HYDERABAD, India — Negotiators at a UN summit locked horns Friday over the extent to which wealthy nations should bankroll ambitious targets for reversing the loss of Earth's dwindling natural resources.
Hours after they were meant to have concluded their talks, nearly 80 ministers and deputies continued working into the night, huddled behind closed doors in a bid to break the deadlock.
Decisions were adopted by late afternoon on boosting protection of the oceans and awarding the next meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2014 to South Korea.
UN countries agreed at a conference in Japan in 2010 to reverse by 2020 the worrying decline in the natural bounty on which humans depend for food, shelter and livelihoods.
But the 20-point plan has been hamstrung by a lack of money for conservation efforts at a time of global financial austerity.
This week 400 plants and animals were added to a "Red List" of species at risk of extinction, raising the stakes.
A quarter of the world's mammals, 13 percent of birds, 41 percent of amphibians and 33 percent of reef-building corals are now at risk of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Parties mostly agree that rich nations' funding of poor countries' biodiversity efforts should double if they mean to stop and reverse the decline, conference delegates said.
But they disagree over the details of when they should increase funding, for how long, and what measures the developing world will agree to in return -- like reporting on their biodiversity spending and preparing national plans.
"It's not looking like the final deal will be very ambitious," commented Lasse Gustavsson, WWF International's executive director of conservation.
Host India, backed by a group of developing countries, has proposed that the aid be doubled from 2015 -- five years earlier than the original draft proposal.
The Hyderabad CBD meeting is meant to come up with tangible ways to execute what is known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets adopted two years ago.
They include halving the rate of habitat loss, expanding water and land areas under conservation, preventing the extinction of species on the threatened list, and restoring at least 15 percent of degraded ecosystems -- all by 2020.
Estimates vary, but experts say hundreds of billions of dollars will be required to achieve the targets set in Japan -- expanding conservation areas, training and scientific research.
A closing plenary session was held on Friday afternoon to adopt a host of non-contested agreements, in the absence of finance negotiators who remained in closed talks.
Green groups welcomed the adoption of a deal on ocean protection.
"For once the planet and in particular the oceans can claim a partial victory," said Greenpeace.
"Representatives of member states agreed to a set of measures that will see, for the first time, the introduction of effective protection of marine biodiversity."
CBD countries identified more than 50 zones that need to be protected on the high seas, where no national laws apply and international rules are often vague.
A final decision on declaring them protected areas must be taken by the UN General Assembly.
Mostly unguarded, these areas have become an important hunting ground for fish trawlers and oil prospectors, putting at risk many marine species that call these waters home.
The ministerial section of the talks, which opened on Wednesday, comes at the tail-end of two weeks of tough negotiations by senior bureaucrats from 184 CBD parties.
The plenary was suspended and will resume once a finance deal is struck. No timetable was given.
"Looking like another long evening in Hyderabad as talks on resources continue," tweeted the European Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potocnik.
The convention, to which 193 countries are signatories, marks its 20th anniversary this year.
It has already missed one key deadline when it failed to meet the target set to halt biodiversity loss by 2010.
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