U.N. talks on nature inch forward but rifts remain

NAGOYA, Japan (Reuters) - A U.N. meeting to set targets to fight rising animal and plant extinctions inched on Friday toward agreement, but rich and poor countries remained split over details of a new framework on genetic resources.

Bali mynahs, a critically endangered species, perch inside a cage at the Preservation and Research Center in Yokohama, south of Tokyo October 25, 2010. The facility, located at the breeding zone of Yokohama Zoological Gardens, is closed to the public to allow the selected endangered species to breed in the most suitable environment and to study the endangered animals, according to the center. Negotiators from over 190 countries are gathered in Nagoya, Japan for a United Nations meeting to discuss ways to fight rising extinctions of plants and animals from pollution, climate change and habitat loss. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Envoys from nearly 200 countries are meeting in Nagoya, Japan, from Oct 18-29 to set new goals to preserve nature’s riches after they failed to meet a goal for a “significant reduction” in losses of biological diversity by 2010.

The meeting hopes to push governments and businesses into taking more action to protect and restore ecosystems such as forests that clean the air, insects that pollinate crops and coral reefs that nurture valuable fisheries.

But negotiations have been plagued by the same mistrust between developed and developing countries that has bogged down U.N. talks on combating climate change, such as how to share the effort and who should pay.

Developing nations in Nagoya have refused to sign up to 2020 conservation targets without agreement on a new U.N. protocol that would give them a fairer share of profits made by companies, such as pharmaceutical firms, from their genetic resources.

The protocol could unlock billions of dollars for developing countries, where much of the world’s natural riches remain, but envoys have been divided over issues such as the scope of the agreement and how to check where a genetic resource comes from.


Delegates missed a deadline on Friday to update a draft of the so-called “access and benefit-sharing” (ABS) protocol, but said progress was made on some details and that hope was not lost for an agreement by the end of the talks late next week.

“If all parties from both sides, groups with different views on the issues, can find a common ground, it’s possible that we could arrive at a good compromise text,” Paulino Franco de Carvalho, head of the environment division at Brazil’s foreign ministry, told Reuters.

Wrangling over the ABS framework has threatened to derail a deal in Nagoya to agree a 2020 “mission” to halt or take urgent steps toward halting the loss of biodiversity.

In addition, a 20-point strategic plan aims to protect fish stocks, fight the loss and degradation of natural habitats and conserve larger land and marine areas but the level of ambition for these targets is still being debated and is tied to funding.

“They have to speed up, come very quickly to compromises, otherwise it will take nights and nights, days and days,” said Gunter Mitlacher, biodiversity director for WWF Germany on the sidelines of the meeting.

There was no sign yet of developed countries pledging funding for poorer nations to help set up protected areas and stem the mounting loss of habitats, although pledges could be made by ministers in a high-level session late next week.

Current funding is about $3 billion a year but some developing nations say this should be increased 100-fold. Environmental groups said any funding needed to be new money, not re-packaged funds from earlier promises of aid.

“I expect we will see some pledges, but what I would be looking for is actual new money that gets us a significant step toward where we need to be in terms of finance,” said Tove Ryding, Greenpeace political adviser for climate and forests.

Japan’s Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto, chair of the talks, said he was hopeful for a deal.

“We are living thanks to the blessings of nature,” he told a news conference.

“If we can all share the thought that a species could be disappearing even as we speak, we can work together to solve these issues.”

Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by David Fogarty