The ‘Aichi Target' adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at its Nagoya conference could not have come at a more appropriate time. The journal Science recently published a study by Michael Hoffmann and his colleagues titled “The Impact of Conservation on the Status of the World's Vertebrates.” This presents depressing data on threatened species. The scientists conclude that four important factors — agricultural expansion, logging, over-exploitation, and invasive species — are pushing an increasing number of vertebrates towards extinction; every year, 52 mammals, birds, and amphibians are moving one category closer to extinction, adding to the existing list. There is little doubt that many invertebrate species and flora are also imperilled by the same pressures. The data are worrying, but they also contain a message of hope. Many species have benefitted from conservation initiatives, the study shows, indicating that enlightened government policy can save biodiversity. The growing body of evidence should convince the 193 members of the CBD to take their goals seriously and draw up sound national biodiversity plans by 2012, the target year for implementation. It will take a lot of political will and funding to achieve the task, but the alternative is to impoverish the natural world and endanger human well being.

Japan has set the pace for conservation by creating a $2 billion fund for the key ‘Aichi Target' of halving the rate of biodiversity loss. But much more funding will be necessary to encourage developing countries to stop the degradation and unsustainable exploitation of forests, wetlands, and coastlines. It must be borne in mind that the CBD has admitted to failing in its original goal, which was to reduce loss of biodiversity significantly by 2010. The lack of progress is not surprising, because not enough funding was provided by rich nations. For instance, the members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development have been donating much more for climate change mitigation projects than for biodiversity conservation. This pattern makes it clear that the two environmental priorities have to be aligned more closely to make progress with the ten-year strategic plan finalised in Nagoya. In the Indian context, biodiversity concerns have been generally relegated to the background during the Environmental Impact Assessment process for land use change. This is particularly the case when the projects are small. Moreover, the EIA is often conducted by agencies that collect no original data on biological diversity to back their reports. India's performance in this area will be under the spotlight when the CBD meets in New Delhi in 2012.

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