Press Release15.05.2008, Berlin

Removing blockages in global nature conservation

9th Conference of the Parties to the Biodiversity Convention to start in Bonn

In the view of WBGU, the German Advisory Council on Global Change, the UN biodiversity conference – which begins on Monday in Bonn – must act on several fronts to ensure that the agreed targets are achieved by 2010.

Firstly, decisive action is required to appreciably reduce the degradation of the natural environment and the associated loss of biological diversity. Secondly, the development of an effective worldwide network of protected areas needs to be concluded and the network’s funding secured. Thirdly, an equitable agreement regulating the use of genetic resources must be negotiated. The Bonn conference is the last major biodiversity summit before the target year of 2010. The success of the conference is therefore vital to attainment of the goals.

In WBGU’s view, Germany as conference host has a particular responsibility to help overcome the current obstacles that are holding up negotiations. That will only be possible if industrialized, emergent and developing countries seek a balance of interests between the issues being discussed at the conference. WBGU sees a particular need for action in the following fields:

Protected areas: mobilizing the missing billions

A worldwide network of protected areas is crucial to halting the loss of biological diversity. Developing and emergent countries harbour most of the world’s valuable natural heritage and should not be left to conserve it alone. The industrialized countries have a responsibility to do significantly more to finance this than they have done in the past. The current funding gap could be closed if they contributed around 20–30 euros per head of population per year. The benefits arising from the conservation of biodiversity could be worth many times more than this. However, the existing financing instruments are not designed to operate on this scale; they need to be developed and strengthened. A major step forwards on this difficult path should be taken in Bonn. WBGU welcomes the German government’s voluntary Life Web Initiative, which is intended to mobilize bilateral financial assistance for areas of high conservation value. As host, Germany should lead the way and use the conference to make a significant financial contribution to this initiative.

Stepping up rainforest conservation

Every hectare of tropical forest that can be saved from clearance is of benefit both for biological diversity and for climate protection. Natural ecosystems, and tropical forests in particular, are a treasurehouse of biological diversity. At the same time around one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide stem from the destruction of these ecosystems. The synergies between nature conservation and climate protection must be harnessed, not least through more intensive cooperation between the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Bonn conference must therefore take decisive action in support of rainforest conservation in order to, for example, put a stop to illegal logging.

Developing standards for bioenergy

All over the world there is an increasing shortage of arable land. The accelerating development of bioenergy puts additional pressure on global land use and exposes natural ecosystems to greater risk of degradation. The development of a network of protected areas is therefore becoming more and more important, as is the sustainable management of cultural landscape. The Biodiversity Convention lays down some useful guiding principles, including that of the ecosystem approach. These principles must now be fleshed out and implemented. At the Bonn conference work needs to start on assembling the building blocks of bioenergy standards that will prevent adverse effects on biological diversity. In WBGU’s view such standards should also be developed in the medium term for other types of land use. The programmes of work on agriculture and forests provide a good basis for this. Persuading bioenergy-exporting emergent countries to abandon their fundamentally sceptical view of such standards will be a major challenge.

Regulating the equitable use of genetic resources

Genetic resources are valuable raw materials that can be used, for example, in the development of new drugs. Access to this “green gold” should not be obstructed. At the same time, profits from the use of genetic resources should be shared fairly with the countries from which the resources originate. With the voluntary Bonn Guidelines the Biodiversity Convention has already created a suitable basis for this balancing of interests, but implementation is as yet far from adequate. The UN conference needs to make decisive progress towards clear and binding international rules, adherence to which can be monitored. Such rules can help to make the value of biological diversity and its conservation more visible. However, the funding for the conservation of biological diversity made available by such an international regime should not be overestimated. Genetic resources are another area in which the industrialized countries will need to seek compromises with the developing and emergent nations in order to overcome blockages, so that the negotiations can be concluded as planned by 2010. Germany can and should play an important part in getting the negotiations off to a good start by establishing a clear and uniform EU position.