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Environment

Factbox: Key issues at U.N. talks to protect nature

(Reuters) - The United Nations says the world is facing the worst losses of animal and plant species since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago, a crisis that needs to be addressed by governments, businesses and communities.

Negotiators from more than 190 countries will gather in Nagoya, central Japan, on October 18-29 to discuss ways to safeguard the diversity of nature’s riches, which are vital to basics from clean air and water to food and medicine.

The following are key outcomes expected at the meeting:

POST-2010 TARGET

The United Nations has said the world will fail to reach a goal set in 2002 for a “significant reduction” of the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

The Nagoya talks will aim to set a new target for 2020, although countries are at odds over how ambitious it should be.

Some countries, such as those in the European Union, want to set a 2020 deadline “to halt the loss of biodiversity,” a target that many experts say is out of reach.

The alternative is to set no firm deadline and to call for action “toward halting” the loss of biodiversity.

Countries are agreed on a 2020 deadline for reducing pressures on biodiversity, restoring ecosystems and avoiding “tipping points” such as a drying out of the Amazon rainforest and ocean acidification.

Delegates will refine a 20-point plan to help safeguard biodiversity by 2020, including making people aware of what they can do to protect nature, cutting pollution and conserving land and marine areas. But financing from rich nations will determine how ambitious this plan is.

Beyond that, countries will aim to set a 2050 goal for conserving and restoring biodiversity to achieve a world “living in harmony with nature.”

GENETIC RESOURCES PROTOCOL

The Nagoya meeting will try to finalize an outline for a global protocol that would affect how and when companies and researchers can use genes from plants or animals that originate in developing countries.

Countries rich in diverse plant and animal species, including Brazil, India and Colombia, say the pact would help to ensure developing countries benefit from discoveries based on native species or traditional medicines.

For example, it would set rules for companies using plants from the Amazon forest to share royalties or technology from discoveries with the indigenous people of the area.

But talks over the “access and benefit sharing” (ABS) protocol have been bogged down by differences between developed and developing countries over issues such as the scope of the agreement and the terms of access to genetic resources.

Businesses in sectors such as pharmaceuticals and agriculture are worried the new rules could raise costs and complicate procedures such as applications for patents.

Separate U.N. talks this week in Nagoya agreed on new rules over how countries importing living modified organisms (LMOs) could seek compensation from companies exporting them when the LMOs cause damage to their biological diversity.

FUNDING

Current funding to safeguard biodiversity is about $3 billion a year but developing nations say this should be increased 100-fold if tough 2020 targets are put in place, for steps such as setting up protected areas and slashing the rate of loss and degradation of natural habitats.

Some developing countries also say they will not sign on to new 2020 targets unless there is agreement both on the genetic resources protocol and increased funding.

But developed countries, their finances constrained after the global financial crisis, are against setting specific 2020 targets to increase aid.

Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by David Fogarty

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