Environmental representatives reach biodiversity breakthrough in Nagoya | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 29.10.2010
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Environmental representatives reach biodiversity breakthrough in Nagoya

After a tense and sometimes farcical final day, the COP10 biodiversity summit in Nagoya Japan broke the "Copenhagen curse" by agreeing on a new set of targets to save species and ecosystems around the world.

Trees in a reserve in Costa Rica

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After countless setbacks, and a tense final session, there was joy and relief at the COP10 biodiversity summit in Nagoya, Japan, as delegates approved a new set of targets to stop the decline of species and ecosystems.

The clock had passed 1:30 a.m. on Saturday when the Japanese chairman of the meeting, embattled Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto, brought the gavel down on the final and most contentious issues, each time greeted with a standing ovation.

A baby tiger at Frankfurt zoo

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The eventual success of the summit came down to three pieces of legislation: a strategic plan for reversing the decline of the world's species by 2020; the finance for that plan; and what proved the thorniest problem of all – a deal to prevent the misappropriation of genetic resources.

Anti-'Biopiracy' progress

Developing countries have long accused companies in the developed world of "biopiracy" - exploiting the traditional knowledge of indigenous groups and genetic material that they have sovereign rights over, in order to create commercially successful products, typically drugs or cosmetics.

African countries, and poorer countries with vast natural resources like India and Brazil, had looked to the summit in Nagoya to close regulatory loopholes, which they say allow foreign companies to exploit their resources without paying adequate compensation.

Given the gap between the positions of developing and developed countries on this issue, there was widespread surprise after the conference that the final text - hastily drafted by the Japanese presidency and key negotiators - had garnered enough support to achieve consensus.

COP 10 President and Minister of Environment for Japan, Ryu Matsumoto (R) speaks during a press conference with Ahmed Djoghlaf (L), Executive Secretary of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD).

The Japanese presidency of talks has tried to facilitate a compromise

Only a small group of Central and South American countries - in particular Cuba and Bolivia - objected to the text, but did not stand in the way of its adoption by the plenary.

Other developing nations acknowledged that the new deal on what the UN Convention on Biodiversity terms "access and benefit sharing" (ABS) was not perfect, but the repeated refrain was that “they could live with it."

Leaving Nagoya without a deal on ABS, said many delegates, would have dealt a serious blow to attempts to stop biopiracy, as well as to international environment negotiations as a whole.

A 10-year plan

The ABS protocol, now renamed the Nagoya Protocol, was not the only qualified success of the night. The strategic plan for 2011-2020 set out goals for the preservation and protection of nature, even though many of the goals from the previous plan were not met.

The new plan contains both new targets, like stopping the extinction of known endangered species by 2020, and old, unfulfilled promises, like such as the aim of designating 10 percent of all oceans as protected areas.

Delegates also agreed on a plan to set up an international body to provide governments with better information for making decisions that can impact on the environment.

Baobab trees on Madagascar

Nature yields many of the genetic compounds found in modern pharmaceuticals

The body is to be called the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and will serve a similar function to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It only awaits approval by the United Nations General Assembly.

Cash for nature

The summit also saw the culmination of a series of reports that attempt to bridge the divide between nature and economics.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study looks at how our economic system fails to factor nature's 'capital' into national and corporate accounting systems, leading this capital to be squandered to the long-term cost of humans and nature alike.

It says 'free' services provided by nature, including things like crop-pollination through insects or water-filtration through wetlands, would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to replace by humans and need to be factored into decisions affecting biodiversity loss.

A number of parties to the conference including Brazil and the European Union said they would look into conducting their own inventories of the value of their environments.

Author: Robin Powell
Editor: Andrew Bowen

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