Science & Environment

MEPs urge EU to lead battle to save biodiversity

The EU needs to adopt a global leadership role in order to halt global biodiversity loss, say MEPs.

They voiced "deep concern" about an apparent lack of urgency among nations to protect habitats and species.

They also said the value of services provided by the natural world, such as clean water, was being overlooked.

Ahead of a key UN summit in Japan later this month, the MEPs said the EU had failed to meet its own target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.

During a debate in Brussels, a number of speakers highlighted the importance of natural resources to the world's poorest people.

Gay Mitchell, MEP for Dublin, told the parliament that ensuring environmental sustainability was part of the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"The reduction in biodiversity loss is therefore a key component of the MDGs," he said.

"Seventy percent of the world's poor live in rural areas and depend directly on biodiversity for their survival and well-being.

"The urban poor also rely on biodiversity for ecosystem services such as the maintenance of air and water quality and the breakdown of waste."

He added that there was "little doubt that biodiversity and climate change will affect the world's poor first".

Image caption Many species, such as these endangered chambo, are vital as sources of food and income for some of the world's poorest communities

On Thursday, MEPs voted in favour of a resolution that outlined the strategy they felt the EU should adopt, and offered a number of suggested objectives.

These included eliminating subsidies harmful to biodiversity; zero net deforestation; the end of destructive fishing practices; and preventing the extinction of known threatened species.

As 2010 was the International Year of Biodiversity, they added that this could help build the political momentum at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) 10th Conference of the Parties (COP 10), which is being held in Nagoya, Japan, from 18 October.

The CBD is an international treaty, which came into force in 1993, that has three main goals: conservation of biodiversity; sustainable use of biodiversity; and ensuring the benefits from genetic resources are fairly shared.

Against a backdrop of failing to meet the target of achieving a "significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss" by 2010, representatives from 193 nations are expected to adopt a new strategy to protect the planet's fragile and dwindling natural resources.

Ahmed Djoghlaf, the CBD's executive director, said COP 10 would be a "landmark event".

"Our common future is at stake as a family of nations; we need to rise up individually and collectively to meet the unprecedented challenges of the loss of biodiversity," he said in a statement on COP 10's official website.

However, the scale of the challenges facing the international community were highlighted in a report published by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).

It warned that while it would be necessary to expand the world's protected areas, it would not be enough to "attain a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss, worldwide".

Population growth and increasing prosperity would combine to increase pressure on global ecosystems, the Rethinking Global Biodiversity Strategies report observed.

The authors said it would be necessary for structural changes in the global agriculture, forestry, fishery and energy supply sectors, adding that it would only be possible to slow down biodiversity loss through reduced expansion of agricultural land, stopping overexploitation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and limiting climate change.

The Agency said the findings would be presented at the CBD gathering in Japan.

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