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Coronavirus: Biodiversity meeting moved from China to Italy

ROME, FEBRUARY 3 – Following the rapid spread of the lethal coronavirus in China, Italy will host this month biodiversity meeting, when negotiators are due to review a draft proposal for a global framework to protect the world’s plants and wildlife.

The meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was planned to take place in the southern city of Kunming, in Yunnan province, from 24-29 February. On Friday, the CBD changed the location of the talks to Rome, Italy, at the same dates as initially planned. The announcement comes after the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a “public health emergency of international concern”.

The February talks are a preparatory meeting to the most important summit on the Earth’s living systems in a decade. With Costa Rica, Italy acts as co-facilitator of the negotiations towards the final draft. China is presiding over this year’s critical biodiversity summit, when countries are due to agree on a new global framework to protect plants and wildlife. The talks, known as Cop15, are due to take place in Kunming from 15-28 October.

CBD acting executive secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema said the CBD secretariat recognised “the enormous efforts” being undertaken by China to control the outbreak and limit disruption.

In a letter to participants, she added that the Secretariat and China “regret the inconvenience caused by this change and are committed to ensuring that the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and other preparations (for Cop 15) proceed in a timely and effective manner.”

In a draft proposal earlier in January, the UN suggested that at least 30% of the world’s land and seas should be protected by 2030 to halt the destruction of the planet’s biodiversity from human threats including climate change, loss of habitats, pollution and invasive species.

Negotiators taking part in the upcoming meeting are expected to review the draft and start making proposals for a second version or the text. Charles Barber, a senior biodiversity advisor at the World Resources Institute think tank, told Climate Home News the February meeting would have been “a great chance” for China to “show leadership in the preparatory process” to Cop15. Barber said the outbreak “must certainly distract  high level policy attention” from the meeting. “Assuming the virus is contained within the next month, it should not derail  China’s hosting of the Cop in October,” he said.

“Should it be proven that the coronavirus emanated from human consumption of animals from the wildlife market in Wuhan, we can expect the Cop to shine a much brighter light on the international wildlife trade, and China’s central role in that trade, as well as the whole ‘bushmeat’ issue worldwide,” he added (@OnuItalia)

Il giornale Italiano delle Nazioni Unite. Ha due redazioni, una a New York, l’altra a Roma.

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