Governments ‘must tackle’ roots of nature crisis

22/1/2010 BBC Governments must tackle the underlying causes of biodiversity loss if they are to stem the rate at which ecosystems and species are disappearing.That was one of the conclusions of an inter-governmental workshop in London held
in preparation for October’s UN biodiversity summit in Nagoya, Japan.
Delegates agreed that protecting nature would bring economic benefits to nations
and their citizens.
Representatives of 54 countries attended the UK-hosted meeting.
The organisers hope that securing agreement on fundamental issues now will keep
the October summit of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) free from
the kind of divisions that dogged last month’s climate change summit in
“ If our ecosystem services get to a state where we won’t have them anymore -
the pollinators, for example - this is going to be disastrous ”
Maria Cecilia Wey de Brito Brazilian environment ministry

The UK’s Marine and Natural Environment Minister Huw Irranca-Davies said that
despite the weak Copenhagen outcome, there had been general agreement on the
need for strong international action on biodiversity.
“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,” he told BBC News.
“People are really focused on trying to stem the tide [of biodiversity loss] and
reverse it.”
The UN calculates that species are currently going extinct at about 1,000 times
the “natural” rate; and economic analyses being prepared for the UN Environment
Programme (Unep) show that ecosystems, such as coral reefs and rainforests, are
worth far more intact than depleted.
Species at risk
In 2002, governments set a target of significantly reducing the rate of global
biodiversity loss by 2010 - a target that is not going to be met.
Many observers now argue that it was not really achievable; global ambitions did
not translate into local and regional action, and not enough attention was paid
to the underlying factors causing depletion of the natural world.
New targets are likely to be set at the Nagoya meeting that are designed to be
more scientifically valid and achievable.
But according to Simon Stuart, chair of the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Species Survival Commission, setting targets is
not the most important task facing governments.
“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 said.
“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.”
All of those drivers, he noted, were related to the expansion of the human
footprint - among them population growth, loss of habitat, climate change, ocean
acidification, and growing demand for food.
Maria Cecilia Wey de Brito, secretary for biodiversity and forests with the
Brazilian government, who co-chaired the meeting with Mr Irranca-Davies,
acknowledged that these issues would be difficult to tackle, but said it could
be done.
“Of course it’s not easy; but it’s possible, because what is at risk is our
maintenance as a species on the planet,” she said.
“We think that people will understand very well that if our ecosystem services
get to a state where we won’t have them anymore - the pollinators, for example -
this is going to be disastrous.
“So I think this is something that is going to be possible, because it’s totally
Richer harvests
Eighteen years after the biodiversity convention came into existence, one of its
key aims - to agree a mechanism for fairly and sustainably profiting from nature
exploitation - remains unrealised.
The UN would like to conclude an agreement on it this year; and Mr Irranca-Davis
noted there had been some progress during the London talks. Delegates from
developing countries - that have historically been suspicious of the notion -
have been speaking of its potential benefits.
He said that some developing countries with rich biodiversity assets had
expressed an interest establishing an agreement for good, sustainable
exploitation of their own natural resources.
“[Some] developing nations expressed the view that, if we get those sort of
agreements right, there is more potential to harvest from biodiversity,” he
“So 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.”
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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