Nearly 200 countries have agreed to a global treaty aimed at protecting the biodiversity of the world's forests, coral reefs, and other threatened ecosystems.
The agreement was met with applause and relief after two weeks of heated negotiations, after environment ministers from 193 countries agreed to a landmark deal aimed at ensuring greater protection of nature and stemming the catastrophic loss of species.
Talks at the United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity in the Japanese city of Nagoya had been deadlocked until early on October 30, and agreement on some parts of the deal had taken years of difficult negotiations.
Japanese Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto hailed today's deal as a major accomplishment in preserving the natural biosphere.
"We were able to create ambitious yet practical post-2010 goals without undue delay," Matsumoto said. "I believe that the setting of the Aichi target will have an extremely large meaning for the future of biodiversity."
The Nagoya Protocol sets new 2020 targets to expand protected areas on land and at sea in the hopes of halting the loss of animals and plant species across the planet.
Japanese Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto hailed the significance of the treaty.
Countries agreed to protect 17 percent of land and inland waters and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas within the next decade. Currently, only 13 percent of land and less than 1 percent of oceans are protected for conservation.
Environmentalists warn that the world faces the worst extinction rate since the dinosaurs disappeared some 65 million years ago.Benefits For Developing World
The 193 states also agreed on rules governing how countries share benefits derived from forests and seas more equitably -- a key issue that had threatened to derail the two-week talks in Nagoya.
The deal could represent billions of dollars in new funds for developing countries, which have long complained of not benefiting sufficiently from their natural resources.
Speaking to reporters after the talks, the head of the European Commission's Environment Department, Karl Falkenberg, said the Nagoya Protocol would help fight poverty in developing countries.
"We will be able to remunerate access to genetic materials that will increase the livelihoods of many, many people," Falkenberg said. "So I think it's for everyone a very good result, and I'm very happy that we did it tonight here in Nagoya."
The outcome of the Nagoya summit sends a positive signal to troubled UN climate negotiations, following the collapse of the Copenhagen summit last year.
UN climate talks resume in Cancun, Mexico, in a month.
Environmentalists welcomed the Nagoya Protocol, but said many of the targets were not bold enough.
The United States, a major polluter, has also declined to join the biodiversity convention.with agency reports