From 12 to 17 February, the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP14) will be held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. At this conference, the Belgian Presidency will have an important role to play: it will have to shape the discussions on behalf of the EU to promote the implementation of the CMS and give concrete form to the historic agreement in favour of biodiversity, reached in December 2022 during the 15th COP to the Convention on Biological diversity (CBD COP15).
Taking the EU's ambitions to the international stage
The role of the Council Presidency does not stop at the borders of the European Union, nor does the impact of the EU on global biodiversity. At United Nations summits and conferences, the EU must speak with one voice to effectively convey its environmental ambitions at international level. This will be the case in Samarkand, where the Presidency will have the important responsibility of coordinating the European position and representing the EU during the negotiations. Its objective will be to reach concrete decisions that ensure the effective implementation of the CMS, and hence reflect the commitments made at CBD COP 15 in Montreal.
Supporting the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework
This COP is one of the most important global meetings on biodiversity since the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework in December 2022. Concluded at CBD COP15 in Montreal, this framework includes a number of global targets and objectives to be achieved by 2030 and beyond to ensure the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity.
The COP14 on Migratory Species will address a wide range of important conservation priorities, many of which will support the implementation of the EU biodiversity objectives as well as of the Global Biodiversity Framework. In fact, it will not be possible to reach the objectives of the GBF without the implementation of the CMS.
The COP will also focus on a series of threats to species and biodiversity: climate change, overexploitation, habitat loss and fragmentation, interaction with certain infrastructures, pollution (by chemicals, pesticides, plastics, light, noise).
Nature knows no borders
The COP slogan "Nature knows no borders" reminds us that the survival of migratory species depends on international and cross-border collaboration. It also refers to the concept of nature's ecological connectivity, i.e. the unimpeded movement of species and the flow of natural processes that sustain life on Earth. These connections are necessary for the functioning of ecosystems and the conservation of biodiversity.
During the COP, the new CMS Strategic Plan is expected to be adopted, along with a major global partnership on ecological connectivity. Another COP highlight will be the publication of the first-ever report on the state of the world's migratory species.
Uzbekistan has chosen to feature the snow leopard in the meeting logo. This Central Asian feline, found in Uzbekistan, lives in vast areas that can cover several countries. Threatened with extinction due to the degradation of its habitat, it is a perfect symbol of the problems faced by migratory species.
A convention to protect migratory species
133 states, including the European Union and its member states, have signed up to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). Belgium has been a member since 1990. However, the United States, Russia and China are not parties.
The Convention aims to preserve and establish the conditions necessary for the migration and survival of a large number of birds, as well as terrestrial species such as the African elephant and the gorilla, and marine species such as the whale shark and the manta ray. It does so via several daughter agreements established through concerted action among the range states. Together, they form the CMS family, which covers a wide range of migratory species (e.g. the EUROBATS agreement on bats).
Its appendices define migratory species according to their conservation status and degree of vulnerability. Annex I lists species that are in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant part of their range. Annex II lists the species that have an unfavourable conservation status and that require international agreements for their conservation and management.
It is the states in the areas of distribution that are responsible for protecting the species according to the appendices concerned. For example, Belgium and other EU countries have signed an agreement to protect small cetaceans in the North Sea and Baltic Sea, including porpoises.
Proposals on the table
Discussions will focus on the protection of migratory species, some of whose range and habitats cover large areas of Europe.
The European Union has proposed listing harbour porpoise populations in the Baltic Sea in Appendix I of the Convention, which offers the highest level of protection for threatened species. Uzbekistan also proposed listing in the Appendixes the very rare Pallas cat and the Balkan lynx, a few individuals of which have recently been reported in Greece. South Africa has asked to include the bearded vulture, a bird of prey that can be seen in the Alps and Pyrenees. At Israel's initiative, several species of Mediterranean ray present in EU waters, such as the eagle ray or "devil of the sea", could also be included.
These species are also protected by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.