October 30, 2010
Agreement In UN Plan To Protect Biodiversity
Delegates at a UN summit on Saturday reached an agreement to sign an historic global treaty to protect the world's ecosystems within 10 years.
Both rich and poor nations agreed to take "effective and urgent" action to curtail the destruction of the environment in an effort to halt the loss of the planet's biological diversity on which human survival relies on.
Representatives from 193 nations committed to important goals such as curbing pollution, protecting forests and coral reefs, reserving land and water for conservation, and managing fisheries sustainably.
UN Environment Program Chief Achim Steiner said it "is a day to celebrate" straight after the accord was struck early Saturday morning following nearly two weeks of tense negotiations in Nagoya, Japan.
The accord offers hope that the UN can help solve many of the world's environmental problems, particularly after huge failure followed climate talks last year in Copenhagen.
The accord promises to protect 17 percent of land and 10 percent of oceans so that biodiversity in those regions can thrive. That is a huge increase from the current 10 percent protection for land and less than 1 percent for oceans.
It wasn't all positive though. Greenpeace expressed disappointment with the new targets, which delegates said were lowered due to insistence from China and other developing countries.
The accord also had other limitations. The United States did not sign the pact as it was one of the few countries not to have ratified the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
While some activist groups said the accord was not as ambitious as hoped, most welcomed it as a historic step towards united global action in raising awareness about biodiversity.
"Governments have sent a strong message that protecting the health of the planet has a place in international politics and countries are ready to join forces to save life on Earth," World Wildlife Fund International director general Jim Leape said.
Greenpeace had been pushing for a 20-percent conservation of oceans, with hopes for an eventual 40-percent preservation.
"Alarm bells have been ringing for decades, and developed nations have been hitting the snooze button by delaying both action on and funding for environmental protection," Greenpeace said in a statement.
Brazil, home to much of the Amazon basin and its global collection of resources, had insisted throughout the summit that it would not agree to the accord unless there was also a deal on genetic riches.
Brazil, along with other developing countries, argued that powerful nations and wealthy companies should not be allowed to freely take genetic resources such as plants to make medicines and other products for huge profits.
They had been battling developed countries over the issue since the CBD was formed at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992.
The EU led developed nations in finally coming to an agreement on the Access and Benefits Sharing Protocol to ensure success on the 20-point strategic accord. The legally binding protocol will ensure countries with genetic resources enjoy some of the profits of the assets' commercial development.
UN chiefs told the opening of the summit that forging a global consensus on protecting biodiversity was vital to stop the mass extinction of animals and plant species.
Many of the worlds animal and plant species now face the threat of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Stresses on biodiversity will only grow as the world's human population rises from 6.8 billion to an expected 9 billion by 2050.
On the Net:
- UN Environment Program
- UN Convention on Biological Diversity
- International Union for Conservation of Nature