Message from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Merkel also suggested setting up a new body to deal with the science of biodiversity, similar to the U.N.'s panel of climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
"It would be sensible to have an interface between the politics and the science to integrate knowledge, like the IPCC does with climate change," she said, adding such a body could help drive forward the political work.
Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the U.N. Environment Program, agreed, saying the time had come to do something comparable to the IPCC on the subject of biodiversity.
Merkel also said countries should invest more money in protecting species and create a network of wildlife protection areas.
Germany is chair of the U.N. Convention on Biodiversity and hands over to Japan later in the year.
Up to a fifth of plant and animal species risk extinction, according to experts.
Eight years ago, governments pledged to significantly slow the loss of biodiversity by 2010, but the pledge will not be met. The expansion of human cities, farming and infrastructure is the main reason.
As natural systems such as forests and wetlands disappear, humanity loses the services they currently provide for free. These include purification of air and water, protection from extreme weather events, and the provision of materials for shelter and fire.
Conservation organisations acknowledge that despite some regional successes, the target is not going to be met; some analyses suggest that nature loss is accelerating rather than decelerating.
Ahmed Djoghlaf, CBD Executive Secretary, said it was essential to set new targets this year.
"We have established a target and missed it... we have to learn the lesson to ensure that in 2020, we will not say 'we have missed the target'."
"The strategy must be not only about setting a target but about implementation, monitoring and evaluation and integrating targets into national plans," said Djoghlaf.
"We are facing an extinction crisis," said Jane Smart, director of the biodiversity conservation group with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). "The loss of this beautiful and complex natural diversity that underpins all life on the planet is a serious threat to humankind now and in the future."
The UN hopes some kind of legally-binding treaty to curb biodiversity loss can be agreed at the CBD summit, held in Japan in October.
One element is due to be a long-awaited protocol under which the genetic resources of financially-poor but biodiversity-rich nations can be exploited in a way that brings benefits to all.
However, given the lack of appetite for legally-binding environmental agreements that key countries displayed at last month's climate summit in Copenhagen, it is unclear just what kind of deal might materialise on biodiversity.
"The big opportunity during the International Year of Biodiversity is for governments to do for biodiversity what they failed to do for climate change in Copenhagen," said Simon Stuart, a senior science advisor to Conservation International and chair of IUCN's Species Survival Commission.
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