Europe’s overseas territories need more protection

02 November 2011 | News story

Giant “Mountain Chicken” frogs, the 25 million bird island, and a rainforest the size of Portugal are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change and in need of greater protection, according to a new report published by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

The study, Future Directions for Biodiversity Action in Europe overseas: Outcomes of the Review of the Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, states that Europe’s commitment to the global biodiversity goals set by the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) will benefit from action in its overseas territories. In this respect, the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its 20 Aichi Targets provide a strong framework of work not only at the global level, but also at the regional and national level.

The report calls for increased action to protect the natural heritage of the more than 30 EU territories and regions found outside the European continent. These territories, from the poles to the tropics, host the most of Europe’s biodiversity, which is globally significant and essential for the livelihoods of local people. The connection between local communities, biodiversity and the benefits provided by it, as well as the impact that climate change has must be recognized to help these regions flourish.

“It’s imperative that funding be realigned so that resources are proportionate to the significance of Europe’s overseas territories biodiversity,” says Dominique Benzaken, IUCN Europe Overseas Programme Coordinator and co-author of the publication. “There also needs to be increased local awareness of global obligations and effective participation in global, European, national and regional biodiversity policies and programmes.”

The report proposes recommendations to protect and sustainably manage the unique natural heritage of Europe overseas and calls for shared responsibility and increased collaboration between all involved.

“There’s been significant progress in some areas thanks to targeted conservation measures such as protected areas. Yet large tracks of key global biodiversity could still be at risk and thus jeopardize the well-being of the local communities,” says Dr Hans Friederich, IUCN Regional Director for Europe. “The internationally recognized biodiversity of Europe overseas not only benefits local people and economies, but also enriches the EU with a unique cultural and natural heritage.”

“The importance of Europe overseas – its biodiversity and the services its nature provides to the whole continent; the solutions it has developed on the sustainable use of its biodiversity, and the opportunity it offers Europe in meeting its CBD targets – cannot be overstated,” says Oliver Hillel, CBD Programme Officer on Sustainable Use, Tourism and Island Biodiversity. “Through its overseas territories, Europe shares the challenges and interests of many island states, and becomes an important steward of global biodiversity. This report will be critical in advancing this awareness and proposing concrete action lines for European policy makers.”

About CBD
The CBD is the main global instrument to guide biodiversity conservation and management. With 192 States and the EU, it is a broad global treaty that provides a comprehensive framework for the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 is a ten-year framework for action by all countries and stakeholders to save biodiversity and enhance its benefits for people. This Plan is comprised of a shared vision, a mission, strategic goals and 20 ambitious yet achievable targets, collectively known as the Aichi Targets.

About IUCN Europe Overseas Programme
With the support from the Government of France, the IUCN Europe Overseas Programme builds partnerships for Europe overseas to meet biodiversity and climate change challenges in these territories. The Programme advances the implementation of the Message from Reunion Island – a series of concrete actions to protect biodiversity, economies and diverse ways of life of Europe overseas.

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Dominique Benzaken, IUCN Europe Overseas Programme Coordinator and co-author of the publication, m: +41 79 264 8797, dominique.benzaken@iucn.org
Anete Berzina, IUCN Communications Specialist, t: +32 2 739 1001, anete.berzina@iucn.org
Maggie Roth, IUCN Media Relations, m: +41 22 999 0115, maggie.roth@iucn.org