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Governments sound biodiversity alarm in Nairobi

Endangered whooping cranes in a captive breeding program at the Patuxent Environmental Science Center in Laurel, Maryland.  
ENN



May 22, 2000
Web posted at: 11:15 a.m. EDT (1515 GMT)

The numbers alone are frightening. According to the United Nations Environment Program, species extinction since the year 1600 has occurred at a pace 50 to 100 times the natural rate. That pace is expected to accelerate to between 1,000 and 10,000 times the natural pace, the report found.

Today, more than 31,000 plant and animal species are threatened with destruction.

With a global alarm ringing in their heads, the 177 member governments represented at the Convention on Biological Diversity are gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, with a basic but herculean task: to heal the relationship between humanity and Earth's dwindling biodiversity.

"The extraordinary rise in both human populations and consumption levels leaves us no choice but to take innovative and ambitious actions to reverse the widespread destruction of species and ecosystems," said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, founder of the convention.

Launched at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity last convened in 1998.

"We must convince and empower people to adopt the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity as their guiding principle," Toepfer said. "Whether it is making tourism environmentally sustainable, developing new strategies for reviving the world's highly stressed drylands or creating a legal regime on access to genetic resources that protects the interests of both local communities and commercial firms, we need to resolve the tough issues without delay," Toepfer said.

This year's meeting will examine the progress made by countries in addressing threats to biological diversity. The ultimate aim is to come up with solutions that can be implemented across the board — at international, national and regional levels.

Forest diversity is high on the agenda, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

More than half the world's forest cover is already destroyed and more than half of the world's plants and animals depend on forest habitat, the conservation organization points out. A recent World Conservation Union report found that 25 percent of the world's mammals are at risk.

While the convention has promoted many assessments and formulated many good plans, concrete programs have not materialized, in the estimation of the WWF.

"It's time to end the unproductive standoff between international bodies on who is responsible for ensuring the future biodiversity of forests," said Gordon Shepherd, WWF's director of international treaties. "This meeting is a window of opportunity for the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to agree to more practically-oriented actions and to kick-start implementation."

As a step toward protecting forests rich in plant and animal wildlife, the organization is calling on countries to ratify the Biosafety Protocol, which aims to minimize the potential risks to biodiversity posed by international trade.

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved




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RELATED SITES:
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http://www.iisd.ca/biodiv/cop5/index.html
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