Gathered at the ministerial segment of the World Biodiversity Summit in Bonn convened by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD, participants heard expressions of alarm at the unprecedented loss of species to human encroachment and also heard pledges to reverse this decline.
Plant and animal species are becoming extinct at a rate 100 times the natural rate of extinction due to human activities that include pollution, habitat loss, increased consumption and climate change.
Heads of State German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper enter the conference hall. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin, ENB)
"The participation of heads of state at a biodiversity conference is unprecedented," said CBD Executive Secretary Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf. "Their participation highlights the fact that world leaders are recognizing the importance, seriousness and urgency of conserving our biodiversity and reducing the rate that we are presently losing species."
The summit was opened by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the participation of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the President of Palau Tommy Esang Remengesau Jr., and the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso of Portugal.
In her opening statement, Chancellor Merkel promised that Germany would provide 500 million euros through 2013 to protect forests, and 500 million euros a year after that.
Given that deforestation contributes 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than transport and travel combined, Merkel said, "We are convinced that this is a very good investment."
This initiative complements a decision by Norway to provide 600 million euros a year for the following three years for forest conservation.
Chancellor Merkel also launched the Life Web initiative - a new way to provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries that are in a position to establish additional protected areas on land or at sea.
Germany will provide an additional 40 million euros to the Life Web initiative, which will be serviced by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is based in Montreal, Canada.
Under the Life Web initiative, Indonesia has announced it will declare 20 million hectares of its territory as marine protected areas.
A country of 17,000 islands, Indonesia will then have established the largest marine protected area in the world, a distinction now held by the United States for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Monument.
President of Palau Tommy Esang Remengesau Jr. addresses participants in the ministerial level meeting. (Photo courtesy ENB)
Indonesia's contribution to the Life Web will complement the Micronesia Challenge Initiative, presided over by President Remengesau of Palau. It aims achieve by 2010 a representative network of marine and terrestrial protected areas across the countries of Micronesia.
As a region, Micronesia consists of many hundreds of small islands spread aross the western Pacific. They are grouped into eight nation-states and territories - Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Wake Island and the Federated States of Micronesia, sometimes called simply Micronesia, or FSM.
Launched at the last gathering of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Brazil in 2006, the Micronesia Challenge Initiative seeks to give protected-area status to at least 30 percent of the marine areas and 20 percent of the forests of the countries across Micronesia.
This represents more than 20 percent of the Pacific island region and will protect 10 percent of the global reef area and 58 percent of all known corals.
Calling the present level of biodiversity loss "unprecedented," parliamentarians attending the Bonn Biodiversity Conference issued a declaration Tuesday expressing renewed resolve to ensure that they take the necessary legislative and administrative actions to implement programmes to achieve the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Biodiversity loss, the lawmakers said, would have "far-reaching" environmental, social and cultural impacts, and said they had a responsibility to build the political will necessary to slow the rate at which plant and animal species are becoming extinct.
"Parliamentarians, as we all know, are the agenda setters," said Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, minister of environment and tourism in Namibia. "Parliamentarians are elected by the people to be their spokespersons. They cannot afford to stand by while the environment is being destroyed."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel offers funding to regenerate and protect forests. (Photo courtesy ENB)
Today, 34 internationally active companies declared at the conference that they are committed to making biodiversity conservation an important element of their corporate policies. Companies from the tourism, timber and construction industries, financial services, the food industry and the natural cosmetics sectors signed on to a Leadership Declaration. Companies from Germany, Brazil, Finland, Japan, Switzerland and the United States have signed up so far.
"This is an important signal," said Matthias Machnig, state secretary at the German Environment Ministry. "Just as with climate protection, we will only achieve our ambitious global targets for biodiversity conservation if we involve the private sector in our efforts."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent a message to the meeting, stating that, "The loss of biodiversity is an environmental crisis with profound economic and human dimensions. Nature's assets underpin the very lives and livelihoods of more than six billion people."
Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme Achim Steiner, who delivered the secretary-general's message, told participants, "Biodiversity is our economic foundation. We have a misdirected economic compass - we have arranged our economies in a way that they destroy their environmental foundations. We are burning money."
Steiner emphasized the financial side of these issues in part to direct attention to new research presented at the conference, a report by economist Pavan Sukhdev of Deutsche Bank entitled, "The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity."
Commissioned by German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel and European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas last year, the report shows how the poor suffer most from biodiversity loss and highlights human inability to value both the planet we are leaving to future generations, and the global gap between the rich and poor.
L-R: UN General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, European Commission President José Barroso and Conference President Sigmar Gabriel. (Photo courtesy ENB)
Ecosystem services are the benefits that humans derive from nature for free, from timber and food to water purification and climate regulation. They are ignored by conventional systems of accounting, but widely recognized as being in decline around the world. The Sukhdev study is an attempt to find a framework that ensures their value is taken into account, with a view to stemming their loss.
Speaking at the press conference, Minister Gabriel said, "Although our well-being depends entirely on the services of nature, in the majority of cases these goods have no markets and consequently no prices. We ought to be aware, however, that by destroying biological diversity, we are irretrievably wiping data from the Earth's hard drive. It is time that we grasped the economic consequences of our actions."
Commissioner Dimas said, "The loss of biodiversity is as threatening as climate change and needs to be addressed comprehensively. I'm happy to see the preliminary results of the study which will help us formulate appropriate policies.
European Commission President Barroso applauded Germany's the financial contributions, saying the support reflects the European Union strategy for implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Addressing the ministers, UN General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim called for a meeting of heads of state and government in the target year to spur action during the 2010 High-Level Segment of the General Assembly.
In the working groups, the delegates are discussing problems of biodiversity and climate change, invasive alien species, genetically modified trees, island and forest biodiversity, protected areas, marine and coastal biodiversity, cooperation among multilateral environmental agreements, monitoring, assessments and indicators, operations of the Convention, and financial resources.
Agreements to enhance biodiversity are being made at this conference. The CBD Secretariat entered into a partnership Tuesday with the Brazilian state of Paraná to replant native trees and contribute to the regeneration of the Atlantic rainforest. Paraná plans to plant around 100,000 trees over the next two years, covering 120 hectares with local species of trees.
Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc (Photo courtesy ENB)
As the 12 day meeting draws to a close on Friday, Dr. Djoghlaf applauded the leadership of Germany. "For an exceptional biodiversity challenge, an exceptional meeting," he said. "For an exceptional meeting, an exceptional host, the Federal Republic of Germany, the people and government."
He paid tribute to the triple European Union presidency of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia whose 18 month term closes at the end of June, observing that, "The Bonn Biodiversity Summit has been hosted not only by Germany but by the European Community as a whole."
In October 2010, in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan will host the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which will assess progress made towards attainment of the 2010 biodiversity target.
The Convention on Biological Diversity, or CBD, opened for signature at the landmark Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
With 190 Parties, the Convention has near-universal participation among countries. It serves as the international framework for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of its benefits.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.