Ministers urged to save Nagoya biodiversity deal

Environment ministers from nearly 200 countries today arrived at the UN
biodiversity summit in Japan, amid calls for them to break the deadlocks that
threaten to scupper efforts to agree a new international deal.

Ministers have just three days to try and finalise a new 10-year agreement
for biodiversity protection, built around a 20-point action plan designed to
protect habitats and fisheries, and reverse the loss of crucial ecosystem

However, observers claim that the talks have made
over the past week with negotiators from rich and poor countries
divided over how biodiversity protection should be paid for.

Current funding for biodiversity protection stands at $3bn a year, but some
poorer nations have warned that this will need to increase 100-fold if crucial
ecosystems such as rainforests are to be protected.

In addition, Brazil has warned that it and many other developing countries
will not sign up to new international biodiversity targets unless the deal
includes agreement on the proposed access and benefit-sharing (ABS) protocol –
a legal protocol that would effectively see host nations compensated "fairly and
equitably" for the use of "genetic resources" such as wild plants by businesses.

Industrialised nations are concerned about the potential scope of the
protocol, warning that it could impose huge costs on sectors such as
pharmaceuticals and cosmetics that often draw on natural materials.

However, observers remain optimistic that the talks about the ABS are
ongoing and a deal could yet be finalised.

Japan attempted to breathe further life into the talks, announcing earlier
today that it will provide $2bn over three years to fund biodiversity protection

"We will launch a ‘life in harmony initiative’ to support developing
countries’ efforts to compile and update their national (biodiversity)
strategies and implement them," prime minister Naoto Kan told the summit. "We
will provide assistance in the amount of US$2bn over three years from 2010."

However, the EU quickly confirmed that it would not be making a similar
pledge, arguing that it already provides €1bn a year to biodiversity protection

"We haven’t really come here with a mindset of a pledging conference," Karl
Falkenberg, head of the European Commission’s environment department, told
reporters. "Europe, over the last eight years, has spent €1bn annually already.

Crucially, as with the Kyoto Protocol, the US has not ratified the Convention
on Biological Diversity that the talks are aiming to extend and is only taking
part in the Nagoya summit as an observer.

The latest developments came as scientists and economists once again
reiterated the sheer scale of the biodiversity crisis currently facing the

The International Union for Conservation of Nature today released an update
of its Red List of threatened species, showing that around a fifth of the
world’s vertebrates are currently threatened with extinction.

The study, which was compiled by more than 170 scientists, concluded that 41
per cent of amphibian species and 13 per cent of birds now qualify for red
listing and are under genuine threat of extinction.

"The ‘backbone’ of biodiversity is being eroded," said report co-author
Professor Edward O Wilson of Harvard University. "One small step up the Red List
is one giant leap forward towards extinction. This is just a small window on the
global losses currently taking place."

However, the study also concluded that while the loss of biodiversity is
happening fastest in the tropics, there is evidence that protection measures are
halting the decline in some species.

Speaking at the summit, World Bank chief Robert Zoellick stressed that there
were strong economic and development, as well as environmental reasons, to
tackle biodiversity loss.

"Productivity of the land and seas is diminishing, and with them the
ecosystem services that are crucial for people to get out of poverty," he said.
"Endangered species are fading away forever before our very eyes."

Last week, a UN-backed study, The Economics of Ecosystems and
that the economic cost
arising from biodiversity loss currently stands
between $2 trillion and $5 trillion a year.

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