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Environment chiefs discuss biodiversity

PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon Province (Yonhap) ― A global meeting of environment ministers and heads of related international organizations began in the eastern city of Pyeongchang on Wednesday to discuss ways to conserve biodiversity for sustainable development.

The high-level meeting was organized as part of the 12th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is underway in the city. It brings together some 20 heads of international organizations, including the United Nations Development Program and the Global Environment Facility and environment ministers from about 50 countries.

In a keynote speech at the meeting, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won said South Korea will make efforts to preserve the ecosystem of the Demilitarized Zone, a legacy of inter-Korean division and confrontation.

“I hope the DMZ will be made into a space for sustainable reconciliation and peace,” he said. “South Korea is going to make the ecological system of the DMZ healthier by creating and running a world ecological park inside the zone in cooperation with North Korea and the international community, including the United Nations.”

The DMZ, a 4-kilometer-wide and 250-kilometer-long cease-fire buffer zone at the inter-Korean border, is a wild habitat for over 5,000 animal and plant species, including 106 endangered species.

“Biodiversity is a prerequisite for the survival of mankind,” the premier said. He urged countries in the world to muster their wisdom to prevent a further decrease of biological diversity “before it gets too late.”
Prime Minister Chung Hong-won delivers a keynote speech during the opening ceremony of the senior-level discussion of the 12th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Chung Hong-won delivers a keynote speech during the opening ceremony of the senior-level discussion of the 12th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The prime minister also pledged to double South Korea’s official development assistance for biodiversity by next year.

“Seoul will expand its ODA regarding biodiversity by 2015 to twice the average size recorded from the 2006-2010 period,” Chung noted in the speech.

“As the hosting country of this general meeting, South Korea will serve as a bridge between the developed and developing countries,” the prime minister said, also vowing efforts to help recover ecosystems in the forests of developing nations.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his congratulatory video message, said the world has made important progress in its efforts to preserve biodiversity but still has a long way to go.

He called for countries’ efforts to have biodiversity included in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, a process led by the U.N. that aims to help define the future global development framework that will succeed the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight global development targets, which come to an end in 2015.

The high-level meeting will consist of three sessions ― the integration of the goals of sustainable development and biological diversity; climate change, biodiversity and creative economy; and peace and biodiversity, according to organizers.

Participants will adopt a “Gangwon Declaration” encompassing the results of the biodiversity conference at the end of the high-level meeting Thursday.

The declaration to be adopted is expected to include the South Korean government’s interest in the preservation of biodiversity in the DMZ.

The 12th biodiversity conference, which began on Sept. 29 for a 19-day run with some 20,000 representatives from 124 countries attending, is scheduled to undertake a midterm review of the implementation of a 2011-2020 strategic plan for biodiversity.

The Convention on Biological Diversity, informally known as the Biodiversity Convention, was adopted at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development held in Brazil in 1992 to address environmental problems facing the planet.

The multilateral treaty handling all aspects of biological diversity, including genetic resources, species and ecosystems, is one of the three U.N. conventions aimed at protecting the environment along with the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention to Combat Desertification.
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