The global economic crisis cast its shadow over UN talks that closed in India on Saturday after two weeks of intense wrangling on funding to reverse the decline of Earth’s natural resources.
A deal was finally signed a day later than planned, after a succession of late-night sessions that pitted rich countries reticent to fork out more cash as they try to balance the books, against poor ones. Several traditional donor countries cited the world’s economic troubles as a factor in the talks, held under the auspices of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
“Countries like us in difficult financial times are making big sacrifices with taxpayers’ money. We want to make sure... that we are not leaving ourselves open to putting greater burden on our taxpayers,” British Environment Minister Richard Benyon told AFP on the penultimate day of the negotiations. In the end, the deadlock was broken and developed states pledged to double by 2015 the aid they provide to poor countries for biodiversity projects, compared to a baseline of average annual aid in the period 2006-2010.
No figures were mentioned, but observer groups believed the new annual figure would amount to about $10 billion (8 billion euros) per year — just 10 percent of what global consumers spent on chocolate last year. Some negotiators, especially in the European Union, hailed the deal as a symbolic breakthrough in tough times.
“In the context of the financial crisis, this is a good deal,” French Environment Minister Delphine Batho told AFP. Yet CBD member countries lamented that “the lack of sufficient financial resources” was hampering progress on biodiversity, urging one another to “consider all possible sources and means that can help to meet the level of resources needed”. Many observers believe the pledge is not nearly enough, and warned a failure to pay up now could spell disaster.
“Efforts to conserve nature must be urgently scaled up if we want to meet the 2020 deadline to save all life on Earth,” the International Union for Conservation of Nature said. Earlier in the week, the union had added 400 animals and plants to its authoritative “Red List” of species at risk of extinction. A quarter of the world’s mammals, 13 percent of birds, 41 percent of amphibians and 33 percent of reef-building corals are now at risk of dying out, according to the list.