EU islands and overseas territories: The key for successful climate change adaptation strategies and biodiversity policies

21 December 2011 | News story

“Islands and overseas entities' strategic location and unique assets offer leadership opportunities for the European Union (EU) and its Member States in biodiversity conservation, climate change adaption, green economy, renewable energy and marine conservation,” argued Dominique Benzaken, IUCN at the  conference on Islands and Overseas Entities’ Contribution to Biodiversity Conservation and the Fight Against Climate Change. The event took place yesterday at the European Parliament.

All participants of the conference agreed that islands and overseas entities’ specificities urgently need to be integrated in global, EU, national and regional biodiversity and climate change policies and programmes.

Europe overseas include almost 80% of Europe’s known living species and have the highest rates of endemism. The contribution of the biological assets of these territories is critical in ensuring the successful implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP10 decisions, in particular the Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing. EU’s commitments to the global biodiversity goals set by the CBD will benefit from action in its Overseas Entities. “In this regard, it is important to put emphasis on sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystem services in these territories”, said Ahmed Djoghlaf, CBD Executive Secretary.

Closing the knowledge gap through a bottom-up approach and strong political commitments are necessary prerequisites to fully integrate islands and overseas entities’ specificities in EU and International policies. A number of initiatives show the power of engaging all key players. These include, among others, IFREBIOM, the French strategy for biodiversity in overseas, and NET-BIOME, a consortium of overseas entities working together on tropical and subtropical research in support of sustainable development.

“Access to funding sources for islands and overseas entities should be strengthened. The BEST Open Call for Proposals is the first step in this direction but we should go further,” stressed Maurice Ponga, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). “Working together towards a durable BEST scheme to promote conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Europe overseas should be the way forward," argued Robert Flies from the European Commission DG Environment.

Besides BEST, the new EU Cohesion Policy for the post-2013 period offers promising prospects. Other doors could be opened by the LIFE+ Programme, in discussion in the European Parliament soon. “It is vitally important to open LIFE+ to islands and overseas entities,” said MEP Struan Stevenson.

Chaired by MEP Maurice Ponga, this conference took place on 20 December 2011, at the European Parliament in Brussels and brought together high level International, European, national and regional experts. It was organized by the Secretariat of the European Parliament Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development, run jointly by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the European Bureau for Conservation and Development (EBCD), an IUCN Member.

All statements, presentations and a report of the conference will be availalbe here.

For more information, please contact IUCN Programme on Europe Overseas or EBCD.