Delegates from nearly 200 nations agreed on Friday 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 key 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 late on Friday.
“This meeting has delivered a sea change in the global understanding of the multi-trillion dollar importance of biodiversity of forests, wetlands and other ecosystems,” the head of the U.N. Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said in a statement.
Delegates 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.
Delegates held two weeks of talks in Nagoya to map out goals to protect oceans, forests and rivers as the world faces the worst extinction rate since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago. More than 100 ministers joined the talks in the final days.
The meeting aimed to push governments and businesses into taking sweeping steps to protect ecosystems long taken for granted but crucial for providing sources for food, water, tourism and industry.
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 to ensure ecosystems provide essential services for human wellbeing.
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.
“Governments have sent a strong message that protecting the health of the planet has a place in international politics,” said Jim Leape, director-general of conservation group WWF International.
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.
“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.
(Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)