IUCN World Conservation Congress witnesses launch of the Global Partnership on Cities and Biodiversity

IUCN World Conservation Congress witnesses launch of the Global Partnership on Cities and Biodiversity

7 October 2008, Barcelona (Spain) Last year was a special year in human history. For the first time, the world became essentially an urban planet with a majority of its population living in cities, a proportion deemed to increase by 2/3 within 50 years. Urban areas cover only 2% of the land surface, cities and their residents consume up to 75% of the Earth resources. Urbanization is proceeding at high speed in different parts of the world and is affecting the environment at all scales. In developing countries, where most of the urban growth will occur and where the Millennium Development Goals are a primary target, unchecked and unmanaged urban growth places increased pressures on vulnerable social and ecological systems. “There’s a big divide between brown and green concerns at the local level. There has perhaps been insufficient interest in the biodiversity agenda, little understanding of how cities depend on the larger environment” said David Cadman, President of ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability.

To address this issue, several agencies and networks of cities have been working together since 2006, developing action plans and projects, technical assistance and exchange systems to support cooperation between various levels of government, from international to local. To consolidate the results achieved, the Global Partnership on Cities and Biodiversity was launched on 7th October at IUCN World Conservation Congress. It currently brings together UN agencies, international organizations, including ICLEI and IUCN, and local governments to improve the management and conservation of biodiversity through technical cooperation, capacity building projects and communication campaigns. The existing partners look forward to joining forces with other interested actors as they recognize that results can only be achieved through meaningful cooperation of all relevant stakeholders. They are therefore inviting other associations of cities and interested stakeholders to join this “work in progress” and to collaborate on a commune strategy.

“Together the 250 Countdown 2010 cities and the 21 pioneer cities of the Local Action for Biodiversity programme (LAB) represent more than 150 million people who are already strongly committed to save biodiversity. It is now critical to maintain the momentum and engage other associations of local governments such as UCLG and Metropolis in order to establish a true Global Partnership for the UN International Year of Biodiversity in 2010″ said Sebastian Winkler, Head of Countdown 2010 Secretariat.
“Cities could really be part of the solution towards a more sustainable world in which man and nature can live in harmony” said Mayor Alberto Richa from Curitiba, Brazil by adding that his city in the midst of the Brazilian forest has fully incorporated biodiversity into urban planning. The crusade for a Global Partnership on Cities and Biodiversity started in early 2007, where Mayor Richa hosted an international meeting on this topic.

In 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development the international community agreed to significantly reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010. “Even though the 2010 target is an ambitious objectives we have to be more than ambitious for the protection of our planet, we have to unite our efforts by working in dialogue and in a more integrated way, because every plant or animal species lost or population decreased means lost opportunities for future human generations” said Mayor Gerald Tremblay from Montreal. He adds “Cities contribute, inside their mission, to protect the biodiversity, but they cannot be alone to undertake this immense stake which asks for a global plan on the basis of a real partnership between all the actors in order to find long-lasting and concrete solutions.” Tackling problems at the global scale is impossible without local action. Indeed, the global scale is merely the sum of millions of communities addressing the issues locally.

“The UN Biodiversity Summit in May 2008 in Bonn adopted a decision which recognised the importance of local and regional authorities in saving biodiversity” said Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Biodiversity Convention. At that occasion, the Lady Mayor of Bonn, Bärbel Dieckmann, hosted a Mayors Conference, which issued the “Bonn Call for Action”. It offered the potentials of the local level to national governments and called for their attention and cooperation in order to achieve global targets in an urbanized world. She pointed out “Timing, funding and devotion are of essence in launching the Global Partnership on Cities and Biodiversity if we are to report back on any successes in 2010.”

Mayor Takehisa Matsubara from Nagoya noted that “As host of the UN Biodiversity Summit in 2010, I will take stock of the progress made in relation to implementing this partnership.” Hopefully this will lead to a breakthrough for biodiversity, as it happened for climate change with the creation of the ICLEI’s global Cities for Climate Protection Campaign.

We cannot act alone. All together, agencies, cities’ associations and cities, we have to, and will make the difference. Our future partners are part of the solution.

For more information please contact Elisa Calcaterra at elisa.calcaterra@iucn.org or +32 2 739 0317 or visit our section on local governments.

Download the general description of the project.

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