Countdown 2010

Upcoming Events

7 December
Conference
 “Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 and beyond”
(Brussels, Belgium)
8 December
Lokaal beleid en biodiversiteit - Countdown 2010 in de praktijk (Antwerpen, Belgium)
13-15 December
Expert Workshop on implementing the CBD (Potsdam, Germany)
15-16 February
European Conference Biodiversity and Regions (The Netherlands)

News from Countdown 2010

More News Stories: 2005 | 2004

07/12/06: European Institutions join forces for biodiversity

01/12/06: Helsinki City Public Works Department's Crafts Workshop receives Countdown Certificate of Honour for 2006

23/11/06: Success through Continuity: 2010 biodiversity target at the center of EU’s triple presidency

02/11/06: Responding to the 2010 biodiversity challenge

20/10/06: Towards 2010 and Beyond – a vision for European Nature

11/10/06: Dutch Countdown Initiative marks milestone to 2010

11/10/06: Finland starts Countdown 2010 Competition

04/10/06: Let Austrian Biodiversity Survive!

29/09/06: Hungary joins Countdown 2010: From international commitments to national action

21/0906: Finland and Peru endorse the Countdown 2010 initiative to halt the loss of biodiversity

19/09/06: Saving Biodiversity to Fight Poverty: Live reports from Paris

15/09/06: Playful Biodiversity

01/09/06: A decisive moment in the history of the 2010 biodiversity target

04/08/06: Summertime Links

28/06/06: Local Action for Biodiversity

17/06/06: 44 Flemish municipalities adopt animals and plants

05/06/06: Race against time

02/06/06: Green Week kicks off
European Union’s Countdown to 2010

02/06/06: Report confirms: Europe losing species and habitats at a dramatic rate

29/05/06: Steering Ahead: Partners of Countdown 2010 meet in Brussels

24/05/06: Climate Change immediate Challenge for Biodiversity

22/05/06: Portugal joins Countdown 2010

22/05/06: Biodiversity: Action needs to speak louder than words

17/05/06: Action, action, action to save biodiversity in the Caucasus

16/05/06: Communicating biodiversity: Hard work and no fear of figures

12/05/06: Sweden joins Countdown 2010

02/05/06: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species shows decline of European plants and animals

03/04/06: Bridging global and local: Countdown 2010 engaging with European Regions

28/03/06: Austria delivers on Countdown 2010

25/03/06: Global Biodiversity Forum identifies roadmap for action to achieve 2010 biodiversity target

23/03/06: First National Park opened – Milestone for Belgium’s Countdown 2010

22/03/06: European Union: incorporating biodiversity in its development cooperation agenda

21/03/06: The World Conservation Union helps European countries to implement the Biodiversity Convention

20/03/06: Steiner encourages: Move from commitments to implementation now to achieve 2010 biodiversity target

20/03/06: Study warns of drastic biodiversity loss

15/03/06: A new vision for the EU Sustainable Development Strategy

13/03/06: Countdown 2010 Biodiversity Action Fund to fund 33 biodiversity projects

13/03/06: Countdown 2010 Goes East

09/03/06: Working together to save biodiversity in the Caucasus

07/03/06: The World Conservation Union calls on European Parliament to achieve the 2010 Biodiversity target

28/02/06: World Conservation Union President Valli Moosa highlights the role of cities in biodiversity conservation

27/02/06: Europeans Seek Funds and Political Will to Save Biodiversity

26/02/06: Swiss Countdown 2010 launched

22/02/06: Pan-European experts preparing for the upcoming CBD Conference in Brazil

07/02/06: The World Conservation Union announces Global Biodiversity Forum to focus around the 2010 biodiversity target

26/01/06: Marine Environment in danger

26/01/06: Limburg adopts endangered species as contribution to Countdown 2010

19/01/06: The Virtual Curitiba Biodiversity Conference

European Institutions join forces for biodiversity

Struan StevensonGuy DukeSebastian WinklerLutz RibbeWim van Gelder

7 December 2006, Brussels, Belgium. ‘Biodiversity is the foundation of human well-being and its degradation calls for immediate action to reach the 2010 biodiversity target’, speakers from the European Parliament, the European Commission and other European institutions confirmed at today’s conference of the Parliamentary Intergroup on Sustainable Development.

Struan Stevenson, Chair of the Intergroup, set the stage for the session with a strong plea to take action in all policy areas related to biodiversity, and reminded participants of the powerful force of partnerships like Countdown 2010. Responding to a detailed presentation of the European Commission’s Communication on ‘Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 – and beyond’ by Guy Duke, Adamos Adamou, the European Parliament’s Rapporteur on this issue, highlighted a number of challenges in implementing the action plan, including a reduction in the use of pesticides, a moratorium on deep sea bottom trawling, and the quest of implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity. Sebastian Winkler, Head of Countdown 2010, challenged participants to move from words to action. Using figures from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, he stressed the importance of ecosystem services and the role of communication in creating political support.

The European Economic and Social Committee’s opinion in support for the Biodiversity Communication will be published early next year, announced its Rapporteur Lutz Ribbe. However, the communication would fail to address a number of systemic issues, including the fact that biodiversity loss is a result of millions of small individual decisions, all of them legal. The Committee of the Regions, represented by Wim van Gelder, unanimously adopted its opinion on the biodiversity communication yesterday. Pointing out successful examples of biodiversity conservation on the regional level, he expressed doubt whether the 2010 biodiversity target would be achievable taking into account the insufficient allocation of funds for the next budget period.

The following session focussed on the sectoral objectives for biodiversity in the context of the European Union, including: Agriculture and rural development (Shelby Matthews, COPA-COGECA), Fisheries (MEP Ioannis Gklavakis; Doug Beveridge, Europêche), Forestry (Natalie Hufnagl, CEPF), Climate Change (Mike Harley, Natural England), Monitoring and Indicators (Anne Teller, SEBI 2010). With a view on global biodiversity, MEP Alain Lipietz introduced the Message from Paris and Nadia de Brito Pires explained how the European Commission’s DG Trade deals with biodiversity. The closing session dealt with supporting measures, including research (Martin Sharman, DG Research), business partnerships (Arnaud Colson, European Aggregates Association) and communication (Peter Bos, Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality).

