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Monday, Oct. 18, 2010

Nations gather for COP10 biodiversity conference

New pact expected on preserving vast amounts of world's land, seas as sanctuaries

Staff writer

NAGOYA — Representatives of over 190 signatories to a United Nations biodiversity pact are set to gather in Nagoya Monday for a two-week marathon conference that some have billed a "Kyoto Protocol for all living things."

The 10th meeting of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP10, is expected to forge a new agreement that could set aside vast amounts of the world's land and marine areas as sanctuaries.

Delegates are also expected to approve a new protocol on access to genetic resources for commercial use, especially when those resources lie on the lands of indigenous peoples.

Japan, as conference host, will push delegates to adopt its "Satoyama Initiative" at COP10.

Based on traditional Japanese land management practices of forests and farmland, the initiative, as promoted by Japan, aims to introduce satoyama concepts and practices internationally as a way to conserve biodiversity in those parts of the world undergoing rapid urbanization.

COP10 comes at a time when scientists are warning of ever-growing threats to biodiversity.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which is made up of thousands of scientists, activists and government officials, species are disappearing 1,000 times faster than the natural rate of extinction.

Nearly a third of the planet's 52,000 species assessed for extinction are under threat due to habitat loss, and a third of the world's 6,285 known amphibians are now in danger of extinction, making them the most threatened class on the planet, the IUCN says.

For human survival, biodiversity losses also have potentially devastating consequences, Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the CBD, recently warned.

"Seventy-five percent of the food crop varieties we once grew have disappeared from our fields in the last 100 years. Twenty-one percent of the world's 7,000 livestock breeds are classified as being at risk, while more than 60 breeds are reported to have become extinct during the first six years of this century alone.

"Of the 7,000 species of plants that have been domesticated over the history of agriculture, a mere 30 account for 90 percent of all the food that we eat every day," Djoghlaf said last month at a seminar on food security and biodiversity.

To preserve and conserve biodiversity between now and 2020, the conference is debating whether to set aside either 15 or 20 percent of terrestrial areas and a yet to be decided percentage of the world's marine areas as sanctuaries.

Japan supports the 15 percent target for both terrestrial and marine areas.

Other nations such as China are reportedly opposed to anything more than 6 percent of the world's oceans being set aside as biodiversity sanctuaries, and the argument over the final numbers is unlikely to be resolved until senior ministers, including several heads of state, arrive for the final round of negotiations on Oct. 27.

The debate over what constitutes a fair and equitable agreement for access to genetic resources on the lands of indigenous peoples, and the associated traditional knowledge of the medicinal value of those plants and organisms, forms the basis for what is expected to be the other major area of contention at COP10.

Indigenous peoples' representatives have long pushed for an agreement that would commit end users of genetic resources to seek formal permission, and to fairly compensate them for the utilization of such biodiversity resources.

Negotiations over an access- and benefit-sharing protocol have been bogged down for years over these issues.

But they remained far apart over more basic questions like fair and equitable benefit sharing, access to traditional knowledge, and how to solve disputes involving indigenous peoples.

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The Japan Times

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