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Germany

Merkel Pledges Funds at UN Biodiversity Talks

Setting a highlight at an otherwise floundering UN biodiversity conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to boost funding for a species protection and nature conservancy program.

Angela Merkel speaking at the conference

Merkel pledged 500 million euros for biodiversity preservation

Environmental groups had appealed to Merkel to rescue the two-week UN Convention on Biological Diversity, or CBD, from failure ahead of its final phase, which began Wednesday, May 28.

Some 6,000 delegates from almost 200 countries have gathered in Bonn for the two-week convention. Now, in its final days, environment ministers from nearly 100 nations have arrived to wrap up the proceedings meant to preserve biological diversity on the planet.

Whether the conference fails or not is down to Merkel and the other ministers," Greenpeace spokesman Martin Kaiser said.

Big financial committment

Scuba diver swimming by an artificial reef

Biological diversity at sea has reached a critical point

On midday Wednesday, Merkel committed to spend 500 million euros ($788 million) over the next four years to protect forests and other habitats, with the aim of securing greater biological diversity.

Germany will make the funds available between 2009 and 2012, and after that, it will free up 500 million euros per year for forest protection.

The Nature Conservancy and Germany's Nature Protection Federation applauded the announcement, saying it is “urgently needed new funding for global forest preservation and national parks and protected areas.”

The conference, the last of the CBD parties before 2010, has been largely deadlocked. Like the UN climate-change convention, the biodiversity pact requires a consensus decision among the 191 parties. The CBD, which commits parties to halting species loss by 2010, has been ratified by around 190 countries, but crucially not by the United States.

"The talks have become bogged down in all the important points,” said Joerg Roos, a spokesman for the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). “Every comma is being debated, as though it were a matter of life and death."

He had hoped that a strong speech from Merkel would break the logjam.

"The Environment ministers won't do it on their own," Kaiser added. "Merkel must speak to the various heads of state and government."

Further funding for conservation needed

Aerial picture of land, forest in center surrounded by soybean fields

Amazon Indians asked for more support to prevent deforestation

According to the conservation bodies, the international community is currently investing up to 6 billion euros ($9 billion) in conservation areas, compared with the 20-30 billion euros needed.

Further funding was a necessity, according to Kaiser. Without it, poorer countries would not be convinced to enter into agreements on conservation measures.

The IUCN international conservation union likewise called on the conference to do more.

"Governments must finally decide on certain conservation areas and then work together for their protection," said Julia Marton-Lefevre, the general director of the IUCN.

An increasing number of oceanic species were threatened by extinction, and many oceanic biospheres were endangered, she continued. Biological diversity at sea was at a critical point and the patchwork legal framework of International Maritime Law had for long merely been an obstacle to conservation.

She saw the conference, the last of the CBD parties before 2010, as the last real opportunity to cut the loss of diversity by 2010 and to create networks of oceanic protection areas by the goal of 2012.

Greater rights for Amazon Indians

Also at the conference, representatives of Amazon Indians called for greater rights in the use of tropical rain forests.

Around a fifth of the Brazilian Amazon has been designated Indian territory and is being administered by the indigenous tribes.

They should be compensated for their contribution to maintaining biological diversity there and to the stabilization of the global climate, their representatives said.

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