Helsinki City Public Works Department's Crafts Workshop receives Countdown Certificate of Honour for 2006

1 December 2006, Helsinki, Finland. The natural landscaping of the former Vuosaari dump and landfill site, with its ingenious and unique reuse of waste soil, its introduction of wholly domestic species and, in particular, the environmental education of children and youth at the site, singled out the Crafts Workshop of the Helsinki City Public Works Department's Environmental Production branch as the clear winner of the Finnish Countdown 2010 competition. 

Success through Continuity: 2010 biodiversity target at the center of EU’s triple presidency

23 November 2006, Berlin, Germany. The upcoming three EU Presidencies – Germany, Portugal and Slovenia - have agreed on a joint biodiversity strategy which has at its core the 2010 biodiversity target. “The 2010 target demonstrates its unifying force”, said Sebastian Winkler, “it is for the first time that we have a 18 month biodiversity strategy, ensuring a sustained and coordinated effort in EU to keep biodiversity on the political agenda.” Countdown 2010 will mobilize its network and work closely with the EU Presidencies on marine, business and biodiversity and forest issues with a culmination of the strategy at the CBD Conference of the Parties to be held in Bonn from 19-30 May 2008.

Responding to the 2010 biodiversity challenge

2 November 2006, London, United Kingdom. On 3-4 July this year, a number of high level officials from national governments, international organizations, private sector, NGOs and academia met in London to discuss responses to the 2010 biodiversity challenge. We spoke with Richard Tarasofsky, Chatham House, who organized this meeting together with Countdown 2010.

The 2010 biodiversity target has been around for a while. What led you to organize this meeting?

My main motivation for convening the meeting was a concern that the international biodiversity regime is not leveraging the necessary actions in time to meet the 2010 biodiversity target.  There are so many important treaties, processes, and initiatives in this area, and yet a real step change is needed in order to make the kind of meaningful gains required by the 2010 Target.  So the idea was to bring together an group of experts and to debate and explore in depth what is needed. 

What do you see as the most important outcomes? What are the next steps?

I think there were three very important messages.  One was that there is a lot of mileage to be had in linking biodiversity to other, more prominent, global concerns - especially climate change.  Secondly, the importance of linking science to policy was emphasised.  The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was certainly a valuable exercise, but it will rapidly lose its ability to influence policy without an enhanced process that has momentum.  The final point was that the private sector must become much more engaged, because their influence on the state of biodiversity is so incredibly profound.

The meeting also discussed the link between biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. Are we trying to kill two birds with one stone?

I think there is no alternative. The meeting affirmed that the two agendas are intrinsically linked: poverty reduction will not take place without environmental conservation and biodiversity conservation will not work in developing countries unless it is seen as aligned to poverty reduction.  More "win-wins" are needed, and these stories need to be widely communicated.

Towards 2010 and Beyond – a vision for European Nature

Working on a vision for Europe20 October 2006, Barcelona, Spain. “Nature and its services should be the foundation for economic and social welfare”, more than 200 IUCN members and partners of Countdown 2010 concluded at the World Conservation Union’s European Members Meeting today. Over the last three days, participants discussed milestones towards reaching the 2010 biodiversity target and a long-term vision for nature in Europe.   

The meeting closed with a Countdown 2010 day, and a strong call to action by all partners. More than twenty new partners from public to private entities joined the alliance, and others reconfirmed their commitment and support.

Summarizing the most important reason for his strong engagement in nature conservation, Mark Held from the European Outdoor Group, a new Countdown 2010 partner, quoted David Brower in his speech: “There is no business to be done on a dead planet”.

Dutch Countdown Initiative marks milestone to 2010

Signing of Declarations11 October 2006, s’Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. The Netherlands have joined Countdown 2010 as an official partner at the latest meeting of the Dutch National Platform for Countdown 2010. They signed the declaration together with the municipalities of Boxtel, Veghel, Oisterwijk and Amsterdam-Oost and other organisations. With this step, the network of Countdown 2010 partners in the Netherlands has doubled to fifteen organisations working together to save biodiversity by 2010.

Initiatives in the Netherlands have promoted Countdown 2010 since its launch in 2004. Key partners are the IUCN National Committee, the European Centre for Nature Conservation and the region of Noord-Brabant. They continue to champion the involvement of regional and local authorities and to set examples in engaging stakeholders around the 2010 biodiversity target.

Finland starts Countdown 2010 Competition

Countdown 2010 in Finnish11 October 2006, Helsinki, Finland. Do you have good ideas how to communicate the importance of nature to young people, how to promote sustainable development or how to effectively safeguard biodiversity? The Finnish IUCN Committee has just announced the Countdown 2010 Certificate of Honour, and it might be looking for you!

To apply, send your ideas by Monday, 13 November to the Registrar's Office at the Ministry of the Environment, Fabianinkatu 6, P.O. Box 35, 00023 Valtioneuvosto.

Let Austrian Biodiversity Survive!

Apollofalter4 October 2006, Vienna, Austria. Austria hosts an amazing array of plants and animals. 111 of the most charismatic species are the centrepiece of the new campaign ‘überLEBEN’, launched today by the Ministry of Environment, the Austrian Federal Forests Enterprise and the conservation organisation Naturschutzbund.

In the coming five years, keen birdwatchers and other nature lovers are encouraged to share their observations online and receive help in classifying species at www.naturbeobachtung.at. In addition to the internet platform, conservation action, communication and education will show Austrians where the country’s biodiversity is, why it is in danger and what to do to conserve it.

Through the campaign, the three Countdown 2010 partners are making a contribution to ongoing efforts to save Austria’s biodiversity by 2010. "Naturbeobachtung.at builds the often missing link from global targets to active citizens. This example has the potential to inspire similar initiatives all over Europe and the world." commented Tamás Marghescu, Regional Director for Europe, the World Conservation Union.

Hungary joins Countdown 2010: From international commitments to national action

29 September 2006, Budapest, Hungary. By signing the Countdown 2010 Declaration today, Hungary has defined specific actions which will bring the country closer to achieving the 2010 target of halting the loss of biodiversity.

