“Europe should be proud and treasure the wilderness it still has, but it needs to do more” said Ladislav Miko, Minister of the Environment of the Czech Republic. Wilderness and wild areas form less than one percent of Europe’s surface but are a vital part of its natural heritage. Many of them are facing imminent threats that require a rapid and effective response.
Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic, commenting on the social and ethical aspects of the issue noted that “We are blurring natural boundaries: forests are no longer forests, meadows are no longer meadows. We have lost sight of eternity and infinity and are destroying nature for future generations."
Pavan Sukhdev, study leader of the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) report, noted that “We are prisoners of a system which favors manmade capital over national capital and human capital and favor private goods over public goods… that is the problem”. Wild areas are the shock absorbers and a connector for isolated protected sites. They are the insurance for our future and investing in them remains critical. Protected areas today produce USD 4,500 to 5,200 billion in services and we currently invest only USD 6 billion.
Over the last 40 years, some 25% of biodiversity on the planet has been lost due to the destruction of habitats, overexploitation, pollution, and increasingly climate change and invasive species. In the EU alone, 60% of most valuable habitats are in unfavorable conservation status.
“The commitment by governments to halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 seems increasingly out of reach and Europe will have to re-double its efforts if it is to come close to this target. European wilderness is the building block for a greener Europe” said Ladislav Miko.
More than 240 participants from 40 countries from governments, nature agencies, conservation NGOs, academics, individuals and interested parties to landowners, agriculture, forestry, business and other sectors for the first time joined efforts to focus action on the remaining wild areas of Europe.
The participants identified the key elements for an ambitious and groundbreaking agenda including policy development, key research, awareness raising, partnerships, etc which will create a wilder Europe.
“The conference inspires us all to start rethinking our relationship to nature. During the Swedish Presidency special attention will be given to the links between biodiversity, ecosystem services, climate change, and human well being” stated Asa Norrman, Nature Director, Ministry of the Environment of Sweden.
Read the Message from Prague.