Widespread dismay at biodiversity conference outcome

Posted: 3 April 2006

As the two-week long world summit on biodiversity drew to a close , Greenpeace described the outcome as major failure - a missed opportunity to stop the global loss of life in the world's forests and oceans.

"The Convention on Biological Diversity is like a ship drifting without a captain to steer it," said Martin Kaiser, Greenpeace Political Advisor on Forests. "The negotiations have failed to chart a course to stop biopiracy, provide additional financing for protected areas, establish marine reserves on the high seas and to ban illegal logging and trade."

Although the president of the COP8, Brazil's environment minister Marina Silva, opened the conference calling for legislation against biopiracy, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have argued against strict deadlines for the negotiations. "This simply buys time for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to secure patents on life under the regime of the World Trade Organisation," said Kaiser.

At their last conference, the CBD member States agreed to establish a global network of protected areas, in order to safeguard life on earth and prevent the industrial exploitation of the world's biodiversity at the expense of future generations. Money was promised by the rich countries to help make this happen.

"Both rich and developing countries have not delivered on their promises, and the proposed global network of protected areas has not become a reality." said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon Campaign Coordinator. "Instead, governments have put nature at risk and allowed it to become a private commodity."

Challenge ignored

At the beginning of the conference, Greenpeace presented a roadmap to recovery, a global map of the last intact forests, and a network of marine reserves on the high seas, calling governments to take action. "This challenge has been ignored", the campaigning organisation said.

The conference had not been able to address a core business of every government, eradicating illegal and unsustainable logging and fisheries. "The need for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling, the most destructive form of fishing, is now being blocked by a few key countries, who are prioritising their industry interests over the protection of marine biodiversity" said Karen Sack, Greenpeace Political Advisor on Oceans.

Despite the exploitation of the Amazon by illegal and destructive logging providing timber products to internal and external markets, the Brazilian government has blocked any meaningful collaboration at a regional and international level, Greenpeace said.

"This conference has been overshadowed by the announcement of the United States, the largest contributor to the funding body for biodiversity, that it will halve its financial contribution," concluded Kaiser. "Four years ago, world leaders committed themselves to rescue life on earth by 2010. Many plans and programmes are in place, but the financial support for developing countries is not provided yet."

Marine reserves

Other reactions to the meeting were also critical, despite the welcome earlier in the week given to the pledge to create major new marine reserves in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. (See: Island states agree conservation goals)

The creation of marine reserves comes six years after international oceans experts launched the first global Census of Marine Life to systematically document the sea life in various segments of the world's oceans.

There was a widespread feeling that delegates did not carry enough clout in this forum to bring about real change. In the case of Brazil,for example, while many representatives agreed on measures to slow down rates of animal extinction, they mostly lacked the needed political influence at home to spur change.

"Even on green issues the important decisions are made at the World Trade Organisation" said Christina Ioune, international relations professor at the University of Brasilia.

'We are like kids on the playground here, while the important decisions are made by adults elsewhere,' agreed Nurit Bensusan of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Brazil.

It remained unclear who would pay for new wildlife sanctuaries in rain forests and oceans, said Greenpeace spokesman Stefan Krug.

Countries with great biodiversity could only be disappointed given the lack of progress achieved at the conference, Botswana's Environment Minister Kitso Mokaola said.

One more hopeful voice came from Germany's environment state secretary, Matthias Machnig, who said the meeting had been useful in acting as an 'in- between conference'.The aim now was to agree on precise and binding targets at the next UN biodiversity conference 2008 in Germany.

Source: Greenpeace and agencies

For more information on the Greenpeace oceans maps see: Report and Map

For more information on the forest maps see Intact Forests and Forest Maps