“We are committed to turning an international target into concrete national action and we have therefore decided to join the growing network of Countdown 2010 partners”, said Dr. Miklós Persányi, Minister for Environment and Water of the Hungarian Republic, while he was designating three new Wetlands of International Importance.

The three new sites are the Rába river valley, the recently restored Nyirkai-Hany peatland area of the Fertö-Hanság National Park, and the upper Kiskunság alkaline steppe wetlands. “Each of these sites is a very specific and typical example of still under-represented wetland types in the global Ramsar List”, said Tobias Salathe, Senior Advisor for Europe of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

This brings the Hungarian Wetlands of International Importance to the number of 26, covering 202,281 ha, or roughly 2.2% of Hungary’s territory (placing it mid-field amongst the European Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention).

Besides the designation of these three new sites, Hungary has committed itself through signing the Countdown 2010 Declaration to specific activities in the following areas:

  1. enhancing its network of designated sites,
  2. complying with EU legislation and international conventions,
  3. strengthening financial and legislative capacities for nature conservation,
  4. raising public awareness, and,
  5. improving management of sites and species.

Tamas Marghescu, IUCN’s Regional Director for Europe, welcomed these 2010 commitments and said that “By signing the declaration, Hungary has become part of a powerful and rapidly growing network of institutions working together to reach the 2010 biodiversity target”.

To date, in Europe, more than 100 partners ranging from national to local governments, from non-governmental organisations to businesses have joined Countdown 2010. Each partners commits to dedicate extra effort into action towards the 2010 biodiversity target. Acting together, they create a joint momentum around the target.

Finland and Peru endorse the Countdown 2010 initiative to halt the loss of biodiversity

Paris, 21 September 2006. At the last day of the Conference on Biodiversity in European Development Cooperation, the Finnish Minister for the Environment Jan-Erik Enestam and Alex Mamud Venegas from the Peruvian Ministry for Agriculture undersigned the Countdown 2010 Declaration committing themselves to unprecedented efforts to achieve the 2010 biodiversity target to significantly reduce the loss of biodiversity.

Finland will prepare the EU Environment Council Conclusions on the European’s Commission Biodiversity Communication: “Halting the loss of Biodiversity by 2010 – and beyond”, with a focus on the strategy and the EU action plan to 2010 and beyond. The Finnish Government also promised to implement the Second Finnish National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2006 -2016 and to start a national education and awareness raising campaign with a focus on biodiversity.

The Peruvian Governments promised to integrate biodiversity issues in all relevant sectors and to foster cooperation at regional level through the integration of the 2010 Biodiversity targets into regional strategies and agendas.

Both Governments work together in the BIODAMAZ project – a project that addresses the pressing environmental problems in the complex Peruvian Amazon region. These efforts will be supported through the launch of a regional initiative in collaboration with the Andean Community. The project is thus a concrete response to the 2006 Paris Conference on Biodiversity in European Development Cooperation.

“As a result of our cooperation in this project, scientists were able to monitor very rare types of forests including new tree and bird species. Together with local authorities and communities, we aim to protecting this unique habitat,” highlight Minister Enestam and Alex Mamud Venegas.   

The goal of Countdown 2010 is that all Governments, at every level, take the necessary actions to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010. To this end, the Countdown 2010 partners work together to draw public attention to commitments made to preserve biological diversity.

“By confirming to take action on the 2010 biodiversity commitment, Finland and Peru demonstrate how North and South can join forces to put paper into action. An example to follow by others!” said Tamás Marghescu, Director of IUCN’s Regional Office for Europe.

The Conference on Biodiversity in European Development Cooperation (Paris, 19 to 21 September 200 6) developed the “Message from Paris” which is intended to kick-start a process for charting and implementing a road map towards the integration of biodiversity into European economic and development cooperation.  More than 400 participants from around the globe from the development and environment sectors including more than 50 Ministers and Executive Secretaries participated in the conference.

Saving Biodiversity to Fight Poverty: Live reports from Paris

Paris, 19 September 2006. Ministers from Europe and partner countries are discussing biodiversity conservation and human well-being at the Paris Conference on Biodiversity in European Development Cooperation. Read the live reports to see what the 450 participants are saying.

Announcement: Online Directory on Computer Games and Biodiversity

Brussels/Copenhagen, 15 September 2006. Getting to know species and ecosystems, nurturing wildlife or managing a zoo has never been so much fun: A number of computer games make environment and biodiversity accessible on a mouse click. To help teachers and parents in finding the right game for their kids, Countdown 2010 has published an online directory of these games at www.countdown2010.net/games.

The directory provides a first overview of the market listing seventy games on environmental topics for kids between 3 and 16 in most European languages. They range from infotainment games aimed at presenting information in a fun way via adventures to full-fledged economic simulation. One out of five games can be played online. Our team also included detailed reviews for games that we found particularly exciting.

This open list is the first major effort to create an active library for computer games on biodiversity compiled by people who care for biodiversity conservation. We therefore invite users to suggest further games.

Playful Biodiversity

 “Two things are clear: Kids love computer games – and kids love nature. Bringing these together is an exiting avenue to make the next generation more aware of the challenges our planet is facing. Everyone talks about halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010, but it is sometimes hard to imagine how this is going to happen. Computer games seem to be a very useful tool to illustrate the interaction of complex systems.”, explains Sebastian Winkler, Head of Countdown 2010.

Countdown 2010 is a growing alliance of more than 80 institutions with the aim to support governments and other stakeholders in achieving the 2010 biodiversity target to halt the loss of biodiversity. This powerful network, which includes governments, cities and regions, business and civil society organisations, combines efforts to save biodiversity by assessing performance, creating awareness and committing to action.

The directory is open for additions. Please let us know of any resources we missed by sending an email to info@countdown2010.net.

A decisive moment in the history of the 2010 biodiversity target

No Excuse: 20151 September 2006, New York, USA. Today might be a break-through in the history of the 2010 biodiversity target, as Kofi Annan has asked the UN General Assembly to incorporate the 2010 biodiversity target into the framework of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). His 2006 Report on the Work of the Organisation states:

World leaders agreed to several other important targets at the 2005 World Summit.  I am therefore recommending the incorporation of these commitments into the set of targets used to follow-up on the Millennium Declaration. This includes: [...] a new target under Millennium Development Goal 7: to “Significantly reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010”. 

