German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged industrialized and emerging countries to invest more in protecting wildlife and said the U.N. should create a body to refine scientific arguments for saving animal and plant species.
Researchers say preserving nature is crucial to the fight against climate change and warn that human activity is speeding up extinctions. They also argue that peoples’ livelihoods depend on natural assets worth trillions of dollars.
Extinction rates run at 1,000 times their natural pace due to human activity, research shows. Three species vanish per hour, according to U.N. figures.
“The question of preserving biological diversity is on the same scale as climate protection,” Merkel said Monday at an event to launch the United Nations’ Year of Biodiversity.
“We need a sea change. Here, now, immediately — not some time in the future,” she said. “This year has to be used to relaunch this effort.” Germany is chair of the U.N. Convention on Biodiversity and hands over to Japan later in the year.
Merkel said countries should invest more money in protecting species and create a network of wildlife protection areas.
She also suggested setting up a new body to deal with the science of biodiversity, similar to the U.N.’s panel of climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“It would be sensible to have an interface between the politics and the science to integrate knowledge, like the IPCC does with climate change,” she said, adding such a body could help drive forward the political work.
Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the U.N. Environment Program, agreed, saying the time had come to do something comparable to the IPCC on the subject of biodiversity.
Up to a fifth of plant and animal species risk extinction, according to experts, and nations have missed a goal set by the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in 2002 to significantly slow the loss of biodiversity by 2010.
Ahmed Djoghlaf, CBD Executive Secretary, said it was essential to set new targets this year.
“We have established a target and missed it… we have to learn the lesson to ensure that in 2020, we will not say ‘we have missed the target’.”
“The strategy must be not only about setting a target but about implementation, monitoring and evaluation and integrating targets into national plans,” said Djoghlaf.