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Chirac calls for new panel to tackle decline in biodiversity

French President Jacques Chirac has called for the creation of an intergovernmental group on biodiversity change, to operate along the same lines as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Speaking at an international conference on biodiversity, Mr Chirac said t...

French President Jacques Chirac has called for the creation of an intergovernmental group on biodiversity change, to operate along the same lines as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Speaking at an international conference on biodiversity, Mr Chirac said that the IPCC has brought about scientific consensus on the reality and significance of global warming, which many experts initially refused to admit. 'We need a similar type of mechanism for biodiversity. I hope that this conference will prove to be a decisive step in this direction. I hereby call on all scientists to join forces in order to set up a worldwide network of experts,' said the French President. This 'vast programme of international cooperation' would have to involve all relevant scientific disciplines, and would enable the international community to 'shoulder its responsibilities', Mr Chirac added. He reminded listeners that industrialised countries developed through exploiting natural resources. But there does not have to be a contradiction between protection of the environment and economic growth, he said. The concept of such an intergovernmental grouping for biodiversity is not new, but as yet it has failed to win enough support to get off the ground. Concerns include the cost of such a project, and unease in some countries that it may detract attention from their more immediate priorities. But as Mr Chirac underlined, the shrinking of the Earth's biodiversity is now undeniable. 'On all continents and in all oceans, the warning beacons are lighting up. We can no longer ignore proof of the frequently irremediable erosion of the living environment,' he said. He also emphasised the urgency of the situation: 'Species have always disappeared as a result of the effect of natural renewal of ecosystems. But they are now disappearing, it would seem, 1,000 times faster. So fast that some scientists fear that modern societies may be in the process of bringing about the sixth great wave of extinction of species since life first appeared on Earth.' Mr Chirac implied that the international community has thus far failed to demonstrate its commitment to protecting biodiversity. He questioned the effectiveness of decisions taken since the drawing up of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1993, which, he said, make the target of arresting the decline in biodiversity by 2010 'unattainable unless we take the requisite urgent measures'. The President therefore proposed the appointment of a committee of independent wise men to examine the mechanisms of the convention and suggest ways of improving them.

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