The 2010 biodiversity target would then serve as a stepping stone towards ensuring environmental sustainability by 2015, the seventh Millennium Development Goal. Experts expect that this would create new momentum for biodiversity in international policy making. The UN Secretary General’s Annual Report will be discussed at the UN General Assembly this September.

At the 2000 UN Millennium Summit, world leaders from developed and developing countries alike committed themselves – at the highest political level – to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These eight time-bound goals aim at reducing poverty worldwide by 2015. In addition, at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, the same leaders promised to significantly reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. This commitment is commonly called the 2010 biodiversity target.

Summertime for Biodiversity

Virtual Zoo4 August 2006, Brussels, Belgium. We were secretly hoping that you would spend August somewhere outside admiring nature’s many wonders. But now that you are here, looking for biodiversity on the web, we’ve got a couple of places to recommend:

Local Action for Biodiversity

Marcigliana. Photo: RomaNatura28 June 2006, Rome, Italy. The turning point will be some time this year: for the first time in human history, more people will live in cities than in rural areas. By 2050, an estimated 80% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. This has far reaching consequences on biodiversity, as city dwellers use natural resources of surrounding and remote regions, and people get further alienated from nature. In this context, urban conservation is an important tool for environmental awareness raising and education.

Countdown 2010, an initiative launched by the IUCN Regional Office for Europe, is presently supporting the development of a pilot project on urban conservation. The cooperation is coordinated by ICLEI - Local governments for Sustainability.

At a Workshop from June 26-28, 2006 in Rome, hosted by RomaNatura, representatives from five cities met to finalise the development of the pilot project called “Local Action for Biodiversity” . The pilot group, which will eventually include 15 cities, includes Cape Town, Durban, Rome, Tilburg, São Paulo, Los Angeles and Havana. These cities want to pioneer a global programme on urban biodiversity, as a contribution to the 2010 biodiversity target.

44 Flemish municipalities adopt animals and plants

Eurasian Badger17 June 2006, Genk, Belgium. Hoeselt has it with badgers, Tongeren fell in love with the little owl and Maaseik chose the beautiful demoiselle. Over the last month, all municipalities in the Flemish region of Limburg adopted 'their' species.

The deputy for nature conservation, Frank Smeets, explains the project: "Biodiversity is in danger - not only worldwide, but also specifically in our region. We still host a number of species that can be found nowhere else in Flanders."

Choosing a species was only the first step in the Countdown 2010 project "Municipalities adopt Species in Limburg". "The municipalities agreed to take measurable steps to protect their species. Our project office will help them define an action plan - and monitor progress afterwards."

Race against time

5 June 2006, Geneva, Switzerland. On the occasion of the World Environment Day, Azza Taalab interviews Sebastian Winkler, head of Countdown 2010 for the Weekly Al-Ahram.

Green Week kicks off
European Union’s Countdown to 2010

2 June 2006, Brussels, Belgium. The European Green Week “Biodiversity is life” culminated in a high-level session on Countdown 2010 and the European Union’s activities to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010 today. Speaking for the last time as IUCN Director General, Achim Steiner opened the four-day conference with a call for integration of biodiversity concerns into the all sectors.

 “Environment is less and less viewed as an economic obstacle. It is becoming an economic imperative”, he explained. Reminding participants of the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services for poverty reduction, he invited everyone to sign a Countdown 2010 petition to integrate the 2010 biodiversity target into the Millennium Development Goals.

Reporting back from the workshops to the closing session “Countdown 2010 – the Community Commitment”, Tamás Marghescu, IUCN Regional Director for Europe, observed that communicating biodiversity was a recurring theme: “We seem not to be able to communicate what biodiversity is and why it is important”. As the knowledge about biodiversity loss and its causes is there, nature lovers now need to learn how to inspire and convince others. While dramatic figures about the consequences of biodiversity loss might be effective in the short term, people need a positive vision of a desirable future to achieve long term change. 

Climate change is a real threat for biodiversity, and at the same time biodiversity is important for climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. Addressing the session on “Climate change: New threat for biodiversity and challenge for biodiversity policies”, Purificació Canals, Vice President of IUCN called for improved connectivity of ecosystems to help species adapt to changing conditions.

Sebastián Winkler, Head of Countdown 2010, stressed the role of cities in biodiversity conservation: “The Earth’s future is shaped in cities. This is where the voters are, the political institutions, the corporate headquarters.” While most biodiversity is located in rural areas, he emphasised that reaching the 2010 biodiversity target is as much about reaching people as it is about conserving nature. Countdown 2010 strongly works with regional and local governments to help them improve their production, consumption and spatial patterns. Numerous regions from Finland to Italy have joined the initiative.

The European Commission has recently launched its Biodiversity Communication as a strategy to reach the 2010 biodiversity target. Implementing all 158 actions of its ambitious roadmap means that action needs to be taken every ten days. Attracting nearly 4.000 visitors, this year’s Green Week served as an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of biodiversity in the European Union.

Countdown 2010 is a powerful network of active partners working together to reach the 2010 biodiversity targets. Its partners range from NGOs and International Organisation via private businesses to local and national governments.

Report confirms: Europe losing species and habitats at a dramatic rate

02 June 2006, Brussels, Belgium. According to a series of surveys, the diversity of Europe’s wildlife and habitats continues to be lost at a dramatic rate.

The case studies, presented in Brussels today in the closing stages of the European Commission’s Green Week, assessed 19 different species and eight habitats across Europe. They show that over 60 per cent of the species and habitats studied have a “bad” conservation status under EU criteria. Another 22 per cent could not be classified due to lack of data.

Among the species surveyed, the conservation status of Eurasian lynx in the Alps and brown bear in Austria was assessed as “bad” and loggerhead turtle as “inadequate”. The small population of bears in central Austria has decreased by about 50 per cent in the last seven years.

These new assessments confirm the European Environment Agency’s previous figures on biodiversity loss — 52 per cent of freshwater fish, 42 per cent of native mammals and 45 per cent of butterflies and reptiles are threatened in Europe.

Populations of butterfly and bird species linked to different habitat types across Europe have declined by between 2 and 37 per cent over the past 30 years.

