UN meeting to preserve nature divided on targets

Environment ministers from around the world tried to wrap up a U.N. meeting to preserve nature Friday but remained split on targets to fight losses in animal and plant species that support livelihoods and economies.

Delegates from nearly 200 countries have gathered in Nagoya, Japan, for a two-week meeting to map out goals to protect oceans, forests and rivers as the world faces the worst extinction rate since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago.

The meeting has aimed to push governments and businesses into taking sweeping steps to protect ecosystems long taken for granted but are worth trillions of dollars by providing sources for food, water, tourism and industry.

But envoys in Nagoya have been split on how ambitious they should be in the new conservation targets after they failed to meet a goal for a “significant reduction” in losses of biological diversity by 2010.

A 20-point strategic plan aims to protect fish stocks, fight the loss and degradation of natural habitats and to conserve larger land and marine areas, but delegates have squabbled on numerical targets and details on wording.

“At last the world has woken up to biodiversity,” said Jane Smart, director, biodiversity conservation group, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“This difficulty is a sign that the world is now taking biodiversity seriously.”


Developing nations have also refused to sign up to 2020 goals without agreement on a new U.N. protocol that would give them a fairer share of profits made by companies, such as pharmaceutical firms, from their genetic resources.

The protocol could unlock billions of dollars for developing countries, where much of the world’s natural riches remain, but countries are split on the scope of the framework and how to check where a genetic resource comes from.

“This isn’t a boring protocol. It will regulate billions of dollars for the pharmaceutical industry,” said Tove Ryding, policy adviser for biodiversity and climate change for Greenpeace.

“It you don’t ratify, if you’re not ready to do benefit sharing, then there is no access. It means your pharmaceutical industry can’t go to the rainforest and find new products.”

Some companies are worried about the potential for higher costs under the protocol and for complicated procedures such as application for patents, which they say could stifle innovation.

Japanese Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto, chair of the talks, said governments were still working for agreement.

“Everyone is saying that they want to wrap up a deal, that they don’t want to go home from Nagoya empty-handed,” he told reporters. “We will work until the last second.”

One delegate who didn’t wish to be identified pointed to the eight years of negotiations to try to seal the genetic resources pact.

“Governments have put an enormous amount of effort into these talks. We’re at the point where we step over the line or step away. I can’t see much appetite for coming back.”

Source: Reuters

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