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UN Panel on Biodiversity

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 2 months ago

UN set for IPCC-type panel on biodiversity



BONN, Germany (AFP) - UN members took a key step here Thursday towards creating a paramount scientific panel on biodiversity similar to the Nobel-winning group that helped drive climate change to the top of the global agenda.


"The process is on track now," Didier Babin, the French researcher charged in 2005 with getting the project off the ground, told AFP.


The initiative aims to set up an independent authority on species loss on the lines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which co-won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for its work on summarising the evidence for global warming.


Babin said the scheme was approved in principle by a committee vote at the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Bonn.


A high-level intergovernmental meeting in November will "finalise and launch the mechanism," he said.


More than 6,000 representatives from 191 countries are meeting in Bonn this week to try to hammer out a road map for saving Earth's vanishing flora and fauna, much of it in tropical rainforests and the sea.


Biodiversity advocates, inside and outside government, have struggled for decades to sound alarms about the accelerating rate of species extinction, and its potentially dire consequences for mankind.


But their call to action has gone largely unheeded, muted by bureaucratic inertia and a lack of public awareness.


The issue global warming faced similar hurdles and skepticism until last year, when several factors converged to transform climate change from a slightly arcane subject of scientific debate into a powerful driver of economic and political policy.


A major role in this process was played by the IPCC's Assessment Report, the fourth since 1992.


Its conclusion was as inescapable as it was authoritative: man-made climate change could drive planet Earth to the brink of disaster during the course of this century. The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize only served to drive home their message.


"The IPCC is a very strong model that we would like to emulate for any assessment on biodiversity," said Abdul Zakri, who co-chaired the UN's 2005 Millennium Ecosytems Assessment, and spearheaded the new initiative in Asia.


An authoritative panel would lend scientific credibility and underscore the urgency of biodiversity issues, he said.


"We need the political legitimacy -- the political 'buy in' -- from the members states" of the Convention, he told AFP.


The problems stemming from biodiversity loss are no less urgent than climate change, expert argue, ranging from degraded human habitats, to the disappearance of species that hold great promise for new medicines.


More than 60 percent of what scientists call ecosystem services have been degraded, compromising the environment's ability to produce food, clean water and clear air, according to the 2005 UN report.


But the urgency is more difficult to convey.


"When you talk about climate change, all you need to do is show an iceberg melting or barren peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, and you have made your case," said Zakri.


"When it comes to biodiversity -- which is really the totality of life on Earth -- people don't really understand what is at stake," he said.


Babin hopes the new scientific panel will produce its first global report by 2012, and says interim reports on topics such a biofuels are likely. "We have the scientists ready to contribute," he said.


But some nations are still hesitating, according to Zakri.


"If there is a global process for assessing the state of biodiversity they become concerned that their sovereignty might be in jeopardy," he said.


They are also worried about where the money will come from, he added.

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Copyright © 2008 AFP. All rights reserved.


posted to ClimateConcern by lance

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