The experts of the European Habitats Forum blame direct human influences as the main reason for reported trends. These include the use of pesticides or fertilisers, urbanisation, soil pollution, drainage, modification of cultivation practices, development and infrastructure issues, agriculture and forestry practices, as well as trapping, poisoning and poaching.

Steering Ahead: Partners of Countdown 2010 meet in Brussels

Ladislav Miko and Sebastian Winkler29 May 2006, Brussels, Belgium. Regions and international organisations, governments, business and civil society – diversity was the key to the Countdown 2010 Steering Group meeting this week. Ladislav Miko of the European Commission used the opportunity to discuss the new Biodiversity Communication: “This ambitious roadmap is the result of extensive consultations. We are now ready to move towards implementation.” He was not the only one to present successes: Other partners shared experiences in implementing Countdown 2010 in regions from Finland to France, in communicating biodiversity to young people via computer games and competitions and in developing policy and action plans. Joint future activities of the initiative will comprise the launch of an assessment tool, a website to boost partnership interactions and a number of conferences (see events calendar).

Climate Change immediate Challenge for Biodiversity

24 May 2006, London, UK. A report published today concludes that climate change poses an immediate challenge to the European Union target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.

The study found that there is already strong scientific evidence of the impact of climate change on wild plants and animals in Europe. During the 21st Century rapidly shifting climate zones and rising sea levels will put increasing pressure on species already under threat for other reasons.

Portugal joins Countdown 2010

Francisco Nunes Correia, Portuguese Minister of the Environment22 May 2006, Lisbon, Portugal. Portugal has today joined Countdown 2010. In the next four years, the country will see new partnerships between private and public and the promotion of “Parks of Portugal” for sustainable tourism and nature conservation. Together with Spain, the natural wealth of the Erges and Tagus rivers will become a focus of action.

Biodiversity: Action needs to speak louder than words

Sebastián Winkler22 May 2006, Brussels, Belgium. The release of the European Commission’s Biodiversity Communication marks a milestone towards the 2010 biodiversity target, Countdown 2010 comments. However, unprecedented action at all levels will be needed to halt the current loss of biodiversity by 2010. More than 2.000 species are threatened with extinction in Europe alone and pressures on nature remain high.

On the occasion of the launch of the European Commission’s Biodiversity Communication and the International Day for Biodiversity, Sebastian Winkler, Head of Countdown 2010 said:

“The stakes for biodiversity are high, and the current status quo is unsustainable. It has taken the Commission five years to launch this Biodiversity Communication since the EU promised in Gothenburg to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010. With only four years remaining, it is very clear that we have no time to waste. Implementing all actions of the ambitious roadmap to reach the target means that action needs to be taken every ten days until 2010.

With its Birds and Habitats Directives the European Union has already developed effective tools to protect and conserve its natural wealth. However, we are worried by the lack of guaranteed funding and political will to make these tools work. If properly implemented, Natura 2000 sites will ensure the EU’s most important biodiversity is protected as well as support job creation and economic activities. Saving biodiversity is not only about creating new instruments, but also implementing existing legislation. 

At the same time, as the Biodiversity Communication acknowledges, reducing pressures from key drivers of biodiversity loss requires integration of biodiversity concerns into other sectors and into Member States’ policies, such as agriculture, fisheries and trade. Biodiversity is the foundation of global sustainable development and essential to our quality of life and economic activities. We also welcome the strong focus of the Biodiversity Communication on minimising the EU’s negative impact on biodiversity globally.

The call is now on the Member States and all other stakeholders to turn its words into action. Will they join the challenge or will they continue to watch biodiversity decline? Countdown 2010 invites all governments and interested stakeholders to implement the actions in the Biodiversity Communication. Austria, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Norway, and the United Kingdom are already demonstrating their commitment by having joined Countdown 2010. Together, we can make a difference and halt the loss of biodiversity.”

Action, action, action to save biodiversity in the Caucasus

Giorgi Papuashvili, Georgian Minister of the Environment, cleaning the slopes of Gudauri.Gudauri, Georgia, 17 May 2006. A stark call for the protection of the natural wealth of the Caucasus emerged from the Countdown 2010 Caucasus Conference, held in Gudauri, Georgia from May 15-17. Nature conservation and stakeholder organisations launched a countdown to reach the 2010 biodiversity target. In this particularly biodiverse European region, at least 700 species are threatened with extinction.

More than sixty experts from four Caucasian countries and international NGOs and other organisations adopted the “Message from Gudauri”, an appeal for immediate action to manage natural resource use, improve the region’s network of protected areas and monitor biodiversity. The recommendations address government authorities as well as relevant stakeholders and aim to raise the profile of biodiversity conservation in the region.

“Our natural resources and biodiversity are the foundation for a functioning economy and our quality of life. It is more cost-effective for governments in this region to conserve their natural wealth now than to restore a degraded environment later, especially if present unsustainable trends continue”, explained Tamás Marghescu, IUCN Regional Director for Europe.

Organisations ranging from the Georgian Centre for the Conservation of Wildlife and WWF Caucasus to the Regional Environment Centre launched the Countdown 2010 initiative in the Caucasus as a platform to mobilise stakeholder action and support governments in meeting the 2010 biodiversity target. As a symbolic action, they cleaned the slopes of Gudauri from litter left by skiing tourists.

Threats to biodiversity in the Caucasus

The outlook for the region’s biodiversity is bleak, three reports presented at the conference showed. The list of critically endangered species includes the European snow leopard, the Caucasian black grouse and the imperial eagle, and pressures from overgrazing, illegal logging and hunting remain high. Pressures from infrastructure building, pollution and habitat fragmentation are likely to increase with the economic development of the region. The necessary environmental safeguards to ameliorate this trend are still weak.

The Caucasus encompasses Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and parts of Iran, Russia and Turkey. Apart from the Mediterranean Basin, it is the only European biodiversity hotspot – a region of extraordinary rich nature facing enormous threats. Its governments have promised to halt the loss of its biodiversity by 2010. This commitment originates from the Environment for Europe Conference in Kiev 2003 and is commonly called the 2010 biodiversity target.

Communicating biodiversity: Hard work and no fear of figures

Com+ Environmental media training, Gudauri, Georgia.17 May 2006, Gudauri, Georgia. Even from the top of Europe the outlook is bleak, participants of a three-day course on environmental journalism in Gudauri, Georgia concluded.

