image: Wildlife habitat is often disturbed by human activity.
The world’s governments will fail to meet their agreed target of curbing biodiversity loss by 2010, according to experts questioned by BBC News. Nearly 200 countries signed up to the target in 2002.
Ten leading conservationists asked here at the World Conservation Congress were unanimous that the goal cannot be met. All the global indicators of progress are heading in the wrong direction, and few governments have even translated the target into national legislation.
The Red List
Last week saw the publication of the Red List of Threatened Species, showing that between a quarter and a third of mammals are at risk of extinction.
It also saw the head of an EU-commissioned review into the economics of biodiversity loss say that degradation of forests worldwide cost the global economy more each year than the current banking crisis.
The CBD was agreed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, but not until 10 years afterwards did it acquire a firm, supposedly binding target – “to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth”.
“The biodiversity convention doesn’t deal with cross-cutting issues such as logging, road building, climate change, pollution and the expansion of agriculture,” said Gordon Shepherd, director of global policy at the environmental group WWF.
“In reality the people who own decision-making in those areas, be they in governments or in business, have much more power than environment ministers, who don’t have tools to get to grips with over-use [of natural resources] or over-consumption.”
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
However, Sebastian Winkler from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said the time period from 2002 to 2010 was so short that we should not have expected to see any changes in the real world.
He suggested a different way of measuring the lack of progress – that only 16 governments have followed through on their commitment to integrate the 2010 target into national plans for tackling biodiversity loss. Mr Winkler runs an IUCN initiative called Countdown 2010, which aims to engage stakeholders across the world such as local authorities and get them to commit to actions that could improve prospects in their own regions.
By March next year, governments must submit assessments of their own progress to the CBD, which will compile them into a global assessment.
Europe is the continent which has made most progress towards the target. According to one recent study, it is on course to curb biodiversity loss – but by 2050, rather than 2010.
Thomas Lovejoy, president of the Washington DC-based think-tank, the Heinz Center said, “There’s no longer a question whether there will be a sixth major extinction in Earth history. It’s already happening, and the question is how big we’ll allow it to get.”