HYDERABAD, India, October 16, 2012 (ENS) – India will invest US$50 million over the next two years to strengthen conservation of biological diversity, the variety of life on Earth, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced today.

Called the Hyderabad Pledge, much of the $50 million will be invested in India during its current two-year presidency of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD, an international treaty with 193 governments participating.

Prime Minister Singh

Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, addresses the opening plenary of the High-Level Segment of the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad, India, October 16, 2012 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

India will share some of this funding with other developing nations struggling to fund conservation efforts as species slip away – victims of poaching, habitat destruction and pollution.

Speaking to world leaders gathered for the 11th biannual meeting of the Convention, Prime Minister Singh urged greater global cooperation and expressed confidence that the negotiations underway in Hyderabad since October 8 would protect species despite the many difficulties.

“In recent years, it has become increasingly more difficult to find common ground on environmental issues,” said Singh. “This is, indeed, unfortunate given that there is today a much higher global awareness of environmental risks and concerns. It is this consciousness that should provoke us to greater action even as we cope with the pressures of the current global economic downturn.”

“Humankind should understand the importance of preserving biodiversity,” the Prime Minister said. “The diversity of life forms on Earth is the culmination of millions of years of the productive genius of nature. It is nature’s insurance against extreme events that may disturb the delicate balance of this planet. We need to work together and act before a catastrophe is upon us.”

“In our country,” said Singh, “protecting and promoting biodiversity has always been an integral part of our ethos and our civilization. This can be seen in the thousands of sacred groves that are found all over the country. Our traditional systems of agriculture and medicine depend on plant and animal biodiversity. Conserving the wild ancestors and relatives of the cultivars we use today is of paramount importance to us.”

India is inhabited by endangered elephants, snow leopards and lions as well as tigers, which are in recovery. In 2010, the country level status assessment for tigers showed an increase in their number to an estimated 1,706 from an estimated 1,411 in the year 2006, Prime Minister Singh told conference delegates.

snow leopard

Snow leopard in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand (Photo by Gaurav)

In addition to recovery programs for these high-profile mammals, India is working to conserve traditional varieties of crops and seeds.

“The critical issue really is how to mobilize the necessary financial, technical and human resources, particularly the incubation, sharing and transfer of technology,” the Prime Minister said. “India stands committed to work with all parties to reach the happy compromise that will secure a future that provides ecological and economic space for each one of us and sustainable growth for all of us.”

The need is urgent, said India’s Environment and Forests Minister Jayanthi Natarajan at the opening of the Hyderabad conference. “Current trends in biodiversity loss are bringing us closer to potential tipping points that would catastrophically reduce the capacity of ecosystems to provide services essential for our survival,” she warned.

The Hyderabad conference is taking place under the shadow of failure. World leaders failed to meet their goal of slowing the loss of species by 2010, agreed ten years earlier at the 2000 World Summit in Johannesburg.

At the last CBD conference in 2010 in Japan, when it became obvious that the loss of biodiversity was still accelerating, governments gave themselves another 10 years to gain control of runaway extinctions.

The Aichi Targets

The last CBD conference was held in October 2010 in the city of Nagoya, in Japan’s Aichi prefecture.

There, governments adopted a new Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, 20 new targets – called the Aichi Targets – and two new supplementary protocols to the Convention, setting the course for halting biodiversity loss by the end of the current decade.

By 2020, at the latest, among other measures, the ambitious Aichi Targets call for:

  • preventing the extinction of known threatened species and improvement of their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline
  • conservation of at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • the elimination or reform of subsidies harmful to biodiversity and the development of positive incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity
  • halving the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests and, where feasible, bringing the rate of loss close to zero
  • legal, sustainable harvesting and management of all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants

The CBD Protocols

Adopted in 2010, the Nagoya Protocol aims at a “fair and equitable” sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources. It ensures access to genetic resources and transfer of technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies. And it provides for the funding of benefit sharing.

genetically modified cotton

Sign indicates that genetically modified cotton is planted in this field. (Photo by dommo one)

Last week, India became the seventh country to ratify the Nagoya Protocol, which will enter into force 90 days after the date of deposit of the 50th instrument of ratification.

The other of the two new protocols is an addition to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety adopted in 2000, which protects biological diversity from the risks posed by living genetically modified organisms created by modern biotechnology. It takes a “precautionary approach” and establishes an advance informed agreement procedure before countries import living modified organisms into their territory.

In 2010, governments adopted the Nagoya – Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol to the biosafety protocol. It provides international rules and procedures on liability and redress for damage to biodiversity resulting from exposure to living modified organisms.  

During its term of presidency, from 2012 until 2014, the government of India will preside over the implementation of the work of the Convention, including the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Environment Minister Natarajan said, “The present global economic crisis should not deter us, but on the contrary encourage us to invest more towards amelioration of the natural capital for ensuring uninterrupted ecosystem services, on which all life on Earth depends.”

She quoted the “Father of India,” Mahatma Gandhi, who said, ‘The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.’”

During the High Level Segment of this year’s conference, world leaders will consider four themes and try to develop strategies to accomplish the CBD goals:

  • Biodiversity for Livelihoods and Poverty Reduction
  • Implementation of the Strategic Plan of Biodiversity 2011-2020
  • Coastal and Marine Biodiversity
  • Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing

To raise the money to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, India and the CBD Secretariat are inviting government Parties to the Convention and other stakeholders to become Biodiversity Champions.

With her $50 million contribution, India today became the first Biodiversity Champion.