To overcome low public interest, stories need to be relevant for the audience, easily understandable and supplemented by real-life examples, the twelve journalists from Central and Eastern Europe recommended.

This does not mean that biodiversity is impossible to communicate to the man on the street. This media training ‘Biodiversity – Seeing the wood for the trees’ is part of a series of workshops where the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the COM+ Alliance of Communicators for Sustainable Development help journalists improve their skills and encourage them to report on environmental topics.

Colin McIntyre, former Reuters correspondent and trainer of the course explained: “It is our duty as journalists to find the stories and tell them to the person in the street, but sometimes it is difficult to get your head around all this scientific data. It is here where the environmental community can help us understand the issues at stake.”

It’s a numbers game

Numbers can be a particular challenge: Journalists need to discard misleading figures, identify the most relevant data for the story, calculate trends and round the numbers for a non-expert audience.

After having written their first story based only on raw data from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, participants of the media training acknowledged how a well-written press release helps prioritise the vast amount of information available.

But organisations should shy away from jargon. Even though references to previous processes and the use of technical terms are important for an expert audience, they are often the first reason why most people will stop reading the stories behind them. In this way, it quickly pays off to invest more time and thinking into the actual message and real life impact of the story.

It is a two way path – while training journalists to report on biodiversity and environmental issues, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) also helps environmental experts get their message across. “A lot of our work happens at meetings”, Tim Christophersen, IUCN European Programme Coordinator admits. “The challenge for us is to see how these processes are relevant for a general audience, and to reduce the complexity of the environmental problems we encounter for them.”

The training was held in parallel to the international conference “Countdown 2010 in the Caucasus” which discussed ways to save biodiversity in Europe’s natural treasure chest.

The conference gathered experts from four Caucasian countries, international NGOs and other organisations. On May 17, the conference results will be presented as the “Message from Gudauri” to decision makers and stakeholders.

Sweden joins Countdown 2010

Lena Sommestad12 May 2006, Ultuna, Sweden. Lena Sommestad, the Swedish Minister of the Environment has today launched Countdown 2010 at the annual Flora- och Faunavård Conference.

"I am very proud that Sweden can endorse this initiative. This initiative is important to disseminate knowledge and strengthen political ambitions",  said Environmental Minister Lena Sommestad.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species shows decline of European plants and animals

2.281 species are threatened in Europe. Globally the number reaches 16,119 . The ranks of those facing extinction are joined by familiar species like the polar bear, hippopotamus and desert gazelles; together with ocean sharks, freshwater fish and Mediterranean flowers. Positive action has helped the white-tailed eagle.

2 May 2006, Gland, Switzerland. The total number of species declared officially Extinct is 784 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or cultivation. Of the 40,177 species assessed using the IUCN Red List criteria, 16,119 are now listed as threatened with extinction. This includes one in three amphibians and a quarter of the world’s coniferous trees, on top of the one in eight birds and one in four mammals known to be in jeopardy.

The 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species brings into sharp focus the ongoing decline of the earth’s biodiversity and the impact mankind is having upon life on earth. Widely recognized as the most authoritative assessment of the global status of plants and animals, it provides an accurate measure of progress, or lack of it, in achieving the globally agreed target to significantly reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

“The 2006 IUCN Red List shows a clear trend: biodiversity loss is increasing, not slowing down,” said Achim Steiner, Director General of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). “The implications of this trend for the productivity and resilience of ecosystems and the lives and livelihoods of billions of people who depend on them are far-reaching. Reversing this trend is possible, as numerous conservation success stories have proven. To succeed on a global scale, we need new alliances across all sectors of society. Biodiversity cannot be saved by environmentalists alone – it must become the responsibility of everyone with the power and resources to act,” he added.

Bridging global and local: Countdown 2010 engaging with European Regions

3 April 2006, Brussels, Belgium. The Committee of the Regions is the political assembly that provides local and regional authorities with a voice in Europe. This voice speaks strongly for biodiversity conservation, Sebastian Winkler, Head of Countdown 2010 discovered as he addressed the Committee's Commission for Sustainable Development. He emphasized the importance of biodiversity conservation as well as dependence on ecosystems and what can and is being done to prevent further deterioration. A particular focus was given to the steps the EU countries are taking in this field in terms of policy, regulation and implementation. A lively discussion stressed the relevance for regions and looked at examples and experiences gained.

Austria delivers on Countdown 2010

Josef Proell28 March 2006, Curitiba, Brazil.The Austrian Federal Forests Enterprise (Österreichische Bundesforste, ÖBf AG) has joined the Countdown 2010 initiative by adopting an ambitious 5-year Biodiversity Programme. “This is a clear and meaningful contribution to the 2010 biodiversity target”, said Achim Steiner, Director General of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) during the launch on 28 March 2006 at the 8th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curritiba, Brazil.

“If we are to get closer in achieving the 2010 target, we have to scale up biodiversity action”, said Mr. Josef Pröll, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management at the launch of the programme. Thus joining Countdown 2010 requires additional commitments, which “go beyond business as usual”.

The Countdown 2010 Secretariat, NGO partners and the Austrian Federal Forests Enterprise worked over the past months to develop an ambitious biodiversity programme. The Austrian Federal Forests is the largest private-public enterprise managing 20% of Austria’s forests, 70 % of lakes and more than 2000 km of rivers with related fish resource management responsibilities.

The biodiversity programme is accompanied by a Sustainability Balanced Scorecard System (SBSC) developed to monitor delivery of the programme and its individual elements. “Clear targets combined with a programme of action and a monitoring tool are the basis for credibility, transparency and accountability,” said Mr. Georg Erlacher, Managing Director of the Federal Forest Enterprise when presenting the programme at the launch event.

The Austrian Federal Forests have defined annual thematic focuses for the implementation of the Biodiversity Programme. In one year, the mountain areas under the management of the company are tackled, the next year is dedicated to the identification of groups of old trees in the forest, followed by a year focused on water ecosystems. These focus areas will be accompanied by a public awareness and outreach programme to mobilise further action around the 2010 biodiversity target.

