global crop supplies could increase prices for consumers and reduce profits for producers, resulting in a potential annual net loss of economic welfare of $160 to $191 billion globally. Beyond food, pollinators also contribute directly to medicines, biofuels, fibers like cotton or linen, and construction materials, and play an important role in many indigenous cultures. Improving pollinator services is thus important for achieving the sustainable development goals of the COP as well as helping individual farmers and their families adapt to climate change.
Research from the IPBES report on pollinators includes several possible solutions to halt the decline in pollinators. Some of these include:
the promotion of sustainable agriculture;
creating greater diversity of pollinator habitats in agricultural and urban landscapes;
using indigenous local knowledge and decreasing the use of pesticides.
Further, recognizing that pollinator decline is a critical issue, 11 European countries have already announced a ‘Coalition of the Willing’, which seeks to implement national pollinator strategies consistent with the IPBES report. More information on the Coalition can be accessed here.
AID-CSB & COP27
Through our public-private partnerships, we are doing our part to meet the COP recommendations and climate goals. The AI-Driven Climate-Smart Beekeeping (AID-CSB) for Women project works with beekeepers and beekeeping organizations in Uzbekistan and Ethiopia to localize the “Beekeeper’s Companion”, a climate-smart information communication technology for development (ICT4D) app designed to support beekeepers’ hive management practices, improve honey production, and collect region-specific information on pollinator health, thereby providing a pathway to mitigate the effects of biodiversity loss, which is a key contributor to pollinator declines.
Recently, project managers visited Ethiopia and had the opportunity to conduct prototype tests on a new symptom checker feature, which aims to guide beekeepers in assessing and diagnosing bee health issues, all while filling the data gap on honeybee health symptoms.