UN biodiversity summit ends with agreement (Roundup)

By Joydeep Gupta, IANS
Friday, October 29, 2010

NAGOYA - The Oct 18-29 UN biodiversity summit ended here Friday with agreement over a strategic plan on how to protect animals and plants, how to provide money for it, and how to share the revenues for medicines and cosmetics produced from medicinal plants.

After numerous delays and protracted backroom negotiations, delegates from 192 countries and the European Union agreed on the issues, at least one of which has been pending since the early nineties - the revenue share, known as access and benefit sharing (ABS). The agreement will now be known as the Nagoya Protocol.

The strategic plan, which aims to arrest biodiversity loss throughout the world by 2020, will be called the Aichi Target, Aichi being the prefecture in which the city of Nagoya is located. A previous summit had adopted a similar plan in 2002, to arrest biodiversity loss by 2010, but that promise has not been kept.

Now all countries have agreed that by 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.

The protracted negotiations ensured that almost all other numerical targets - like how much money rich countries would pay so that poor countries could protect their plants and animals - had been dropped by the time the resolutions were brought to the summit’s plenary session for adoption. They could only agree on a plan to identify the necessary funding by 2012 to implement the strategic plan.

Even then, as the plenary session convened and reconvened after a long gap, it was not at all certain that the resolutions would be passed. Through repeated interventions, delegates from Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Kenya ensured that the issues were discussed separately, and not as a package as wanted by the European Union.

As the session ended hours after midnight in Japan with a standing ovation, many delegates echoed what the delegate from Namibia had said at the plenary session: The agreement is below expectations but we can live with it as a starting point. The delegate from Malaysia also said the treaty is far from perfect but countries could work to improve it.

Before the plenary session was adjourned for the reception hosted by India - the host for the next summit in 2012 - and for more horse trading over finance and ABS, summit president Ryu Matsumoto, Japan’s environment minister, did get through some important decisions. They included resolutions

to safeguard biodiversity in mountains, in inland water bodies, in marine and coastal areas, areas already protected (such as wildlife sanctuaries), in forests, in farms, in dry and sub-humid lands, in cities;

for sustainable use of biodiversity and to provide incentives for the purpose;

to ensure biodiversity protection while tackling climate change;

to ensure gender equity in all biodiversity conservation processes;

to ensure food crops are not affected while growing biofuels;

to keep invasive alien species away;

to have a code of ethical conduct that would ensure respect for the cultural and intellectual heritage of indigenous and local communities;

for South-South cooperation for biodiversity conservation;

to standardise scientific names of plants and animals; and

to have 2011-2020 as the UN decade for biodiversity conservation

International Union for Conservation of Nature welcomed the agreements reached here. IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefvre said: We’ve seen history in the making here in Nagoya with a landmark agreement now in place that defines the future for life on earth. Here in Japan the international community have moved closer to the realisation that it’s time we stopped considering nature as expendable, and any related expenditure a write-off - it’s time we valued and conserved nature.

Director General of WWF International Jim Leape said: The ministers have worked hard over the last three days to forge this agreement. We hope their spirit and determination will be carried into other forums, including the upcoming climate talks in Cancun.

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at joydeepgupta1@gmail.com)

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