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UN calls for immediate action to save life on Earth

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The Earth’s 6.8 billion humans are effectively living 50 percent beyond the planet’s biocapacity.

By Agence France Presse Posted Oct 20, 2010

Above, Green Sea Turtle in the waters of Bora Bora, Tahiti. The gender of sea turtle eggs are determined by temperature, which means global warming would upset the natural gender balance. (photo: www.pri.org)

The world must act immediately to stop the rapid loss of animal and plant species that allow humans to exist, the United Nations warned on Monday at the start of a major summit on biodiversity.

Delegates from the 193 members of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are gathering in the central city of Nagoya to try to work out strategies to reverse a man-made mass extinction.

“The time to act is now and the place to act is here,” CBD executive secretary Ahmed Djoghlaf said as the meeting opened, describing the 12-day event as a “defining moment” in the history of mankind.

“Business as usual is no more an option when it comes to life on Earth… we need a new approach, we need to reconnect with nature and live in harmony with nature.”

Delegates were told human population pressures were wiping out ecosystems such as tropical forests and coral reefs, killing off animal and plant species that form the web of life on which humanity depends.

“This meeting is part of the world’s efforts to address a very simple fact. We are destroying life on Earth,” the UN Environment Programme’s executive director Achim Steiner said in a speech at the opening ceremony.

“We are destroying the very foundations that sustain life on this planet.”

This graphic shows the numbers of threatened and endangered animal species in Africa. The group of bars on the far left shows totals for all of Africa’s different categories of animals (mammals, birds, reptiles, etc.), and the other four sets of bars are broken down by region within Africa. This shows the current status of threatened and endangered animals in Africa; climate change will only make this worse.

Delegates in Nagoya plan to set a new target for 2020 for curbing species loss, and will discuss boosting medium-term financial help for poor countries to help them protect their wildlife and habitats.

But similar pledges to stem biodiversity loss have not been fulfilled, and Djoghlaf said governments around the world had to acknowledge that failure.

“Let’s have the courage to look into the eyes of our children and admit that we have failed individually and collectively to… to substantially reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010,” Djoghlaf said.

“Let us look into the eyes of our children and admit that we continue to lose biodiversity at unprecedented rates.”

At the start of the decade, UN members pledged under the Millennium Development Goals to achieve “a significant reduction” in the rate of wildlife loss by 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity.

Instead, habitat destruction has continued unabated, and some experts now warn that the planet faces its sixth mass extinction phase — the latest since dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago.

Nearly a quarter of mammals, one third of amphibians, more than one in eight birds, and more than a fifth of plant species now face the threat of extinction, said the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Nearly a quarter of mammals, one third of amphibians, more than one in eight birds, and more than a fifth of plant species now face the threat of extinction

In May, a UN report warned of looming “tipping points” that could irreversibly damage ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest, through logging and land clearance, and coral reefs through global warming and overfishing.

The Earth’s 6.8 billion humans are effectively living 50 percent beyond the planet’s biocapacity in 2007, according to a new assessment by WWF that said by 2030 humans will effectively need the capacity of two Earths.

Meanwhile, disputes between rich and poor nations that have plagued efforts to curb greenhouse gases threaten to similarly hamper biodiversity negotiations.

The European Union is calling for a target of halting biodiversity loss by 2020, while many developing nations only support a weaker goal of “taking action” on the issue.

The European Union is calling for a target of halting biodiversity loss by 2020, while many developing nations only support a weaker goal of “taking action” on the issue

There are also tensions over efforts to forge an accord on the “equitable sharing” of the benefits from natural resources — for example a medicine derived from a jungle plant — under a so-called Access and Benefits Sharing Protocol (ABS).

Under a proposal backed by developing nations, companies would pay a “gene fee” if scientists find plants or animals that have been used by indigenous groups and have commercial use such as in the pharmaceutical industry.

Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira warned this month that “for us, it is not acceptable to go to Nagoya and not have an agreement for (the) ABS Protocol… We need a deal.”

Some developing countries have warned that a plan to set up an international scientific panel to assess biodiversity issues and advise policy makers could be blocked if there is no deal on the ABS protocol.

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  • Kim

    The problem is not us destroying the earth,
    The problem is us destroying our habitat…

  • lonniePR

    ditto laz!

  • http://finallyfastblog.com/ FinallyFast

    Despite being vocal in my local community about the impact of global warming on human society in terms of the melting of the polar ice caps and the potential for strange weather patterns, I've seldom thought about the mass extinctions that could occur due to the incremental temperature change.

    The first example in this article about the temperature being the main determinant of the gender of sea turtles is a case in point. There must be several other species for which this is a factor…and we'll be wiping them out. As Truedad put it "mind blowing".

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