Some 200 companies and practitioners have recently gathered at a European meeting to discuss how motorway and railway construction can contribute to biodiversity conservation. Organized by Eiffage, a large construction group, and the University of Paris 1, the workshop was hosted by the European Business and Biodiversity Campaign in Paris.
Case studies dealing, inter alia, with the challenges of bat flights crossing motorways, the effect of road and rail construction on the distribution of newts and the results of landscape restoration in southern France were presented. Legal aspects related to the construction business were reviewed.
“This was not a publicity exercise, or a corporate social responsibility event, but a meeting to exchange practical information, to learn from each other and to raise key biodiversity issues for the construction sector,” said Valerie David, Group Director for Sustainable Development of the Eiffage Group.
One of the challenges for the industry in France is how to comply with European rules and regulations, an issue that was addressed in the first session of the meeting. Another key aspect is how to deal with the biodiversity impacts of development projects and avoid and mitigate the damage to the environment. The concept of habitat restoration was discussed, and examples were provided from several regions of France. Compensation for biodiversity impacts, offsets and how to determine the value of biodiversity were also tackled.
IUCN Regional Director for Europe, Hans Friederich, commented: “This was an interesting meeting with a very broad mix of participants, including several IUCN Members and biologists, as well as a large number of industry representatives who may be less convinced about the values of ecosystem services. The case studies that were presented illustrate that many companies are taking biodiversity issues more and more seriously”.
The event was organized under the auspices of the European Business and Biodiversity Campaign, a partnership of several organisations including IUCN, managed by the Global Nature Fund and co-financed by the European Commission Life+ programme.