When a world leader assesses what’s happening to biodiversity, announces a huge commitment to preventing further loss, and then says, “Nothing less that the basis of our own survival, our very existence, is at stake” — well, it’s a good day for our planet.  Story pasted below and linked here.

Biodiversity: German pledges 500 million euros at UN talks

 

BONN, Germany (AFP) — Germany on Wednesday pledged half a billion euros (785 million dollars) to help defend threatened forests and called on others to join its effort as a UN conference on biodiversity engaged top gear.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country wanted to set down a “very clear marker” on attaining the UN’s Millennium goal of braking biodiversity loss by 2010.

“The Federal government, between 2009 and 2012, will earmark an additional amount of 500 million euros,” Merkel told the meeting.

“We want to use this money in those areas where forests and other ecosystems are under threat and to find quick solutions for conserving them.”

From 2013, Germany will stump up half a billion dollars, annually, she promised, but added, “obviously, Germany cannot shoulder this enormous global burden alone.”

The three-day “high-level” section of the conference is gathering 87 ministers, with the goal of crafting a new global deal on preserving Earth’s wildlife.

“Noting less that the basis of our own survival, our very existence, is at stake,” Merkel told the 6,000 representatives from 191 countries attending the meeting, launched 11 days earlier.

Participants at the conference are hoping to establish a roadmap towards negotiating, by 2010, an “Access and Benefit Sharing” regulatory framework governing access to genetic resources and sharing the benefits from their use.

Amid sharp debate on the issue, Merkel called for “striking fair balance between rich and poor countries” in the economic exploitation of biodiversity.

The UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) was established at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso underlined the links between species loss and climate change, and said the world must see protecting biodiversity as an economic imperative.

“Biodiversity underpins our economies … and we cannot afford to deplete our public capital in this way,” he said.

Barroso singled out deforestation as one of the main causes of species loss, and said the European Union was reviewing measures to combat illegal logging, and trade in illegally harvested forest products.

But environment groups have criticised the EU for sitting on a draft law that would ban the importation of such products into Europe.

“The law is finished and ready to go, but because of commercial and business lobbying, the Commission has not gone forward,” said Saskia Richartz, policy director for biodiversity at Greenpeace.

Scientists say that species are becoming extinct at a dizzying rate — between 100 and 1,000 times the natural pace of extinction.

One in four mammals, one bird in eight, one third of all amphibians and 70 percent of plants are under threat.

Development economist Pavan Sukhdev has handed the conference a preliminary report in which the lost of the benefits of biodiversity are put at 3.1 trillion dollars a year, or six percent of the planet’s gross national product (GNP).

Group of Eight environment ministers met in Kobe, Japan, earlier this week, issuing a joint statement acknowledging the fundamental importance of biodiversity and spelling out their support for the Millennium Development Goal of reaching a “significant reduction” in species loss by the end of this decade.

Greenpeace’s Martin Kaiser praised Merkel for sending “a very strong and important signal” for reaching a strong agreement in Bonn.

He called on other industrialised countries to pitch in, and estimated around 30 billion euros (47.1 billion dollars) a year were needed to finance the protection of ancient forests.