It's on course to make the farcical climate talks in Copenhagen look like a roaring success. The big international meeting in October which is meant to protect the world's biodiversity is destined to be an even greater failure than last year's attempt to protect the world's atmosphere. Already the UN has conceded that the targets for safeguarding wild species and wild places in 2010 have been missed: comprehensively and tragically.
In 2002, 188 countries launched a global initiative, usually referred to as the 2010 biodiversity target, to achieve by this year a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss. The plan was widely reported as the beginning of the end of the biodiversity crisis. But in May this year, the Convention on Biological Diversity admitted that it had failed. It appears to have had no appreciable effect on the rate of loss of animals, plants and wild places.
In a few weeks, the same countries will meet in Nagoya, Japan and make a similarly meaningless set of promises. Rather than taking immediate action to address their failures, they will concentrate on producing a revised target for 2020 and a "vision" for 2050, as well as creating further delays by expressing the need for better biodiversity indicators. In many cases there's little need for more research. It's not biodiversity indicators that are in short supply; but any kind of indicator that the member states are willing to act.
A striking example was provided last month by French secretary of state for ecology, Chantal Jouanno. She announced that there would be no further major efforts to restore the population of Pyrenean brown bears, of which fewer than 20 remain. Extensive scientific research shows that this population is not viable. European agreements oblige France to sustain the population. Yet the government knows that the political costs of reintroducing more bears outweigh the costs of inaction. Immediate special interests triumph over the world's natural wonders, even in nations which have the money and the means to protect them.
So, with help from the Guardian, they are collecting suggestions from all of us, to share with the wealthy G20 nations when they meet to discuss biodiversity in October. You still have time, until the end of August, to submit your suggestion. Note, however, that they're not looking for general, vague platitudes about "more education" or "empowerment" or "law enforcement" and the like - the G20 politicians are full of those already! What're being sought, instead, are specific concrete solutions that are backed up by science, are realistically achievable in a reasonable timeframe, and are opposed by political/financial special interests. So what political cost should the governments of wealthy nations be forced to pay (to at least put their money where their mouths are, so to speak) to conserve biodiversity?
I'm working on my own suggestion and will share it here soon.