German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel Monday urged governments to take stronger action to protect the diversity of life. Opening the largest UN biodiversity gathering yet, Gabriel warned that the world is not on the right path to protect the diversity of species and said the world would not reach its agreed target of the year 2010 for reversing biodiversity loss.
Nearly 7,000 participants from 191 countries opened the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity in Bonn on Monday. Before the meeting closes on May 30, participants are expected to take steps to conserve and sustainably manage the world's biodiversity in light of what UN officials are calling "the alarming rate of loss of species, compounded by the pressures from climate change."
Gabriel called for a clear roadmap, similar to the one on climate reached in Bali last December, toward a plan to establish an international set of rules for biodiversity that would govern the providing of access and equitable sharing of the benefits.
Rules would set the terms under which users of biodiversity resources, such as pharmaceutical companies, would have access to resources.
These terms would be balanced with provisions to guarantee that the providers of these resources, such as local communities or national governments, many of which are in developing countries, receive an equitable share of any of the benefits that are produced, said the minister.
The conference is timed to coincide with the International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22.
As food prices spiral ever upwards, this year's theme for the day is "Biodiversity and Agriculture."
The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity wants the Parties to highlight sustainable agriculture "not only to preserve biodiversity, but also to ensure that we will be able to feed the world, maintain agricultural livelihoods, and enhance human well being into the 21st century and beyond."
The gathering will submit its results next week to the Bonn Biodiversity Summit, which will be chaired by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The attendance of 120 heads of states and ministers is expected.
Another deadline looming over this Bonn conference to create a fair-share system was agreed by the government Parties to the treaty two years ago in Brazil.
They intend to devise a system that provides access to, and shares the benefits from the genetic resources of the world fairly between developing and developed countries.
The Bonn Biodiversity meeting is taking place at a defining moment in the history, said Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
"Every species is a vital piece in the complex puzzle of the life web of our planet. Interlinkages are what keep the puzzle glued together—for the planet to function," Djoghlaf told the participants in his opening address to the conference on Monday.
"About two thirds of the food crops that feed the world rely on pollination by insects or other animals to produce healthy fruits and seeds. Included among these are potato crops," Djoghlaf said.
"Here in Germany, there has been a 25 percent drop in bee populations across the country," he said. "In the eastern United States, bee stocks have declined by 70 percent. If pollinators disappear, so too will many species of plants. If we take away one link, the chain is broken."
Djoghlaf quoted the great physicist Albert Einstein as saying, "'If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.'"
"The unfolding global food crisis sounds like a wake-up call to the serious consequences of human activities on the ability of our planet to continue sustaining life on Earth," Djoghlaf said. "The dramatic rise in crop prices is a symptom of the unprecedented loss of agricultural biodiversity and certainly a reflection of its far-reaching impacts on humankind."
"The challenge is daunting and I call upon all states to adopt exceptional efforts," he said.
Losing the benefits that biodiversity provides would cost the world $3.1 trillion a year or six percent of the global gross national product, according to a new study by development economist Pavan Sukhdev, cited by Djoghlaf during his speech.