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U.N. Biodiversity Convention Begins in India

- Common Dreams staff

Representatives of 173 countries are meeting this week and next in Hyderabad, India, to consider how best to protect biodiversity around the world.

A new species of owl discovered in the Philippines this year (Photo: Bram Demeulemeester for AFP/BCP.) The United Nations' Convention on Biologial Diversity (CBD) began Monday, more than 20 years after the 2991 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Experts have warned that in as little as a decade, the extinction of species that pose a threat to humanity could occur.

The two-week conference will discuss challenges and progress made toward implementing the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 adopted at the 2010 Conference of Parties in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, The Times of India reported.

At that convention, governments agreed on a 10-year plan for biodiversity work that would halve the loss of natural habitats and increase the area of the world's land taken up by nature reserves from less than 10 percent to 17 percent by 2020, according to The Guardian. But only 14 of the countries have taken that plan into account.

Braulio Ferreira De Souza, executive secretary of the CBD, told Agence France-Press that persuading governments to put biodiversity at the center of their development agendas continues to be a struggle.

"Biodiversity should not be perceived only as a problem, but rather, for what it really is: a crucial asset which underpins sustainable development and is closely linked to many social and economic issues," De Souza said. "Yes, we are facing times of financial crisis, but times of crisis are the best opportunities to make substantive changes in the way we do business. Expenditures on biodiversity should not be seen as costs—they should be seen as investments that will pay back with significant environmental, social and economic benefits for all our societies."

"What was agreed in Nagoya really has the power to halt the dramatic loss of biodiversity across the globe and address the main drivers of the destruction," said Lasse Gustavsson, World Wildlife Federation's international's executive director for conservation. "But now governments must prove that Nagoya was not just a platform for empty promises. They need to start taking real steps and implement the targets and commitments they agreed on."

"This is the time of reckoning for us when we have been provided with opportunity to collectively decide on committing resources so as to infuse confidence among parties and generate momentum for implementation of Aichi targets," The Times of India quoted India's Environment and Forest Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said. "If we miss this one chance it will be our collective failure, making it impossible to achieve Aichi targets by 2020."