Protection of Life on Earth hangs in balance after Global Summit

Feature story - February 20, 2004
As the UN Convention on protecting the world's rich biodiversity ended today, Greenpeace declared that the future for many threatened plants and animals still hangs in the balance. On paper, over 180 Governments have agreed on a global action plan to protect these species, as well as the rights of indigenous peoples. However, no strong commitment has been made to either implement immediately or fund this work. Without funding or a commitment by national governments for implementation, the Convention on Biological Diversity is at risk of becoming a paper tiger.

"The Plan to establish a global network of protected areas is commendable and provides governments with a strong set of tools to stop the deaths of many species and the destruction of forests and the depletion of our oceans," said Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace. "But unless national governments take this seriously at home and provide the financial support needed to make all of this work, it's like being given the toolbox and refusing to open it."

According to Greenpeace, unless the decisions made during the CBD are implemented at a national level immediately, the agreement will be worthless.

For the first time ever, the world's governments agreed to establish a global network of protected areas by 2010 on land and by 2012 in the world's oceans - protected areas which could be the centrepiece of a program to stop the unprecedented loss of species and habitats occurring today. Although the Convention did not go far enough to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, government officials did agree that indigenous groups and local communities deserved to have full participation in any kind of decision-making processes.

A third positive development is that rich countries have to redirect their overseas developing aid to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. And finally, for the first time, about 40% of the Earth s surface, the oceans with its seamounts and cold-water reefs are now accepted to be part of the biodiversity conservation strategies of the convention.

During the months in the lead up to the CBD, Greenpeace highlighted ancient forest destruction in Patagonia and the Asia Pacific regions. Greenpeace ships, Rainbow Warrior and Arctic Sunrise, both documented ancient forest destruction in some of the world's last pristine forest regions.

"Greenpeace will continue to investigate, document and highlight the plight of the world's forests and oceans," added Kaiser. "The decisions here are just a starting point for governments to take responsibility for controlling destructive industries and to halt biodiversity loss, while we still have a chance to make a difference."