Implementation measures include the planting of rare species of trees and shrubs, creating aesthetic forest edges, attractive to visitors, and a programme for the preservation of rare or threatened animal and plant species, such as for example the oak long-horned beetle, black stork and bats, as well as safeguarding the functionality of lakes and streams.

The preservation of genetic diversity is particularly important while we face climate change. Trees and shrubs with long lives need also long time to adapt to climatic changes.

Public acceptance of the measures is very important for the preservation of biological diversity. Specific public relations work with information brochures, folders and guided tours aims to attract public interested over to the preservation of biological diversity. The activities will all be documented and evaluated even while the protection measures are being carried out.

Global Biodiversity Forum identifies roadmap for action to achieve 2010 biodiversity target

Panelists of the 2010 Biodiversity Forum in Curitiba, Brazil (ENB)

25 March 2006, Curitiba, Brazil. A roadmap for action to achieve the 2010 biodiversity target was identified by the 37th Global Biodiversity Forum. The three main action areas of this roadmap are: building awareness of the role biodiversity plays in reducing poverty, providing an enabling policy framework for achieving the 2010 target, including political buy-in from finance and trade ministries, and partnering for action. “We have all the political targets and frameworks in place, now is time for implementation – that was the resounding message from the GBF,” said Sebastian Winkler.

The GBF session was held during the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Curitiba Brazil, on 24-25 March 2006. It was based around four workshops on: “2010 for 2015: Reaffirming the Role of Biodiversity in Achieving MDGs”; “Financing Biodiversity Action for Achieving the 2010 Targets”; “Thinking Global and Acting Local: Taking 2010 Forward”; and “Verifying Biodiversity Trade: 2010 Challenges”.

The Global Biodiversity Forum, founded in 1993, is a multi-stakeholder forum aiming to foster partnerships and critical dialogue on biodiversity issues, and assist policy making and implementation of the CBD and other related conventions. The GBF does not intend to pursue consensus. The outcomes of the GBF will be presented at the COP8 Plenary on Wednesday 29 March 2006.

First National Park opened – Milestone for Belgium’s Countdown 2010

Stone in the National Park Hoge Kempen23 March 2006, Genk, Belgium. “National parks are an important contribution to halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 in Europe”, said Stavros Dimas, EU Commissioner for the Environment, at the opening of Belgians first national park Hoge Kempen today.

The park is set in a rural part of eastern Belgium, a former coal mining area in the Province of Flanders. The natural values of the region will be restored and further developed over the coming years to support nature tourism and education. Hoge Kempen measures almost 60 square kilometres and consists mainly of pine forest and heathland, which are giving shelter to 80% of Belgiums Red List species.

“We Europeans need to show that we are serious about protecting our nature, before making claims to conserve the rainforests of the world. The National Park Hoge Kempen is a success story because it proves that we can establish protected areas within a densely populated part of Europe” said Tim Christophersen, European Programme Coordinator of The World Conservation Union (IUCN).

The Park demonstrates that protected areas are not only good for nature conservation, but also for local economies: revenues from sustainable tourism in Hoge Kempen are forecast to reach 24,5 Million Euro per year by 2011.

Commissioner Dimas also announced that he will try to strengthen the global networks of protected areas at the current Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Brazil.

European Union: incorporating biodiversity in its development cooperation agenda

Biodiversity in European Development Cooperation22 March 2006, Curitiba, Brazil. How can the European Union give biodiversity and related ecosystem services a higher profile in its development cooperation agenda? This was the theme of a side event, convened by the IUCN Regional Office for Europe on 22 March during the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The event focused on the upcoming conference “Biodiversity in European Development Cooperation”, to be held in Paris on 19-21 September 2006. The World Conservation Union (IUCN), together with the European Commission, the current Austrian EU Presidency and the forthcoming Finnish EU Presidency, as well as Belgium, France and Sweden presented the upcoming conference for the first time.

The World Conservation Union helps European countries to implement the Biodiversity Convention

Jean-Claude Jacques21 March 2006, Curitiba, Brazil. Europe is getting a step closer to the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). A new network between the EU focal points for National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plans (NBSAP), responsible for the implementation of the CBD in their countries, will be set up with support of the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

That was the main outcome of a side event held by the IUCN Regional Office for Europe (ROfE) on 21 March 2006 under the 8th Conference of the Parties to the CBD. The event, organized upon request of the French Ministry of Environment, responded to a general need of information and best practice exchange between the NBSAP focal points who until now work in relative isolation from each other.

Representatives of Denmark, France, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, IUCN ROfE and the French IUCN National Committee attended the meeting. Finland expressed interest in being part of the network. They decided to start exchanging information informally, including through an internet forum, a new website and regular meetings.

The World Conservation Union will provide the secretariat of the new network, with financial support of France.

Steiner encourages: Move from commitments to implementation now to achieve 2010 biodiversity target

Mr Achim Steiner20 March 2006, Gland, Switzerland. With less than five years to meet the 2010 biodiversity target, the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity needs to move from commitments to implementation. That is the main message of a letter Achim Steiner, Director General of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) sent to Environment Ministers ahead of the CBD conference.

Under the 2010 biodiversity target, Heads of State have committed to slow down the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. “The target provides a unique opportunity to generate momentum, build political will and mobilize all sectors of society to take the necessary actions to address biodiversity loss and the resulting impacts on human wellbeing,” writes Steiner.

Steiner lays out four priority areas to achieve the target:

  1. Funding the implementation of the Convention;
  2. Measuring progress towards the achievement of the 2010 target;
  3. Mobilizing action amongst all sectors and actors in support of the 2010 target; and
  4. Implementing the three objectives of the CBD, including the Programme of Work on Protected Areas; prioritizing the application of the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines on sustainable use as well as mainstreaming of biodiversity into sectoral policies before COP9; and making progress in the negotiation of an international regime on access and benefit-sharing.

Study warns of drastic biodiversity loss

Human footprint (Unep)20 March 2006, Curitiba, Brazil. As delegates gather in Brazil for the 8th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Global Biodiversity Outlook warns that virtually all indicators show an acceleration of the rate of biodiversity loss. To reach the 2010 biodiversity target, the report stresses, unprecedented efforts will be needed.

