Merkel Warns of Extinction Threat to Life on Earth | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 24.05.2008
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Merkel Warns of Extinction Threat to Life on Earth

In her weekly video message to the nation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that there was all life on earth was in danger unless more action was taken to prevent the growing extinction of species around the world.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel stands in front of an European map

Chancellor Merkel warned that the extinction of species could threaten all life on earth

With as many as 16,000 species worldwide in danger of being wiped out, Merkel called for the preservation of biodiversity to be given the same level of importance as the fight to reverse climate change.

"We must position ourselves to meet these challenges," she said. "Fortunately, the issue has changed in the consciousness of many and people have become more aware."

Merkel spoke as the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity, which she opened last week, continued in Bonn. The meeting, which runs from May 19-30, brings together around 5,000 representatives from 190 countries. As well as Merkel, international leaders such UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva are attending.

Its aim is to "reduce significantly" the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010, a target laid down at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and the Sustainable Development Summit in Johannesburg a decade later.

One of the most important global political issues

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel

Sigmar Gabriel talked about meeting biodiversity challenges

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said efforts to save threatened species from extinction echoes Merkel's comments on extinction by saying it was one of the most important global political issues along with measures to combat climate change.

The conference agenda includes the destruction of indigenous forests and the plundering of the sea, as well as the question how to counter the resulting loss of biodiversity.

Other themes include tapping traditional knowledge on medicines, the need to promote biodiversity in the world's poorest cities and the impact of biofuels on agriculture.

Gabriel appealed to Brazil and other nations to show willingness to compromise so that an agreement taking into account the interests of both the world's richest and poorest countries could be reached.

"I hope that Brazil shows more flexibility," he said in reference to the South American powerhouse's decision to link progress at the conference to concessions in World Trade Organization (WTO) talks. "Adopting such a hard-line position will not benefit them in the long run," the minister said.

Gabriel talks of biopiracy

Greenpeace Kids hold placarads in Bonn. Slogans read: The primeval forest I want also tomorrow, left, We need the primeval forest, center, I want the primeval forest still forever, right.

Environmentalists know the importance of biodiversity

Gabriel said Germany wanted to see an equal sharing of the benefits arising from the use of animal and plant life in products made by the pharmaceutical industry.

"Developing countries are quite right to describe it as biopiracy when industrial nations help themselves to genetic resources in the rain forests and produce medicines from them without paying a cent in return," he said.

The ninth conference of the parties to the Convention Biological Diversity (CBD) is the last major gathering before the 2010 target date. Its central aim is to draft a document similar to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change to take over after 2010.

The organizers are keen to secure binding commitment to clearly laid down targets, along the lines of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol global warming and the successor agreement which began to take shape at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Bali in December.

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