International negotiations to establish a biodiversity vision and target post-2010 kick off today (18 October) in Nagoya, central Japan.
Ahead of the gathering, EU countries reached a consensus on their joint approach during a meeting of the 27 EU environment ministers last week (14 October).
The environment ministers' conclusions stress the importance of establishing an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), along the lines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The new body would provide a forum for scientists to share knowledge about the links between biodiversity, ecosystem services and economics.
According to the ministers, such authoritative and peer-reviewed scientific information is needed to "increase public understanding and trigger better-informed decision-making to safeguard nature and the ecosystems".
The ministers are also committed to "mainstreaming and sectoral integration of biodiversity, especially in financial-economic systems".
This would be done with particular regard to policies related to natural resources and land use management, such as agriculture, food security, forestry, fisheries, mining and energy, as well as spatial planning, transport, tourism, trade, and development, they said.
In order to do all this, "the development and application of innovative financial mechanisms" is needed and subsidies that harm biodiversity must be eliminated or reoriented, the ministers said.
They believe that integrating biodiversity into economic systems could be achieved thanks to the knowledge generated by the study on the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) – part of the UN's Green Economy Initiative.
Along the lines of the UK's Stern Review on the economics of climate change, the initiative is making massive calculations in an attempt to put a price on nature services such as soil, forest or fresh water to convince policymakers to implement the 'polluter pays' principle to protect nature.
TEEB suggests adopting market-based instruments, such as additional levies to enforce sustainable use of nature and argues that biodiversity and ecosystem conservation offer an array of new opportunities for business, which can either develop green products and services or trade biodiversity 'credits'.
A final synthesis report of the project will be presented in Nagoya.
Genetic resources protocol
The Nagoya meeting will also try to finalise an outline for a global protocol that would affect how and when companies and researchers can use genes from plants or animals that originate in resource-rich developing countries, such as Brazil and India.
The Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) protocol could, for example, require that companies using plants from the Amazon forest share royalties or technology from discoveries with the indigenous people of the area.
But developed and developing countries are divided over the scope of the agreement and businesses in sectors such as pharmaceuticals and agriculture are worried the new rules could raise their costs and complicate patent applications.
The EU hopes to reach agreement on a "meaningful protocol" that would ensure honest sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources.