From: Patricia Reaney, Reuters
Published July 20, 2006 12:00 AM

Scientists Want Global Body to Conserve Biodiversity

LONDON — Scientists warned on Wednesday that the world is on the brink of a major biodiversity crisis and called for the creation of an international body to advise governments on how to protect the planet's ecosystems.


"All the scientific evidence points to the fact that whatever measure of vulnerability you take, whether it is local populations, species or ecosystem, we know that the rate at which we are altering them now is faster than it has been in the past," Georgina Mace said in an interview.


Mace, director of science at the Institute of Zoology in London, is one of 19 scientists from 13 countries who signed a declaration published in the journal Nature explaining why an intergovernmental body is needed.


They said that although all aspects of biodiversity are in decline and many species are likely to become extinct this century, the crisis is not given the weight and importance it merits in public and private decision making.


The new panel would address policy-related issues and get the best consensus on what the scientific opinion really is.


"It is not telling policy makers what to do. It is giving them advice about what the consequences of different decisions will be," Mace added. The experts, who include Dr Robert Watson, the chief scientist at the World Bank, suggested that a single global body similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) could speak for the biodiversity science world.


"For the sake of the planet, the biodiversity science community has to create a way to get organised, to coordinate its work across disciplines, and together with one clear voice advise governments on steps to halt the potentially catastrophic loss of species already occurring," Watson said in a statement.


The scientists and experts from countries ranging from China, Chile and Canada to South Africa, Germany and the United States suggested that the panel should be independent, transparent and include input from governments, non-government organisations and the private sector.


They suggested the group be funded by governments and that it should generate information about trends in biodiversity and future changes so targets for action can be set.


The scientists said French President Jacques Chirac had supported the idea at an international conference in January 2005.


"The French government is currently funding a consultation process to assess the need, scope and possible models for an international mechanism of scientific expertise on biodiversity," they said in the statement.


The consultations are expected to produce recommendations within 18 months.


Source: Reuters


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