NAGOYA, Japan (Reuters) – Nearly 200 nations agreed on Saturday to a sweeping plan to stem the loss of species by setting new 2020 targets to ensure greater protection of nature and enshrine the benefits it gives mankind.
Environment ministers from around the globe also agreed on rules for sharing the benefits from genetic resources from nature between governments and companies, a trade and intellectual property issue that could be worth billions of dollars in new funds for developing nations.
Agreement on parts of the deal has taken years of at times heated negotiations, and talks in the Japanese city of Nagoya were deadlocked until the early hours of Saturday after two weeks of talks.
Delegates agreed goals to protect oceans, forests and rivers as the world faces the worst extinction rate since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago.
They also agreed to take steps to put a price on the value of benefits such as clean water from watersheds and coastal protection by mangroves by including such “natural capital” into national accounts.
Services provided by nature to economies were worth trillions of dollars a year, the head of the U.N. Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said in a statement, adding businesses from banks to miners were key in halting rapid loss of ecosystems.
“These goals recognize and value the irreplaceable benefits that nature provides to people in the form of food, fuel, fiber, fodder and freshwater that everyone depends on,” Andrew Deutz, director of international government relations for U.S.-based The Nature Conservancy, told Reuters.
Delegates and greens said the outcome would send a positive signal to troubled U.N. climate negotiations that have been become bogged down by a split between rich and poor nations over how to share the burden in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
U.N. climate talks resume in Mexico in a month.
“We’re delighted there’s been a successful outcome to these long and tortuous negotiations and I think it shows that these multilateral negotiations can deliver a good result,” said Peter Cochrane, head of Australia’s delegation in Nagoya.
Delegates agreed to a 20-point strategic plan to protect fish stocks, fight the loss and degradation of natural habitats and to conserve larger land and marine areas.
They also set a broader 2020 “mission” to take urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity.
Nations agreed to protect 17 percent of land and inland waters and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020. Currently, 13 percent of land and 1 percent of oceans are protected for conservation.
The third part of the deal, the Nagoya Protocol on genetic resources, has taken nearly 20 years to agree and sets rules governing how nations manage and share benefits derived from forests and seas to create new drugs, crops or cosmetics.
The protocol could unlock billions of dollars for developing countries, where much of the world’s natural riches remain.
“The protocol is really, really a victory,” Brazil’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira told reporters.
It will also mean changes for businesses.
“This isn’t a boring protocol. It will regulate billions of dollars for the pharmaceutical industry,” said Tove Ryding, policy adviser for biodiversity and climate change for Greenpeace.
Karl Falkenberg, head of the European Commission’s environment department, said it would also fight poverty.
“We finally have something that is going to give great results for the environment, for the poor people,” who will be able to earn money in exchange for access to genetic materials, he said after the talks ended.
Delegates and greens had feared the ill-feeling that pervaded climate negotiations after last December’s acrimonious meeting in Copenhagen would derail the talks in Nagoya.
“There’s been a mood of change. I think the failure of the Copenhagen meeting last year perhaps has meant a new realization that we need to more flexible in negotiations,” said Jane Smart, director of conservation policy for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.