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Polar bear uplisting defeated by EU abstentions - again.

Early this morning, the vote was taken on uplisting polar bears from Appendix II to Appendix I (no more international trade, greater conservation measures, more available funding for research). The proposal was brought by the USA and the Russian Federation, and opposed by Canada, WWF, Norway, Denmark and even the CITES Secretariat. Polar bears lost by a vote of 42 to 38 with 46 abstentions. Many country delegates did not show up for the vote – CITES has 178 members.

As with the vote in 2010 on the same issue, it was ultimately the EU that can take the blame. There have been proposals that the EU Member States (27 now, soon to be 28) vote as a bloc, as after all they are a united trading group in terms of wildlife products. The bloc vote proposal remains without progress, but meanwhile the EU Member States have decided to discuss CITES issues internally and then come up with a consensus decision counting for 27 votes.

On the polar bear issue, the UK, Germany, Poland and Belgium were pushing other member states to vote for uplisting. Denmark (that administers Greenland and therefore could somehow be called a polar bear range state though the only polar bears in Denmark are at places like the Copenhagen Zoo and feature as rugs on floors) opposed as they stated Greenland already has sufficient protection measures in place. Strange that Denmark did not see value of expanding similar levels of protection to other polar bear populations?

Denmark indicated their delegates would vote against the uplisting no matter what, and therefore seemed to throw the EU vote into disarray - there could now be no consensus opinion. It begs the question why this needs to happen anyway as the EU consists of a diverse array of sovereign states with different opinions on a number of matters. Citizens of Greece might expect their Government to take stances on environmental and conservation issues that could perhaps be different from citizens in Romania, Hungary, Lithuania, Sweden, etc. Greece does not import polar bear skins? The insistence on a unified vote on any issue therefore leads to anaemic  and pathetic actions rather than what is urgently required, and is not even a reality within the EU as the necessity of a bloc vote remains in bureaucratic limbo.

But that confusion seemed to strangely dominate the polar bear vote. Denmark somehow took the entire EU out of voting, and all other Member States could do little, according to them, but abstain. If the EU states had wanted to counter the Denmark vote they could have under current legislation, and thus voted with their conscience. That is what their citizens would have wanted, and now we hope the EU CITES delegations will be held to task by their taxpaying funders for their lack of backbone.

Canada, meanwhile, ran a big PR campaign. They dragged out representatives from their indigenous Inuit (Eskimo) communities to speak at the Convention. They said their children would starve if their right to sell polar bear skins and trophies was taken away from the impoverished communities. Nobody seemed to be capable of asking Canada, a wealthy nation, why they were not providing adequate Government funding to prevent children in their indigenous communities from starving, but perhaps that was not allowed under CITES rules.

Meanwhile, Danes should hang their heads in shame. Once again, it is politics and not conservation that drives the CITES process.

Please support us if you can to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you.

Posted by Pieter Kat at 16:31

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