UN biodiversity summit hopes for a diluted agreement

October 27th, 2010 - 5:03 pm ICT by IANS  

By Joydeep Gupta
Nagoya (Japan), Oct 27 (IANS) Representatives of 192 countries are engaged in round-the-clock negotiations here to work out a non-legal agreement, as the Oct 18-29 talks on biodiversity draw to a close.

UN Convention on Biological Diversity chief Ahmed Djoghlaf Wednesday said he hoped the “Aichi Nagoya Biodiversity Compact” - aimed at halting global biodiversity losses by 2020 - would be finalised by Friday.

But finances remain a thorny issue.

While ministers from the developed countries eagerly announced money their countries were contributing, the fact that most of it was a part of aid funds already committed, was not mentioned.

The outstanding issue - known as Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) - is the extent to which profits will be shared between poor nations and pharmaceutical and cosmetics firms from rich countries who use developing societies’ traditional knowledge and medicinal plants.

ABS has been a topic of debate in India for many years, but Indian government negotiators, mindful of their role as hosts of the next biodiversity summit in 2012, continued to play mediator.

Brazil and the European Union clashed often behind closed doors, a negotiator said.

An attempt to resolve the issue was made by creating a ‘facilitation group’, with Brazil and the EU as its co-chairs. Organisers are hoping this would lead to a breakthrough.

Over 5,000 non-governmental organisation (NGO) representatives, gathered here in the hope of a strong global treaty, were dismayed at the progress.

WWF international director general Jim Leape urged governments to overcome their differences on how to share the benefits of genetic resources and deliver a robust plan to stem the loss of biodiversity up to 2020.

“The conference risks becoming bogged down in acrimony between developed and developing nations over the ABS protocol, with many nations insisting there would be no new biodiversity plan unless there’s additional funding to implement it and agreement on the protocol,” he said.

“Unless countries can agree on a way forward on ABS, a plan for protecting the world’s natural assets is in jeopardy. Governments have a unique opportunity this week to deliver a plan of action for the next decade to protect our planet’s nature. With biodiversity in steep decline, they can’t afford to fail. We see a few ministers trying to bridge their differences on ABS. We urge other countries to join that effort,” he added.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is calling for a 20 percent protected areas target for land, marine and coastal areas.

While the terrestrial target is looking hopeful with a range between 15 and 25 percent on the table Wednesday evening, the target on marine and coastal areas was still being hotly debated, with figures from just six to 15 percent being considered.

An injection of new money to deliver on an ambitious set of targets to halt biodiversity loss by 2020 is also fundamental to a successful outcome of the biodiversity summit, Leape said.

“We look to Japan, as host country, to help mobilise money from other governments. Without additional funding, the biodiversity plan risks staying on paper and not delivering action on the ground,” he said.

But the summit has made some important progress.

An agreement appears imminent on the inclusion, for the first time, of a target requiring governments to include natural capital accounting in their national budgets.

World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick said the bank would now look at the environmental impact of every project it funded anywhere in the world.

UN Environment Programme chief Achim Steiner told IANS that more and more countries were now eager to know how to include the cost of natural resources in their budgets.

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

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