SYRACUSE: The environment ministers of rich and emerging nations Wednesday sought new commitments to stopping the alarming loss of biodiversity on the second day of climate change talks in Italy.
Ministers from 16 leading economies were expected to agree a “Syracuse Charter spelling out ways to reinforce and extend a goal first set in 2002 to reduce biodiversity loss by 2010.
Host Italy says adversity can be turned to advantage by looking at business opportunities in the fight against biodiversity loss.
The Syracuse Charter will provide a “new stimulus by viewing biodiversity “no longer as a limitation but as a resource and as an opportunity for development, the host delegation said in a statement.
Climate change is a growing threat to biodiversity at a time when a quarter of all animal and plant species may be at risk of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Species are becoming extinct at a dizzying rate – between 100 and 1,000 times the natural pace of extinction – scientists say.
UN talks on the hotly contested issue in Bonn last year led to a vague statement that efforts to reduce and adapt to global warming should avoid potentially negative impacts on biodiversity.
The cost of bailing out financial institutions during the economic meltdown, while huge, pales in comparison to the lost value caused every year by ecological damage to the environment, experts say.
The Biodiversity Convention is an offspring of the 1992 Earth Summit, but it has long played the frustrating role of junior partner to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, Rio’s other landmark treaty.
The three-day meeting in Sicily brings together countries responsible for more than 40 percent of the world’s carbon gas emissions.
The United States and China each use up about a fifth of total global biocapacity, but US per capita consumption is much higher.
The administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, was expected in Syracuse on Thursday on her first international trip in the job.
Last week, in a landmark turnaround that could impact US climate change regulation, Jackson’s EPA deemed carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases a health risk.
The move marks a significant shift on climate change from the Bush administration, which failed to heed EPA warnings on the possibly devastating consequences of inaction.
The G8 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.
The G8 is one of several forums on the way to a UN meeting in Copenhagen in December aimed at sealing an international pact for curbing greenhouse gases beyond 2012, when Kyoto expires.
The G8 ministers have been joined by their counterparts from China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea and Egypt.
The Czech Republic – current holder of the rotating European Union presidency – plus the European Commission and Denmark as host of the upcoming Copenhagen conference are also attending the talks.
The UN goal is either to halve emissions compared with a benchmark year, or to peg temperature increases below 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times.
Activists planned a protest later Thursday, but far from the heavily secured G8 venue, the medieval Maniace Castle at the tip of a peninsula jutting off Syracuse.
The protest will denounce “the environmental disasters for which the meeting participants are responsible, who are part of the problem, and certainly not part of the solution, a Contro-G8 (Against G8) group said in a statement.
“The logic of proit that they defend as a system of social control is bringing our planet to environmental self-destruction.