THE Environment Minister, Tony Burke, is set to skip a key international meeting later this month that will negotiate a new global agreement on biodiversity being called ''the Kyoto Protocol for all living things''.
The meeting in Nagoya, Japan, will attempt to set new global targets to reduce the loss of plants and animals after the world failed to reach a 2010 target to ''significantly reduce'' biodiversity decline.
The United Nations has named 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity in recognition the world is still losing wildlife up to 1000 times faster than the natural rate.
Mr Burke yesterday gave no reason for his absence at the Nagoya meeting, which will negotiate a new round of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
''The government is still determining the level of representation,'' he said.
In the past ministers have often skipped major convention meetings. But green groups had hoped Nagoya would attract world environment ministers because it is the International Year of Biodiversity and a new global agreement needs to be settled.
The meeting's agenda includes a range of 2020 targets to protect biodiversity, including targets to slow habitat loss and conserve waterways.
It also wants to establish the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services to act as the biodiversity equivalent of the UN scientific body on global warming the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The WWF conservation director, Gilly Llewellyn, said the Convention on Biological Diversity was the best opportunity to make real commitments towards protecting the environment this year.
''But even more important than who attends the upcoming meeting is what governments do to make the international goals a reality,'' Dr Llewellyn said.
The Australian government is expected to make public a new National Biodiversity Plan in the coming weeks.
The Herald has previously reported the plan is expected to contain 10 national targets to help reduce the loss of biodiversity, including a target to reduce the impact of feral animals by 10 per cent by 2015.