January 23, 2010

Biodiversity Loss Must Be Addressed

An inter-governmental workshop held in London concluded that governments must get to the root of the underlying causes of biodiversity loss if they are to determine the rate at which ecosystems and their species are disappearing.

Delegates at the workshop, which was held in preparation of the UN biodiversity summit being held later this year in Japan, agreed that protecting nature brings economic benefits to the world. Representatives from 54 countries attended the conference.

Organizers are trying to secure agreements on fundamental issues now, so when delegates and government leaders meet in October for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity summit, there will hopefully not be chaotic divergences similar to what happened at last month's climate change summit in Copenhagen.

Despite the weak outcome in Copenhagen, government leaders are in agreement for the push for strong international action on biodiversity loss. "One of the most important things was a strong feeling that we need to come out of Nagoya with something concrete on the table - something that works all the way down the local and community levels as well," Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister of the UK Marine and Natural Environment, told BBC News.

According to UN estimates, species are disappearing from the planet at nearly 1,000 times the natural rate, and our ecosystems that are failing, such as coral reefs and rainforests, are worth far more intact than depleted.

A target goal set by the UN for governments to reduce the rate of global biodiversity loss by 2010 will not be met. Many believe that the target was not really achievable in the first place. The ambitions were far more obvious than the actual attention paid to the matter. New targets that will most likely be implemented at this year's summit in Nagoya will be more valid and achievable.

According to Simon Stuart, chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Species Survival Commission, governments will have a tougher time meeting new target goals.

"We have a chance of a much tougher target for 2020 than we had for 2010, which would be about having no net biodiversity loss," he told BBC News. "I think the key thing is whether we'll see over the next few years concerted action on the drivers of biodiversity loss - if we don't see that in the next few years, then we certainly won't see good results by 2020."

The main drivers of biodiversity loss are nearly all human-related. Population growth, loss of habitat, climate changes, ocean acidification, and growing demand for food are all problems that humans either brought on or contributed to in a big way. Finding a reasonable solution to these key areas could help drastically in reversing biodiversity loss. Maria Cecilia Wey de Brito, secretary for biodiversity and forests with the Brazilian government, acknowledged that these key issues would be difficult to tackle, but said it could be done.

Wey de Brito said she feels people will understand that if the ecosystems fail, it will be disastrous worldwide. "So I think this is something that is going to be possible, because it's totally necessary."

One of the key goals of the first biodiversity convention implemented eighteen years ago, was the agreement on a mechanism to profit from nature exploitation in a sustainable and fair way. That goal remains nonexistent.

The UN is hoping to reach an agreement on it this year. The London meeting made some headway in that direction, according to Irranca-Davies. Delegates from developing countries, many of which have a rich mix of biodiversity assets, have been talking of potential benefits it would bring about.

Many of the developing nations feel that if they can come to some sort of agreement on how to harvest nature in a good way, it will have the potential to help biodiversity. "It's in our interests not only to protect, but to identify where those biodiversity riches are and to exploit them further, but in the right way, and making sure that these benefits are not just to developed countries, but to developing nations as well," he told BBC News.

The meeting also discussed whether an expert panel should be set up to collate research on biodiversity - analogous to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - but there is as yet no consensus.


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