D-Day for crunch biodiversity talks

October 19, 2012 8:39 am


The endangered marine species/FILE
India, Oct 19 – Negotiators were struggling on Friday to persuade wealthy nations to bankroll ambitious targets for stemming the loss of Earth’s dwindling natural resources.

Just days after 400 plants and animals were added to a “Red List” of species at risk of extinction, ministers from more than 80 countries are set to conclude UN biodiversity negotiations in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

UN countries agreed at a conference in Japan in 2010 to reverse by 2020 the worrying decline in natural resources that humans depend on for food, shelter and livelihoods.

But the 20-point plan is hamstrung by a lack of money for conservation programmes in a time of global financial austerity.

“In the difficult economic circumstances in Europe, it’s unlikely that we’ll have a big financial deal tomorrow,” Lasse Gustavsson, a conservation expert at green group WWF, told AFP on the penultimate day of the talks.

Held under the auspices of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Hyderabad meeting is meant to come up with tangible ways of executing what have become known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

They include halving the rate of habitat loss, expanding water and land areas under conservation, preventing the extinction of species on the threatened list, and restoring at least 15 percent of degraded ecosystems.

A quarter of the world’s mammals, 13 percent of birds, 41 percent of amphibians and 33 percent of reef-building corals are at risk of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “Red List”, updated on Wednesday.

Estimates vary, but experts say hundreds of billions of dollars will be required to achieve the targets set in Japan.

Current conservation spending is estimated at about $10 billion per year.

Some negotiators want to see rich countries agree in Hyderabad to doubling their biodiversity assistance to the developing world from the average for 2006-2010, within the next three to eight years.

British Environment Minister Richard Benyon told AFP that London was happy to contribute but wanted to be sure “that we are not leaving ourselves open to putting greater burden on our taxpayers”.

The ministerial section of the talks, which opened Wednesday, comes at the tail-end of two weeks of tough negotiations by senior bureaucrats from 184 CBD parties.

Delegates told AFP the talks continued late into Thursday night, with the scale and timing of financing still a sticking point.

“I won’t say there is a deadlock in the discussions,” Joe Hennon, spokesman for the European Commission’s environment commissioner Janez Potocnik, said as the talks resumed on Friday morning.

“The discussions are still going on, they are by no means finished.”

The convention, to which 193 countries are signatories, marks its 20th anniversary this year.

It has already missed one key deadline when it failed to meet the target set to halt biodiversity loss by 2010.


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