Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Preserving Life On Earth

The title sounds a bit grandiose and the Globe and Mail even suggests that the task facing the 193 national delegations descending on Nagoya, Japan, ...is one befitting a deity: how to preserve life on Earth. The Convention on Biological Diversity, an international agreement signed amid great hope and in the early 1990s is part of what's at stake during the eleven day conference. And it begins with bad news:
The document bound countries to cut mass species loss “significantly” and preserve 10 per cent of the world’s ecological regions by 2010. But this year brought the sobering realization that not one country had met those targets.
Not one! After twenty years of high-level talks and treaties, mass extinction continues apace and three contentious issues issues have the potential to send this off the rails. There are seventeen developing countries bearing the overbearing moniker Group of Like Minded Megadiverse Countries and they've formed to accuse their richer counterparts of biopiracy. This group includes India, China and Brazil and they want regulations in place that would compensate them for pirated resources. With Canada leading the way, Western nations have largely resisted, according to those involved in the negotiations.

These developing countries are demanding that rich countries bankroll their conservation efforts as they cannot afford it. The same is not true of the west and there has been success of a kind: A recent World Wildlife Fund inventory of world biodiversity over the past 40 years found that while extinction rates continue unabated in the developing world, they have levelled off in the West, where expensive conservation projects have a ready place in national budgets.

Lastly, the ambitiousness of the targets undermined by failure and a lack of action means that the future viability of the convention is in doubt.

Interestingly, Canada's Conservative government has increased its support for the Global Environmental Facility, a global fund that invests in biodiversity projects fund by 50 per cent to $238-million over the next four years. And Jim Prentice the Minister for the Environment, who will attend the last four days of the conference has spoken constructively of this get together saying, “It’s an extremely important summit because biodiversity is an area where we all need to improve. This is a real issue for us and our children.”
“This is the one chance governments have to fix the loss of species and loss of biodiversity, said Bill Jackson, deputy director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a Switzerland-based group working closely with governments in Nagoya. “In some ecosystems, we only have 10 or 15 years left before they’re gone.”

UPDATE: Here's a wonderful page full of links from the Guardian with 100 tasks for world governments to undertake to tackle the biodiversity crisis. George Monibot emphasizes what's at stake: The outcome is expected to be as tragic and as impotent as the collapse of last year's climate talks in Copenhagen.

We cannot accept this. We cannot stand back and watch while the wonders of this world are sacrificed to crass carelessness and short-termism.

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