Nobody expected a positive outcome, especially after the failure of the climate change summit in Copenhagen a year ago. But the meeting in Japan of delegates from 190 countries actually produced a result. The victories were small, but they were significant.
After marathon negotiations, the delegates agreed to expand protected areas on land and at sea in an effort to slow the escalating rate of extinction of species.
They also agreed that rich and poor nations would share profits from drugs and other products that are derived from natural resources – often located in developing countries but produced by global businesses.
The Nagoya Protocol sets a goal of cutting current extinction rates by at least half by 2020.
Protected areas of land will be extended from 12.5 percent of the Earth’s surface to 17 percent.
Protected areas of ocean will be extended from 1 percent to 10 percent.
There are commitments (not very firm) from wealthier countries to help developing nations reach these goals.
Exploitation of genetic material from natural resources must include royalties to the country of origin.
“Before today you did not have an international set of ground rules on how to share the benefits of new pharmaceuticals, new crops, new products derived from the genetic treasure trove of the developing world,” said Nick Nuttall, the spokesman for the United Nations Environment Program.
The accomplishment is a step forward, if only a small one. Scientists estimate that the Earth is losing species at a rate that’s somewhere between a hundred and a thousand times the historical average.
And it’s not just animals: a global analysis of extinction risk for the world’s plants, conducted by the U.K.’s Royal Botanic Gardens revealed that the world’s plants are as threatened as animals, with one in five of the world’s plant species also threatened with extinction.
A full report in The Independen includes a list of some of the most critical regions on the planet.
A column in The Financial Times looks at how the focus of the meeting shifted from nature itself to emphasis on human activities.
A memo from The New York Times provides background to the talks and the issues surrounding them.