Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Nagoya Has to Do Better
In 1992, delegates from 193 countries, meeting in Rio de Janeiro, agreed to a treaty intended to protect biodiversity. The world has since fallen far short of those commitments. As those countries meet in Nagoya, Japan, this week and next, they need to acknowledge what went wrong and come up with better strategies.
All indicators show that poor countries are using natural resources at a faster rate than they were in 1992 and rich countries are leaving a larger ecological footprint. The result is putting intolerable pressure on the variety of life on the planet.
According to recent estimates, a fifth of plant and mammal species are threatened with extinction in the near future, and the numbers for corals and amphibians are worse. Since 1992, an area of rainforest the size of California has been lost.
In 2002, most of the treaty’s signers announced a set of goals to achieve a “significant reduction” of biodiversity loss by 2010, including protecting 10 percent of their national habitats and making substantial financial commitments to conservation. Those have not been met, according to a review by the World Wildlife Fund.
Among the even more ambitious commitments being weighed in Nagoya are protecting 20 percent of national habitats by 2020 and reaching a state of zero net deforestation. Without real follow-through, they will never happen. This conference needs to lay the groundwork for a system to identify threatened regions and species and rigorously monitor the progress, or lack of progress, toward the treaty’s goals by each of the signatories.
Wealthy countries also need to make firm pledges to help poorer members toward sustainable development that protects and makes equitable use of the vast potential of remaining forests and coastal and marine areas. They must also provide financial support to tide those countries over. Years of international conferences on climate change have yielded little more than promises to help poor nations save their forests. Deforestation rates in many countries remain alarmingly high.
The United States, which signed the convention in 1993, is the only one of 193 signatories that has failed to ratify it. (It was defeated in the Senate in 1994 largely by a coalition of property-rights advocates.) That means that we are observers at Nagoya, not participants in decision-making or planning. That is an embarrassment.
New York Times