Sunday, October 24, 2010

'Black cloud' hangs over Nagoya talks

Pacific Voyage Media Team

24 October Nagoya, Japan - Climate change is going to make conserving nature more expensive.

Such has been described as a ‘black cloud’ hanging over the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan.

Jaime Webbe, a Programme Officer of the Canada-based CBD, made the point when she addressed the media at the meeting about the linkages between climate change and biodiversity.

“There is not enough funding to implement all the programmes of the Convention of Biological Diversity and climate change is going to make the implementation of CBD harder and even more expensive,” she said.

“And that’s the environment we’re moving forward from COP 10 through the implementation of the strategic plan knowing we’ve got this black cloud hanging over our head.”

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) came into force on 29 December 1993. It has three main objectives. They are:
1. The conservation of biological diversity
2. The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity
3. The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources

From her many years with the CBD, Ms Webbe said there are significant observed and protected impacts from climate change on biodiversity.

“In China for example over 1500 species could become instinct because of climate change. By 2050, if the trend continues, the Great Barrier reef might lose 95 per cent of its living corals,” she said.

But biodiversity is also linked to mitigation and adaptation, she said.

“We know that biodiversity is a valuable resource in the fight against the impacts of climate change. Not only is it helping us to limit the extent of climate change, it is also helping us to adapt to the negative impact you’re going to see.”

She also highlighted the interaction between climate change and conservation practises.

“What we know is that as eco systems are affected by climate change, conservation strategies are going to need to change,” she said.

“So the traditional way of doing conservation and sustainable use, planning, approaches may no longer be valid. We need to be very aware about how the impact of climate change on biodiversity are going to affect the way we approach the responses to emerging global biodiversity crisis.”

Ms Webbe said climate change has changed the principle on which traditional conservation strategies are based.

“We’re seeing that already and we expect that to increase as climate change impacts increase,” she said.

“An example is assisted relocation. As a result of climate change, species are naturally going to move. But in some cases there are going to be some barriers to that.

“This is somewhat terrifying for the large majority of the biodiversity world because of what we’re seeing when we introduce species for economic reasons or integrated pets management. There is a very high risk that relocated species might become introduced species.

“Relocating species is such a complex issue but as a result of climate change, we might find it’s our only option.”

In some Pacific countries though, there are more pressing concerns than relocating species.

There are entire communities that need to be relocated because of rising sea level.

In Samoa for example, communities living on coastal areas have been urged to move inland to avoid the devastation experienced last year when a tsunami struck and killed 143 people.

The migration inland, however, has caused alarm among the conservation community who argue that deforestation is destroying biodiversity. For example, water catchments on the mountains are being destroyed as trees are felled to make way for houses and other developments.

Ms Webbe said it’s important to ensure decisions “we do take are as well informed as possible.”

She told the story about an island which was concerned about sea level rises so they decided to build a seawall.

“This island is not in the Pacific,” she said. “To build the seawall, however, they had to dredge the reef so they can use all the corals and all the rocks and everything to build the seawall.

“It took someone very progressive in the country to say well that’s not a good idea. Because you’re solving one problem and creating another so let’s look at different solutions.”

One of the possible solutions for the Pacific is new technology, she said.

She did not specify what technology but she explained; “This is where you do need free exchange of technologies, you need countries to be working together on this, you can’t put the burden on a small island to say well you’re on your own or if you need our help, we can charge you $500 a days for consultancy work.

“We have to start looking at solutions as a global responsibility.”

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