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2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity and this autumn there are three major international meetings of considerable significance to biodiversity and nature conservation.


On 20-22 September, the UN General Assembly held a high-level plenary meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), followed by a high-level session on biodiversity. The meeting provided an important opportunity for the international community to reaffirm its commitment to achieving the MDGs by 2015, and to acknowledge the inter-relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem services and poverty alleviation. One of the MDGs is specifically concerned with environmental sustainability. A key issue discussed at the biodiversity session was the establishment of an Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which is intended to play a similar role in relation to biodiversity as the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) has done for climate change.


A few weeks later (18-29 October), the tenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity was held in Nagoya, Japan. The Conference took place against a backdrop of continuing biodiversity loss. The Global Biodiversity Outlook, released last May, acknowledged that the ambitious targets set in 2002 for significantly reducing the rate of global biodiversity loss by 2010 will not be met. 


However, the Nagoya meeting looked forward, and agreement was reached on a strategic plan for the next decade, including new goals and targets to conserve global biodiversity. An agreement was also reached on an international regime on providing access to and sharing benefits from genetic resources (from plants, animals or micro-organisms), which will increase support for developing countries that are financially poor but biodiversity rich. Another important discussion related to the TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) initiative. After three years of study on the role of biodiversity and ecosystems in contributing to human welfare, the final report made recommendations and provided insights into how different economic approaches and instruments could be used to enhance the sustainability of natural resources conservation and use.


Finally, on 29 November - 10 December the 6th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will be held in Cancun, Mexico. This meeting will focus on making progress towards an international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There will also be discussions on the links between biodiversity and climate change, including the possible establishment of a framework on REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), which would provide financial incentives for developing countries to protect and sustainably manage their forests.


A common theme running through all three international meetings is the complexity of the inter-relationships between biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development. Biodiversity has a crucial role in underpinning the ecosystem services that are essential for human well-being. The continued loss of biodiversity therefore has major implications for humanity, both in the long term and more immediately. Biodiversity loss compromises the very natural capital and resource base on which human well-being, not to mention prosperity, depends.


In this context, the commitment shown by Defra to these international meetings is very welcome, and in particular the participation of the Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman, in some of the most crucial high-level discussions. JNCC is playing its part too, by providing scientific support and advice to government. We were especially closely involved in the Convention on Biological Diversity Conference, where two of our staff were part of the UK delegation. The next issue of Nature News will contain a report back from the Conference.


Marcus Yeo

Managing Director