Climate Change

Climate change and biodiversity loss : Message from Reunion Island

The European Union and its Overseas Entities: Strategies to counter Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss

Té / 13 July 2008

Anne-Claire Goarant, South Province, New Caledonia; Frederico Cardigos, Government of the Azores; Evelyne Tarnus, President of the Reunion Island Forum of Young Researchers in Science and Technology; Henri Hoarau, President of the General Youth Council of Reunion Island; Jean-Philippe Palasi, UICN, Coordinator, Overseas Programme; they have read this document. It summarizes the work of 450 delegates from more than 40 overseas countries. Struan Stevenson, Member of the European Parliament, Chair of the Intergroup on Sustainable Development asks the participants of the congress to make this message one of the challenges of the next European elections next year. "The ball is in your camp," he concluded by announcing that the most important Intergroup of the European Parliament will now be called "Adaptation to climate change and biodiversity protection".


Considering the exceptional importance of the biodiversity of European Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) and Outermost Regions (ORs) in comparison with continental Europe, and their vulnerability to climate change;

Considering also the importance of the social and cultural diversity of these European overseas entities (OCTs and ORs), which similarly demonstrate that biodiversity is one of the main assets for the well-being of the populations and the economic development of these territories;

Considering further the fragility of biodiversity, as well as the high degree of endemism found in OCTs and ORs, in particular as it is faced with climate change and other, often interrelated, environmental factors such as invasive alien species, overexploitation of resources, pollution and habitat destruction; taking account also of the socio-economic consequences and risks of these threats, and the need to afford environmental security to the human populations especially but not exclusively, with regard to their food supply, health and well-being;

Noting that the European Union and its Member States, who face many similar environmental threats, have an historic opportunity to learn from OCTs and ORs that are leading the way in developing programmes, which can be scaled up for application now or in the future in mainland Europe.

Taking into account:

The Commission’s communications of 26 May 2005 “A stronger partnership for the outermost regions” and of 12 September 2007 “Strategy for the outermost regions: achievements and future perspectives”;

The Green Paper “Towards a future maritime policy for the Union: a European vision for the oceans and seas”, adopted by the European Commission on 7 June 2006;

The Green Paper “Adapting to climate change in Europe - options for EU action”, adopted by the European Commission in June 2007;

The European Commission Communication of 22 May 2006 entitled: “Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 - and beyond”, as well as the Council Conclusions on the same subject of 18 December 2006;

The final declaration of the OCTs at the OCT-EU Forum in Nuuk in 2006, at which they requested the strengthening of their cooperation with the European Union in terms of adaptation to climate change and the management of oceans and biodiversity;

The overseas element of the “Message from Paris” on “Integrating Biodiversity into European Development Cooperation” approved by the “EU General Affairs and External Relations Council” on the proposal of the EU Finnish Presidency in December 2006;

The “European policy and biodiversity in overseas territories” resolution adopted at the Third IUCN World Conservation Congress in Bangkok in 2004;

The Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) launched under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the Eighth meeting of the Conference of Parties in Curitiba in 2006, whose Strategy was adopted during CBD at its Ninth meeting in Bonn in May 2008, as well as the Programme of Action on Islands adopted by CBD also at its Ninth meeting; and the Programme of Work on marine and coastal biodiversity;

Other recent decisions taken by the CBD Conference of Parties, such as those relating to climate change, IAS, and protected areas

The participants in the conference “The European Union and its Overseas Entities and Strategies to Counter Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss” on Reunion Island from 7-11 July 2008:

Recognise the unique character of the natural heritage of European OCTs and ORs, as well as the threats facing this heritage and the sustainable opportunities it can afford;

Agree to support the recommendations aimed at interventions for all European OCT and OR stakeholders;

Invite all European OCT and OR stakeholders (see attached list) to implement the recommendations noting that:

Issues of biodiversity loss and climate change cannot be addressed effectively unless the link between people, biodiversity and climate is recognized. This needs the involvement of policy makers, civil society, scientists, private sector and the general public;

Develop specific climate scenarios for each OR and OCT, supported by regional modelling; subsequently conduct climate change vulnerability assessments and adaptation plans in all the OCTs and ORs, considering and involving the variety of relevant sectors, adapting existing tools and methodologies; finally, implement and monitor these adaptation measures;

