Biodiversity protection step closer

Conferees grope to agree on genetic resource access; critics hit talks' lack of transparency

by and

NAGOYA — Negotiators at COP10 were close to agreement Thursday evening on key issues regarding access to genetic resources and post-2010 biodiversity protection targets, but fundamental points remained unresolved.

Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto, as president of COP10, gave negotiators until midnight to work out final details. The conferees were expected to formally endorse all decisions made over the past two weeks on Friday afternoon, when the meeting ends.

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 and agree to targets over the next decade for preserving biodiversity, an update was presented to all delegates.

“We have made progress, but we have not finished,” said Timothy Hodges, cochair 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.

Developing nations, worried they could lose millions of dollars in revenue from patented medicines and other products based on their genetic resources, have been fighting to include derivatives in a final agreement.

The goal of ambitious targets for preventing biodiversity loss by 2020 was also endorsed. The need to create ways in which to publicly and privately fund biodiversity loss-prevention strategies in developing countries over the next decade was acknowledged.

But questions over exactly how much of the Earth’s terrestrial and marine areas to set aside as protected zones remained under discussion.

As host of COP10, Japan will establish the Japan Biodiversity Fund and provide ¥1 billion in 2010 to support implementation of the new strategic plan as well as other actions by developing countries.

Upon agreement of an ABS protocol, Japan will contribute a further ¥1 billion for supporting a multilateral mechanism to conserve and research genetic resources in developing countries.

Ministers from eight countries have been appointed as facilitators to two groups of delegates, consisting of about 50 countries, on ABS and the new strategic plan. These groups met beyond Thursday afternoon, but the process was criticized by other delegates not taking part and by NGOs calling the process exclusionary, lacking transparency and a last-ditch attempt by Japan to save face.