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The Paris Appeal for Biodiversity
Emily Gertz, 29 Jan 05

biodiversity_conf.tiffThe five-day conference on Biodiversity: Science and Governance in Paris wound up this past Friday with the 1,200-odd scientists and lawmakers present calling for action on the impending, great Sixth Extinction of wild plants and animals.

Their Paris Appeal (a draft version as of this linking) states:

  1. Biodiversity is a natural heritage and a vital resource for all humankind
  2. Biodiversity is being destroyed irreversibly by human activities
  3. A major effort is needed to understand, conserve and sustainably use biodiversity

Why get hopeful about the Paris Appeal? Wasn't this all discussed in 1992, at the Rio Earth Summit? Pretty much. And nothing's gotten better since then. But there do seem to be some reasons for mild optimism.

First off, the Paris Appeal pulls no punches in laying the blame at humanity's doorstep. Acknowledgement and acceptance of this basic scientific fact opens the path to figure out what to do next.

The appeal also solidly links preservation of biodiversity to human welfare, which is essential to seeing any real action to preserve it. According to coverage in the Hindustan Times, the participants jointly stated that,

Biodiversity is a vital and poorly appreciated resource for all of humankind that underpins the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, [and is] is being irreversibly destroyed by human activities at an unprecedented rate, and this demands urgent and significant action to conserve, sustainably use and equitably share the benefits of biodiversity.

The group proposes a panel along the same lines as the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to gather, interpret and report on biodiversity data. This could be good. The IPCC is well-regarded, considered neutral and science-based by most world governments, and credited with getting them to pay attention to climate instability. Further, as the Hindustan Times notes,

The panel proposal has been backed by French President Jacques Chirac, who says he will lobby for it at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), an offshoot of the landmark 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

In addition, Britain, current president of the Group of Eight, "has agreed to include it [the proposal] on the G8 agenda," French Research Minister Francois d'Aubert said.

So, some cause for hope in preserving biodiveristy--animals and plants that we mostly don't even know about yet. Only 1.7 out of perhaps 30 million species worldwide have been identified. In Paris last week, U.S. scientist Edward 0. Wilson stated that it would take $3 billion and 25 years to fully inventory the world's species, and $25 billion to save the 25 most endangered wild places in the world.

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