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US urged to ratify biodiversity treaty

US urged to ratify biodiversity treaty

A top environmental official urged the United States on Tuesday to join 193 other countries and ratify the treaty aimed at protecting the planet's animals and plants that it conceived over 20 years ago and helped draft.
Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, said it is in the strategic interest of the United States to be part of the treaty so it can influence future decisions and ensure that U.S. national interests are protected.
The United States was an observer at a two-week meeting of the parties to the treaty which ended Saturday with what Djoghlaf called historic agreements aimed at slowing the rate of extinction of the world's animals and plants, and sharing profits from genetic material in flora and fauna that might be used in medicines, cosmetics and other commercial items.
The biodiversity convention was born at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 1992, but Djoghlaf told a news conference the idea came from the United States in 1987, during the administration of President Ronald Reagan, and the U.S. prepared the first draft of the treaty.
It entitled nations to a share of the profits from substances yielded by their plants and animals, but the U.S. argued then that such a requirement would stifle innovation and undermine the patent system.
Only three governments have not ratified the convention _ the United States, Andorra and the Holy See.
Asked whether the convention could be successful without U.S. participation, Djoghlaf said, "to be frank with you, the United States is implementing the objective of the convention without being part of it." He said U.S. companies will be adopting the new protocol on benefit sharing because they access resources all over the world.
"There is no reason whatsoever, and I repeat, no reason whatsoever why the U.S. is not part of the CBD," Djoghlaf said, using the convention's initials. "There is nothing in this convention which is against the strategic interests of the U.S., quite the opposite."
He expressed hope that President Barack Obama would use his leadership to ratify the convention before the next meeting of its parties in India in 2012.
"We believe that we are a child of the United States, and our parent has abandoned us, so we feel orphaned," Djoghlaf said. "We have been adopted by 193 parents. Now, we want our real parent to come back and to recognize his child."
"This convention needs to be universal," he stressed.
Scientists estimate that the Earth is losing species 100 to 1,000 times the historical average, pushing the planet toward the greatest extinction age since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago. They warn that unless action is taken to prevent biodiversity loss, extinctions will spike and the intricately interconnected natural world could collapse with devastating consequences, from plunging fish stocks to less access to clean water.
Djoghlaf said the two new legally binding protocols will allow full implementation of the convention, whose three objectives are conservation, sustainable use of natural resources, and sharing access to and benefits from animal and plant material.
Whether that happens remains to be seen.
The 193 countries that are parties to the convention failed to reach global goals set in 2002 to make improvements in protecting biodiversity by 2010.
On Saturday, they set new targets _ to protect 17 percent of the world's land areas and 10 percent of oceans by 2020. Currently, 13 percent of the world's land areas and less than 1 percent of marine areas are protected.
They also agreed on a system to share the profits and benefits from genetic resources between governments and companies. Developing countries and indigenous peoples have long argued that they haven't benefited from the bounty of their resources.


Updated : 2021-05-14 09:17 GMT+08:00