G8,poor nations sign deal to halt biodiversity loss

Fri Apr 24, 2009 11:07am BST

* G8, developing countries sign biodiversity charter

* No breakthrough on climate change



By Daniel Flynn and Massimiliano di Giorgio

SYRACUSE, Italy, April 24 (Reuters) - Environment ministers from major rich and developing nations sealed a deal on Friday to try to slow the rate of species loss around the world but failed to make a breakthrough in climate change negotiations.

Almost every country in the world in 2002 agreed to a "significant reduction" in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, but scientists say extinctions are gathering pace.

Members of the Group of Eight (G8) industrial countries and major developing economies, meeting on the island of Sicily, signed a charter to extend the deal on biodiversity loss.

Delegates said the Syracuse Charter stated the link between climate change and species extinction and emphasised the economic value of biodiversity, particularly in developing countries.

By some calculations, extinction rates are running at 1,000 times their natural pace due to human influence. Three species disappear every hour, according to U.N. figures.

Delegates also held talks on climate change as part of a U.N.-sponsored process to try to clinch a new deal on cutting carbon emissions to replace the 1997 Kyoto pact.

The Kyoto Protocol, which caps greenhouse gas emissions, runs out in 2012 and leaders from around the world will meet in Copenhagen in December to forge a successor treaty.

Environmentalists hope renewed engagement by the United States under President Barack Obama will result in a deal.

But delegates said wide differences remained on the financing of technological change and the level of emissions cuts required. Poor nations want the industrialised West to fund billions of dollars in technology.

"I think Syracuse has shown realism has set in: the realisation that time is running out," said Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Programme. "I do leave Syracuse very much concerned that there is as yet no clear pathway to resolving the gaps which remain."

About 1,000 anti-globalisation and environmental protesters marched in Syracuse on Thursday under the banner "No G8", but tight security meant they could not pass close to the castle where ministers were meeting.

The G8 meeting grouped for the first time nine developing economies, including Brazil, India and China -- by some calculations the world's largest carbon producer -- in an effort to forge a worldwide consensus.

Obama has pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, overturning his predecessor George W. Bush's refusal to take part in the Kyoto deal, but U.N. officials have called for more.

"The U.S. government now fully acknowledges the urgency and complexity of climate change challenges," said Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who declined to discuss the details of negotiations.

The United Nations has set a goal of halving emissions by 2050, but has not set a base year for the comparison. (Editing by Janet Lawrence)