Hyderabad: In a major breakthrough at the United Nations' conference on biological diversity, which concluded on early Saturday, the developed countries agreed to double funding by 2015 to protect the planet's animal and plant species.
After marathon discussions that continued well past midnight, the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP11) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) reached an agreement to increase funding in support of actions to halt the rate of loss of biodiversity.
"Developed countries agreed to double funding to support efforts in developing states towards meeting the internationally-agreed biodiversity targets, and the main goals of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020," said a release from the CBD secretariat.
Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, executive secretary of the CBD, said, "These results, coming in a period of economic crisis, demonstrate that the world is committed to implementing the CBD."
Using a baseline figure of the average annual national spending on biodiversity between 2006 and 2010, developed countries said that they would double biodiversity-related international financial flows by 2015.
According to sources, this means $12 billion would be available every year for biodiversity conservation as against the average $6 billion per annum earmarked between 2006 and 2010.
The observers say that the summit succeeded in evolving a consensus despite the reluctance of developed countries to commit additional funding in view of the economic slowdown.
However, the task on hand is still huge with India-UK High Level Panel chaired by environmental economist Pavan Sukhdev, estimating that $150 billion to $440 billion per annum is required to meet the targets.
Resource mobilization to achieve biodiversity targets by 2020 and implement the strategic plan, was the most contentious issue at the two-week conference, attended by over 14,000 delegates from 193 countries.
The working group on resource mobilization met several times since Friday evening to iron out differences between the developing and developed countries.
India, as the chair of the summit, played a key role in ending the logjam over resource mobilization by proposing a middle path.
Supported by G-77 and China, India called upon parties to reach an agreement and to avoid a collective failure to advance the cause of biodiversity conservation.
"The present economic crisis should not deter the world, but on the contrary, encourage investment towards amelioration of the natural capital for ensuring uninterrupted ecosystem services, on which all life on earth depends," said Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan.
COP10 at Nagoya, Japan in 2010 had set 20 biodiversity targets known as Aichi targets to turn back biodiversity decline by 2020.
The targets include halving the rate of habitat loss, preventing the extinction of species on the threatened list, expanding water and land areas under conservation and restoring at least 15 percent of degraded ecosystems.
But the plan was stuck due to lack of money for conservation.
The COP also set targets to increase the number of countries that have included biodiversity in their national development plans and agreed to prepare national financial plans for biodiversity by 2015.
"All parties agreed to substantially increase domestic expenditures for biodiversity protection over the same period," said the CBD statement.
For the first time, developing countries at COP 11, including India and several African countries, pledged additional funds above and beyond their core funding towards the work of the CBD.
The meet also decided to pay special attention to biodiversity-rich marine areas. The Sargasso Sea, the Tonga archipelago and key coral sites off the coast of Brazil are among a range of marine areas to receive special attention from governments.
Other key decisions at the conference included new measures to factor biodiversity into environmental impact assessments linked to infrastructure and other development projects in marine and coastal areas.