Meeting the biodiversity challenge 2010

Posted: 22 May 2003

When 150 of the world's scientific experts met in London this week to take up the UN challenge to "significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010", agreed at the World Summit in Johannesburg last year, they were in no doubt about the scale of the challenge.

"The 2010 challenge is fraught with difficulties" said Mark Collins, Director of the UN Environment Programme World Monitoring Centre. "We have to communicate the issues more effectively, and more convincingly... Until our message is better understood, biodiversity will remain low on the political and economic agenda."

He compared the success of the Climate Change panel of scientists in producing respected reports that explain the impact of climate change in terms of crops, floods and diseases, with the lack of any panel or process to bring home the biodiversity message in a way that touches people's hearts.

Speakers were also unhappy with the fact that the Convention on Biodiversity was not even allowed observer status in the World Trade Organisation.

But there are positive changes, said Charles McNeill, Environment Programme Team Manager from the UN Development Programme. He said there was a growing global movement for biodiversity protection, helped by the UN Millennium Project, which had put biodiversity higher on the world agenda.

The need now was to establish a base line, by setting goals and assessing progress towards meeting them. That was one of the key reasons for the London meeting. It was also necessary to join the 'development community' and to try and line up the various international goals and targets.

He also pointed to the successes at local and community level in protecting biodiversity, which was so important to the livelihoods of many.

"The lack of real progress at the global level does not mean that innovative and successful biodiversity conservation and sustainable use is not happening. It is."

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See The Guardian report: Grave risk to humans from loss of species