Delegates from the United Nations (UN) met to discuss ways to protect plant and animal life as a 12-day international conference on biodiversity kicked off Monday in Nagoya, Japan.
The meetings feature over 8,000 representatives from all 193 member nations of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and according to Associated Press (AP) writer Malcom Foster, they are attempting to iron out a list of 20 specific target goals to achieve over the next decade.
Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the CBD, opened the event by calling the summit a "defining moment" for mankind, according to the AFP's Kyoko Hasegawa--especially in light of past failures to live up to promises of protecting biodiversity.
"Let's have the courage to look into the eyes of our children and admit that we have failed individually and collectively to... to substantially reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010," he said. "Let us look into the eyes of our children and admit that we continue to lose biodiversity at unprecedented rates."
"The time to act is now and the place to act is here," Djoghlaf added. "Business as usual is no more an option when it comes to life on Earth... we need a new approach, we need to reconnect with nature and live in harmony with nature."
According to Hasegawa, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports that approximately 25% of mammals, 33% of amphibians, 12% of birds, and 20% of plant species currently face the threat of extinction. Furthermore, the AFP reporter says that international conservation group WWF states that people are currently living at a level exceeding the Earth's biocapacity by more than 50-percent, and that "by 2030 humans will effectively need the capacity of two Earths."
Likewise, Foster reports that scientists estimate that our planet's species are dying out at a rate somewhere between 100 and 1,000 times the historical average, and that Harvard University biologist E.O. Wilson and other experts assert that the Earth is experiencing "a man-made environmental crisis" which is currently leading the planet en route to "its sixth big extinction phase, the greatest since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago."
In addition to setting tangible goals to protect plant and animal life and to save habitats from deforestation and pollution, the delegates will also discuss a proposed Access and Benefits Sharing Protocol (ABS) plan that would reimburse countries for medically-useful natural resources discovered within their borders. The ABS plan would require scientists to pay a so-called "gene fee" for any plant or animal life for which a medical or scientific use is discovered.