U.N. summit sends S.O.S. on biodiversity

The U.N.’s biodiversity summit in Nagoya, Japan will set global
targets for governments worldwide to protect ecosystems
Photo Credit: CNN

By Matthew Knight
CNN, October 18, 2010

Delegates from all over the world descended on Nagoya in Japan on Monday for talks considered crucial to sustaining the future of animal, plant and human life on Earth.

For two weeks, delegates at the 10th meeting (COP10) of the Convention on Biological Diversity will attempt to agree a 20-point plan for the next decade following the comprehensive failure of any government to meet previous targets set out in 2002.

“Nagoya is the main global event to communicate the value of nature and the costs of its loss to the whole world,” Pavan Sukhdev, special advisor and head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative told CNN.

What is the Convention on Biological Diversity?

The U.N.’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a legally-binding treaty consisting of 193 members or “Parties” (192 governments plus the European Union).

It was set up at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and came into force in December 1993.

Its stated aims are to conserve and sustain biodiversity, while trying to promote a “fair and equitable” sharing of benefits made from plant and animal life.

Why is the summit so important?

Ecologists and politicians agree that the planet’s ecosystems are in crisis. The U.N.’s third Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3) — published in May 2010 — painted a depressingly bleak picture of biodiversity loss in recent times.

“Alarming” declines in natural habitats (freshwater wetlands, sea ice, salt marshes, coral reefs), vertebrate species (down by a third in the past 35 years) and genetic diversity were recorded.

The targets set out in 2002 to achieve “a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level…” by 2010 were not met by any government, the report said.

The losses were, concluded GBO-3, of “profound concern” which has “major implications for current and future well-being.”

More recently, WWF’s biennial Living Planet report published in October said “our demand on natural resources has doubled since 1966, and globally, we are using the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support our activities.”

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