20% of species 'face extinction'


Up to one fifth of animal and plant species are under the threat of extinction, a global conservation study has claimed.

The report by more than 170 scientists used data for 25,000 species from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of threatened species

The report is being published at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Japan, where governments are discussing how to better protect the natural world.

It says that intensive conservation work has already helped some species recover from the brink of extinction.

The report says that amphibians remain the most threatened category of animals, with 41 per cent of species at risk, while only 13 per cent of birds qualify for Red-Listing.

Ministers from around the world today began a final push for a UN deal to protect nature, urged by the World Bank to value the benefits of forests, oceans and rivers on economies and human welfare.

Senior officials from nearly 200 countries have gathered in Nagoya, Japan, to set new goals for 2020 to fight animal and plant extinctions after they missed a goal for a "significant reduction" in losses of biological diversity by 2010.

The meeting hopes to push governments and businesses to commit to sweeping steps to protect ecosystems under threat, such as forests that clean the air, insects that pollinate crops and coral reefs that nurture valuable fisheries.

World Bank head Robert Zoellick, speaking at the start of a three-day session of mostly environment ministers, said finance ministers and businesses also needed to take note of the value that nature provides for food, medicines, tourism and industry.

"Productivity of the land and seas is diminishing, and with them the ecosystem services that are crucial for people to get out of poverty," he said. "Endangered species are fading away forever before our very eyes."

Envoys have been negotiating since last week for agreement on the new 2020 target and a 20-point strategic plan that aims to protect fish stocks, fight the loss and degradation of natural habitats and conserve larger land and marine areas.

But countries have been split on the level of ambition and have bickered over who will pay for the efforts. Current funding for fighting biodiversity loss is about $3 billion a year but some developing nations say this should be increased 100-fold.

Japan, chair of the talks, offered $2 billion to developing countries over three years from 2010, but it was unclear if Europe would match the efforts.

The United States has not ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity and is taking part in the talks only as an observer.