I read a BBC article today about global environmental treaties — you know, like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) — and whether the targets they set mean anything to governments.
Such treaties do seem like a whole lot of work to get countries to finally agree to some goal, just for that goal to be missed in the long run.
The article asks:
So are targets worthwhile? Would all the time and energy not be better spent simply developing and implementing policies that deliver firm benefits?
Maybe. But maybe setting targets gets governments to act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.
Within the same CBD treaty that set a near-unreachable goal of curbing biodiversity loss by 2010, there is a specific action plan on strengthening protected area systems around the world. An action plan that has a timetable, specific steps and the support of NGOs like The Nature Conservancy to assist governments in its implementation.
This very action plan catalyzed the governments of Micronesia, through their good will, competitive spirit, and recognition of their dependency on natural systems, to commit to the Micronesia Challenge — a regional initiative to protect 20 percent of those islands’ land areas and 30 percent of their marine areas by 2020.
Just another target, you might say. But in two short years the Micronesia Challenge has drawn worldwide attention, attracted big sums of public monies and changed how these governments are working to conserve their natural resources.
Not only that, it has motivated other governments in the Coral Triangle and the Caribbean to launch similar efforts — the biggest efforts to protect island biodiversity and livelihoods that the world has seen.
So, succeed or fail, I say — ready, aim, fire.