Friday, October 29, 2010

COP10 heads for tense finish

Pacific Voyage Media Team 29 October Nagoya Japan -

The negotiations on targets to preserve the environment will continue until the last second, the Chair of COP10 told the media today, as the Nagoya Biodiversity talks wrap up.

Japan’s Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto said governments –including a strong representation from the South Pacific – were all keen on an agreement.

"Everyone is saying that they want to wrap up a deal, that they don't want to go home from Nagoya empty-handed," he told reporters. "We will work until the last second."

Delegates from nearly 200 countries have been negotiating for two weeks goals to protect oceans, forests and rivers.  But the negotiations on how ambitious the targets should be are divided over a number of issues.

Developing nations for example are have refused to sign up to 2020 goals without agreement on a new U.N. protocol that would give them a fairer share of profits made by companies, such as pharmaceutical firms, from their genetic resources.  The protocol could unlock billions of dollars for developing countries, where much of the world's natural riches remain, but countries are split on the scope of the framework and how to check where a genetic resource comes from.

Following two days of intense discussions among 50 delegates, led by eight facilitators appointed by Japan, to help reach an access and benefit-sharing protocol (ABS), an update was presented to all delegates.

"We have made progress, but we have not finished," said Timothy Hodges, co-chair of the group working on the ABS agreement.

Broad consensus was reached on introductory language related to traditional knowledge of the use of plants and organisms in medical or biological products.   Still on the table were issues that have divided ABS negotiators since the conference began Oct. 18. Topping the list was how to include derivatives of genetic resources in a final agreement.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has announced it will begin a project to help developing countries integrate the economic benefits of nature into their state policies.  Introducing ecosystem valuation into national accounting systems will help governments make better decisions about the way their nature is managed, World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick.

"We need to give top decision-makers the tools they need to make the right decisions," said Zoellick.

The World Bank President gave an example of how a country could change its nature calculations.

"For example, in clearing mangroves for shrimp farming, the calculation will no longer simply be the revenue from profit on shrimp farming minus the farming cost,” he said.  “It would now deduct the loss of coastal protection from cyclones, and the loss of fish and other products provided by the mangroves from its calculations.”

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