EU overseas entities in deep water – IUCN and ONERC

07 July 2008 | International news release

The European Union’s overseas entities are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. But a new report from IUCN and the French Observatory for the Impacts of Global Warming (ONERC) shows for the first time that their weakness in the face of climate change could work to their advantage, if the EU is ready to invest.

The report says that EU overseas entities will be among the first European territories to feel the full force of global warming on their life and livelihoods. Because of this they need special political consideration and adequate financial means to experiment with new strategies, says IUCN. 

“Each island and territory needs a specific evaluation to properly define specific areas of vulnerability to climate change and to put in place strategies for adaptation,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN. “These could serve as a model for the rest of Europe and the world, while also playing a dynamic role in their own regions.”

Each island has a distinct climate and geography, which results in species that are tailored to these unique environments. Situated in three large oceans and over a range of latitudes, overseas entities play host to more endemic species than are found on the whole of continental Europe.

Significant changes in temperatures, tropical storms and sea levels have already been observed in Europe’s overseas entities. Islands in general are vulnerable to climate change because species here have limited means of migration. This means they can easily be driven to extinction.

In the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe the impact of rising sea temperatures, along with rising sea levels, will erode beaches and damage coral reefs. The increased frequency and intensity of tropical storms could have a negative impact on the island’s economy.

The report also says that the natural forests on Reunion Island, in the southern Indian Ocean, are likely to be seriously affected by climate change over the next few decades. The 193 natural habitats on the island are located on different slopes and dependent on a very delicate balance between humidity and temperature, which is likely to be disrupted by climate change. Rising temperatures will lead to uphill migration of plants wiping out many of the more fragile species on the upper slopes.

“The EU’s overseas entities are home to a wealth of plant and animal species that is as rich as it is vulnerable,” adds Marton-Lefèvre. “Delegates attending the Reunion meeting must make funds available so that the EU’s entities can adapt to the possibly devastating impacts of climate change.”

The report, Climate Change and Biodiversity in the European Union Overseas Entities is launched today at a top level summit on strategies to counter climate change and biodiversity loss in EU overseas entities and Small Island States (Reunion Island, 7-11 July).

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact: Brian Thomson, IUCN Global Communications, mob +41 79 721 8326, email brian.thomson@iucn.org. Wiebke Herding, IUCN Regional Communications Officer, tel +32 485 424 661; email wiebke.herding@iucn.org

Editors Notes:
• To download the report Impacts of Climate Change on the Biodiversity of EU Overseas Territories, please go to http://reunion2008.eu/pages/fr/fr-publication.html and http://reunion2008.eu/pages/en/en-publication.html