‘Historic deal’ to save nature reached in Nagoya

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Environment ministers from almost 200 countries on Friday (29 October) adopted historic targets to halve loss of natural habitats and dramatically increase nature reserves to 17% of the world's land area by 2020 from less than 10% today.

By endorsing a new United Nations strategy, ministers pledged to draw up national biodiversity plans within two years. The voluntary actions are designed to stop over-fishing, reduce pollution, protect coral reefs and halt loss of genetic diversity in agricultural ecosystems.

Countries also agreed to establish a target of considering as protected areas 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of marine and coastal areas.

A resource mobilisation strategy was adopted, providing for a substantial increase in current levels of development assistance in support of biodiversity.

A new protocol was adopted on sharing the benefits of using the planet's genetic resources, involving both governments and companies. As a result, billions of dollars could be unlocked to help developing countries, where most of the world's natural riches remain.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that global deforestation has fallen from 16 million hectares (40 million acres) per year in the 1990s to 13 million hectares per year in the past decade, with the bulk of the losses in tropical countries.

"We are biting the hand that feeds us if we do not halt the loss of animal and plant species," said German Socialist & Democrat MEP Jo Leinen, who led a European Parliament delegation to the Nagoya talks, adding that "equally important as fighting climate change is making sure that stable ecosystems will also exist in future".

"Biodiversity is not only about protecting tigers, pandas or natural parks but about the livelihood of future generations," Leinen said.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan offered $2 billion in financing and $110 million was mobilised to support projects under the CBD Life Web Initiative, aimed at boosting the protected area agenda.

"We were disappointed that most rich countries came to Nagoya with empty pockets," said Jim Leape, director-general of WWF International.

The goal of the treaty – named the 'Aichi Target' after the area around Nagoya, Japan where the summit was held – is to create a framework to manage the world's genetic resources and share the financial benefits with developing nations.

Dramatic biodiversity losses have been a subject of debate for almost two decades, complicated by powerful interests in trade, science, health and traditions. The protocol still must be ratified by signatory nations.

Several delegates, including those from Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba, expressed concerns about safeguarding benefits for developing nations, but said they would not go against the consensus.

There may still be resistance from industry.

''Now, it needs to be ensured that also American companies from the pharma and cosmetics sector will follow the [protocol] in order to provide a level playing field in the global market," said Leinen, chairman of the Parliament's environment committee. ''The funding for the Nagoya Action Programme therefore must not only come from public budgets but also from private sources.''

The Nagoya meeting, which skirted the friction and divisions of last year's climate talks in Copenhagen, was meant to pave the way for major climate talks in Mexico later this month.

The United States has not ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity and took part in the Nagoya conference in an observer capacity.

EU Environment Commissioner Janez Poto?nik and Joke Schauvliege, president of the EU Environment Council, welcomed the outcome, saying: "Nagoya has been a major step forward. We hope that future generations will come to regard it as the 'tipping point' which brought our planet back from the brink of ecological disaster."

German Socialists & Democrats MEP Jo Leinen, chairman of the European Parliament's environment committee and leader of the EU assembly's delegation in Nagoya, said: "Now, it needs to be ensured that also American companies from the pharma and cosmetic sector will follow the (protocol) in order to provide a level playing field in the global market".

"The funding for the Nagoya Action programme therefore must not only come from public budgets but also from private sources," he said.

Leinen expects the European Commission to propose legislation on biodiversity and to transpose individual components into a legally binding format.

According to the European Commission, tropical forests are disappearing at a rate of about 13 million hectares per year (approximately the size of Greece) and some 96% of deforestation occurs in tropical regions, which host about half of all known species.

Cutting down forests not only threatens the extinction of a diverse range of plants and animals, but also causes climate disruption: deforestation is responsible for around 20% of global CO2 emissions, making it a major contributor to climate change, the EU executive adds.

Current funding for fighting biodiversity loss is about $3 billion (1.8 billion pounds) a year but some developing nations say this should be increased 100-fold.

  • Nov. 29-10 Dec.: Climate change conference in Cancún, Mexico.

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