From: Michael Astor, Associated Press
Published April 3, 2006 12:00 AM

U.N. Environmental Conference in Brazil Ends with Few Advances

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — A U.N.-sponsored environmental conference ended Friday with disappointment for environmentalists who saw the contentious issue over how to compensate indigenous communities for genetic resources shelved until 2010.

There were high hopes for the eighth biennial Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity, which brought nearly 100 cabinet ministers to Brazil to discuss progress on agreements from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The meeting, however, opened with a gloomy report showing more species were becoming extinct than at any time since the dinosaurs walked the Earth, despite pledges at previous conferences to reduce the extinction rate by 2010.

And the most heated issue of how to repay indigenous communities and local residents for genetic resources used to produce pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and agricultural goods was put off until the end of the decade.

Gordon Shepherd, head of the World Wildlife Fund's delegation to the conference, said the congress was successful in creating a working group to study island biodiversity and drawing more attention to the links between poverty and biodiversity.

But more money is needed to protect the environment, Shepherd said.

"The WWF regards that the funding to implement the convention does not match the massive enthusiasm shown at local and regional levels," he said.

The environmental group Greenpeace also expressed disappointment with the meeting.

"The convention on biological diversity is like a ship drifting without a captain to steer it," said Martin Kaiser, Greenpeace's political adviser on forests. "The negotiations failed to chart a course to stop biopiracy, provide additional financing for protected areas, establish marine reserves on the high seas and to ban illegal logging and trade."

One problem with the conference was that each decision required unanimous approval from delegates, representing 187 nations.

Ana Cristina Barros, representative for The Nature Conservancy in Brazil, said it was unreasonable to expect rapid results from the conference.

"There's a tendency to think of the conference as a unique event, but what has been discussed is something that is constructed over years," Barros said.

Among the most important developments were made by individual governments, like Brazil's announcement that it would declare 210,000 square kilometers (84,000 square miles) of its rain forest a protected area in the next three years, she said.

Several Pacific island nations also announced plans to protect coral reefs and fishing areas at the conference.

Source: Associated Press

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