Conference tackles loss of biodiversity

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Tackling global loss of wildlife is as big a challenge as addressing climate change, conservation experts have warned as an international meeting gets under way aimed at stopping species and habitats vanishing across the world.

Governments are meeting in Nagoya, Japan, hoping to agree on 20 targets to conserve nature and tackle problems including pollution, invasive species, the destruction of habitat, perverse subsidies and over-consumption of resources such as fish.

The conference comes after scientists revealed that previous targets to slow the rate of losses in biodiversity by 2010 had not been met – and that some of the problems were getting worse.

Jane Smart, director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's biodiversity conservation group, said: "We're at the point of no return in so many areas of the natural world, losing countless numbers of species and the essential services of the natural environment in which we live. The conference in Nagoya could be the last chance to come up with a new plan that works – there is no Plan B and certainly no Planet B."

Professor Stephen Hopper, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said the talks needed to reaffirm global commitments to substantially reduce the loss of biodiversity in the world.

"It's not as though we don't know what to do – it's really important that the meeting affirms a commitment to caring for biodiversity and sustainable use of resources," he said.

Comparing action on protecting wildlife, including plants, with the fight against global warming, he said: "Biodiversity loss is as big or even more significant a long-term challenge to us – extinction is final, whereas with climate change we have the prospect of getting on top of it if we change our behaviour. Despite Jurassic Park, our prospects in our present state of knowledge of restoring extinct species is zero."

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