* "Lot more to do" to reach 2020 goals for preserving
* Plan to protect nature seen saving billions of dollars
By Alister Doyle and David Fogarty
OSLO/SINGAPORE, Sept 28 Many nations need to do
more to slow extinctions of animals and plants under U.N.
targets for 2020 that would also save the world economy billions
of dollars a year, U.N. experts say.
Only a few countries -- including France, Guatemala and
Britain -- have so far adopted new national plans to tackle
threats such as pollution or climate change in line with a
sweeping pact agreed in Japan in 2010.
"There is a lot more to do," David Cooper, head of the
scientific, technical and technological unit at the Secretariat
of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in
Montreal, told Reuters by phone.
Almost 200 nations will meet in Hyderabad, India, from
October 8-19 to review progress towards goals to protect life on
earth that U.N. reports say is suffering the biggest wave of
extinctions since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago.
Governments agreed in 2010 to 20 targets including phasing
out damaging subsidies and expanding protected areas, for
instance to save valuable coral reefs that are nurseries for
fish or to slow deforestation from the Congo to the Amazon.
"There is substantial progress. Is it fast enough to achieve
the targets by 2020 for most of them? Probably not overall,"
Cooper said. Biodiversity is threatened by a projected rise in
the human population to 9 billion by 2050 from 7 billion now.
"We need a step up in the activities," he said as part of a
series of interviews on the outlook for Hyderabad. Biodiversity
underpins everything from food to timber production.
Nations have also been sluggish in ratifying a protocol
laying out rules for access to genetic resources, such as rare
tropical plants used in medicines, and ways to share benefits
among companies, indigenous peoples or governments.
So far, 92 nations have signed the Nagoya Protocol but just
six have ratified, well short of the 50 needed for it to gain
legal force. The target is for the protocol to be up and running
"We were a bit too optimistic," said Valerie Normand, senior
programme officer for access and benefit sharing at the CBD, who
said the Secretariat had hoped for it to come into force this
year. The Secretariat now expected entry into force in 2014.
Cooper said many of the targets set for 2020 would save
billions of dollars a year, by ensuring that farming, logging or
fishing can be managed sustainably. Some fisheries, for
instance, have been exploited to the point of collapse.
In Nagoya, experts estimated that annual funding to
safeguard biodiversity totalled about $3 billion a year but some
developing countries wanted it raised to about $300 billion.
"These are big numbers but they are trivial compared to the
benefits we are getting from biodiversity. If we don't act the
costs will be very much greater," Cooper said.
Among concerns, 32 percent of livestock breeds are under
threat of extinction within the next 20 years, the U.N. Food and
Agriculture Organization says. And 75 percent of the genetic
diversity of agricultural crops has been lost since 1900.
"Because we don't really know the full impacts of climate
change down the line, we don't really know what's going to
happen in terms of growing conditions around the world. It's
just safer for us to have a lot of these other varieties in our
pocket," said David Ainsworth, spokesman of the CBD Secretariat.
Cooper said the pace of extinctions among the planet's
estimated 9 million species -- plants, animals from insects to
whales but excluding legions of tiny bacteria -- was perhaps 100
times the background rate estimated in fossil records.
"If you project the rates into the future, the rest of the
century, they are likely to be 100 times larger still," he said.
The rising human population threatens ever more habitats with
expanding cities, farms and roads.
Among goals set in 2010 were to increase protected areas for
wildlife to 17 percent of the world's land area by 2020 and to
raise marine areas to 10 percent of those under national
control. In 2010, respective sizes were 12.7 and 4 percent.
"I am optimistic" that the goal can be reached, said Sarat
Babu Gidda, the CBD official who oversees protected areas.
(Reporting By Alister Doyle; editing by Jason Webb)