Increase quality and area of protected areas to accommodate climate impacts, apply the ecosystem approach outside protected areas, and reduce the degree of threat from other direct drivers of biodiversity loss;

The environmental impact of invasive alien species tends to be much greater in EU OCTs and ORs than in continental Europe. Island biodiversity is exceptionally vulnerable to invasion because of the long evolutionary isolation of island ecosystems. IAS in OCTs and ORs thus have a disproportionately high impact on wider European biodiversity. Socio-economic impacts are also higher in remote territories where livelihoods, culture and economic opportunities often depend on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Climate change, in association with other environmental pressures, is predicted to aggravate the situation by disrupting ecosystem function and altering species’ distribution;

Economic valuation is one (but not the only) important tool for influencing development strategy and decision making. The profile of economic valuation needs to be raised and effective processes for the communication of results need to be developed. Tools should be appropriate for OCTs and ORs;

There is an urgent need:

- For EU Member States and the European Commission, together with OCTs and ORs, to establish a voluntary scheme for the protection of species and habitats, inspired by the Natura 2000 approach. This scheme should be flexible, adapted to the local situation, balance conservation and development needs and take into account existing mechanisms and tools. The implementation of the scheme should be based on local commitment and shared financing;

- To highlight the importance of conservation, at species level, outside protected areas. The priority should be given to globally threatened species. The elaboration of restoration or management plans is only a first step in the process, that has to be followed by effective implementation;

- For recognition of the tremendous value of networking among existing national parks and other protected areas in order to harmonise monitoring, exchange best practices and share data.

Encourage the EU, the Member States concerned and the OCTs and ORs to adopt these recommendations and to integrate them into their strategies for engagement with their OCTs and ORs, where necessary and appropriate; and

Urge action towards the early development of a network of stakeholders;

Recommend that the EU, including, as appropriate, the Member States, relevant international organisations and the OCTs and ORs strengthen their involvement in regional cooperation efforts,

Encourage the OCTs and ORs the to identify from within their own experience innovative actions aimed at tackling the related challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, and to share their experience and best practice with their neighbours;

Encourage the Member States concerned and the European Union to pay more attention to the challenges facing OCTs and ORs in international negotiations on climate change and biodiversity;

Encourage the EU and the Member States to make stronger reference on the OCTs and ORs in the European Commission’s White Book on Climate Change Adaptation, and to include the OCTs in the Global Climate Change Alliance; draw attention to the fact that that the ORs and OCTs can be outposts for research and observation on climate change and its impact, including on biodiversity, and that this should be taken into account in the European Commission’s White Book on Climate Change Adaptation.

Encourage the EU, OCTs, the ORs, ACP countries and the Small Island Developing States to unite in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss, by actively participating in international initiatives, such as the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) concluded under the Convention on Biological Diversity at its Eighth meeting in Curitiba in 2006, and the Programme of Action on Islands adopted by CBD at its Ninth Conference of the Parties meeting in Bonn in May 2008.

Energy is at the heart of development policy as well as climate change. The demonstration of strong political support to mobilise all stakeholders is essential. Satisfying the demand for energy and ensuring public access to it in island economies is vital where the standard of living is rising swiftly. In order to be effective, the commitment of the island populations is a prerequisite. The impact of transport and urban planning are major. Regional cooperation, together with the establishment and use of financial mechanisms, will allow key steps to be taken towards addressing the challenge.

The participants recognise the need to reinforce the linkages, and offer opportunities for exchange between the different actors working on the EU Overseas Entities, particularly with those that speak on their behalf and/or in their favour. As several successful platforms exist, a tool or leverage must be identified that assures better coordination and added value.

Regional cooperation is now recognized by all actors as both an opportunity and a responsibility. Issues of biodiversity loss and climate change are primarily regional in nature, many of these issues are more effectively treated at a regional level, and regional cooperation can create many opportunities (exchange of good practice, sharing of resources, economies of scale, synergies, etc.) while also increasing the voice of OCTs and ORs at a global level. Policies and practices of the EU and all other stakeholders should therefore facilitate and support such cooperation.

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