During the last week of October 2010, delegates from 193 nations got together in Nagoya, Japan and decided to preserve life on Earth.
Structure of the Nagoya Biodiversity Plan
In a last-minute deal at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the delegates agreed to a new strategic plan designed to head off the mass extinction of species around the world, by conserving global biodiversity and the natural habitats that support threatened and endangered animal and plant species.
The plan lays out 20 goals to be accomplished during the next 10 years, which include increasing the area of protected land in the world from 12.5 percent to 17 percent and the area of protected oceans from 1 percent to 10 percent.
Nations Make History in Nagoya
"History will recall that it was here in Nagoya that a new era of living in harmony was born and a new global alliance to protect life on earth was established. History will also recall that this would not have been possible without the outstanding leadership and commitment of the government and people of Japan," said Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. "If Kyoto entered history as the city where the climate accord was born, Nagoya will be remembered as the city where the biodiversity accord was born."
In a press release following the summit, the United Nations described the agreement as the adoption of "historic decisions that will permit the community of nations to meet the unprecedented challenges of the continued loss of biodiversity compounded by climate change. Governments agreed on a package of measures that will ensure that the ecosystems of the planet will continue to sustain human well-being into the future."
Nations Reach Multiple Agreements in Nagoya
Delegates to the UN CBD reached two other important agreements:
- The first is a resource mobilization strategy that makes biodiversity a mainstream element of development plans of development banks, agencies and policy institutions, and provides a substantial increase in current levels of official development assistance in support of biodiversity.
- The second is adoption of the Nagoya Protocol, which provides access to the genetic resources of the planet as well as the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their use.
The Nagoya Protocol, which must be ratified by at least 50 nations before it will take effect, is aimed at preventing large corporations from monopolizing the billion-dollar benefits derived from genetic resources and forcing them to share those benefits with developing nations.
Global Track Record on Biodiversity
In 2002, the UN CBD and its member nations made a similar but far less ambitious agreement, pledging to slow the rate of global biodiversity loss by 2010. They failed.
Stuart Butchart, of the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, said in an article in the journal Science last spring that biodiversity actually got worse instead of better over the past decade, with animal populations now down by a third since 1930. Butchart blamed the rapidly expanding human population, which is driving urban development, pollution, climate change, and more intense agriculture.
Butchart and his group studied 31 biodiversity indicators submitted by conservation bodies around the world, ranging from wild-bird populations and fish stocks to coral reefs and rainforests. They found that key species such as bluefin tuna, tigers, the Pacific walrus and monarch butterflies are still declining rapidly.
"Our analysis shows that governments have failed to deliver on the commitments they made in 2002: biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems," Butchart said.
Why the Nagoya Biodiversity Agreements are Important
With species extinction occurring at about 1,000 times the natural rate, many biologists claim that we are experiencing the sixth great extinction on Earth. But there is one important difference: previous mass extinctions were caused by one or more natural events whereas the current extinction is caused primarily by loss of habitat due to human encroachment and activities.
If we are causing the widespread loss of biodiversity, then we have the power to stop it.