While the coverage of protected areas is improving, most regions still fall short of targets to protect 10% of their area. Other indicators show that forests continue to be lost at a rate of six million hectares a year, with equally heavy impact on coastal and marine environments. The Living Planet Index shows a decline of average species abundance of 40% since 1970, and up to 52% of species are threatened with extinction according to the IUCN Red List.

Despite these gloomy trends, the report stresses that the 2010 biodiversity target is still within reach. “Meeting the target is a considerable challenge, but by no means an impossible one”, notes the report and calls on all countries to focus on the main drivers of biodiversity loss: habitat loss, climate change, alien invasive species, over-exploitation and pollution.

A new vision for the EU Sustainable Development Strategy

Sebastian Winkler15 March 2006, Strasbourg, France. “The current review of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy lacks clear guidelines and targets, and should not be overruled by the economic agenda as detailed in the Lisbon Strategy”, Sebastian Winkler, Head of Countdown 2010 told the European Parliament Intergroup on Sustainable Development at a hearing in Strasbourg today. Addressing the question on how the Sustainable Development Strategy could contribute to reaching the 2010 biodiversity target, he stressed that a healthy environment is the precondition for social and economic development.

The UK’s statutory nature and landscape conservation agencies have at the same time developed eight key recommendations for the review of the Strategy which is scheduled for adoption in June this year. Many environmental organisations fear that the European Commission might compromise long-term sustainable development for short-term growth.

Countdown 2010 Biodiversity Action Fund to fund 33 biodiversity projects

13 March 2006, Peterborough, United Kingdom. Natterjack toads, black grouse and cirl bunting are among rare species that may be saved by nearly £4 million funding from Defra.

The survival of threatened butterflies, moths and beetles could also be assured as a result of grants awarded today on behalf of Defra by English Nature. Local communities and volunteers will be at the heart of many of the projects that have won funding to restore or improve important habitats such as heathland, grazing meadows and native woodlands.

Biodiversity Minister Jim Knight today welcomed the announcement of 33 biodiversity projects awarded to voluntary organisations in England sharing £3.8 million over the next two years. The grants are provided under the Countdown 2010 Biodiversity Action Fund, run by English Nature on behalf of Defra, to help the UK Government achieve its commitment to halt biodiversity loss by 2010.

Countdown 2010 Goes East

Tamas Marghescu and Deputy Minister Stepankov13 March 2006, Moscow, Russia. The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources will take its first steps towards joining Countdown 2010. This was agreed in a meeting between the IUCN Moscow Office and Deputy Minister Stepankov. He promised to provide information about Countdown 2010 on the Ministry's homepage, offered to open a separate rubric in its magazine and invited IUCN to organise a launch of Countdown 2010 in Russia, similar to the proposed launch for the Caucasus countries in Georgia, May 15-17. The Ministry is furthermore considering to link the preparatory meeting for the G8 summit later this year to the Countdown 2010, and to set biodiversity on the agenda of environment and development Ministers. In return, IUCN will provide material on Countdown 2010 in Russian and to link the Ministry’s website.

Working together to save biodiversity in the Caucasus

Achim Steiner facilitating a roundtable of the Caucasian Environment Ministers9 March 2006, Berlin, Germany. As a contribution to the 2010 biodiversity target, the German Government, WWF and the KfW Development Bank have announced the creation of a 40 Mio EUR trust fund to finance protected areas in the Southern Caucasus, a region of extraordinarily rich biodiversity encompassing Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. WWF has coordinated the development of an Ecoregional Conservation Plan in order to address overarching challenges and threats to the extraordinary biodiversity of the ecoregion.

In May 2006, Countdown 2010 is organising an international conference to move from commitments to action in the Caucaus.

The World Conservation Union calls on European Parliament to achieve the 2010 Biodiversity target

European Parliament7 March 2006, Brussels, Belgium. We have to move from commitments to implementation if we are to slow down the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 – and achieve the 2010 biodiversity target under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). That was the main message of Martha Chouchena-Rojas, Head of the IUCN Policy, Biodiversity and International Agreements Unit when she addressed the Members of the European Parliament on 7 March 2006 .

Together with representatives of Greenpeace Brussels, she also addressed the importance of the upcoming Conference of the Parties of the CBD to reach significant progress towards the Parties’ bold commitment. She also highlighted the potential of the 2010 target to mobilize action by all sectors as shown in the 2010 Countdown initiative in Europe .

Martha Chouchena-Rojas also gave a presentation to brief the Delegation of the European Parliament that will attend the meeting later this month. IUCN welcomes the MEPs to meet again in Curitiba and provide them with further information.

World Conservation Union President Valli Moosa highlights the role of cities in biodiversity conservation

Vallo Moosa28 February 2006, Cape Town, South Africa. The battle to save the earth will be won or lost in cities – that is the resounding message from conservation leaders at the World Congress of the International Council for Local Environment Initiatives (ICLEI). Valli Moosa, President of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), provided a keynote address at the ICLEI opening ceremony.

Moosa challenged city managers and residents to better understand, protect and value the ecosystems that sustain urban environments and highlighted “the key role that cities have to play in the conservation of biodiversity”. He similarly called on the conservation community to “not to take for granted that urban areas are lost to biodiversity.”

An international gathering of local government leaders dedicated to building sustainable communities and cities, the ICLEI Congress takes place this week in Cape Town, South Africa.

The opening panel, comprised of local political leaders including South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, and representatives from international organizations including Charles McNeill from the UNDP, Dr Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNEP and Konrad Otto-Zimmerman, Director General of ICLEI, echoed the Congress’s theme of cities developing local solutions to global challenges. The resounding message from all leaders was that the battle to save the earth would be won or lost in cities.

Drawing on South African examples of urban environmental challenges and opportunities, Mr Moosa noted the important role of communities in the sustainable development and management of their cities, and the central role of nature in the wellbeing of urban residents. Moosa said that cities should allow “all people … to enjoy the wonder and beauty of nature on their doorsteps.” He provided examples from recent events, such as the earthquake in Pakistan and the 2004 tsunami in Asia, where intact ecosystems helped to improve the resilience of communities in the face of environmental disaster.

Illustrating recent efforts to jointly address urban and conservation issues, Mr Moosa referred to the work of the Union’s World Commission on Protected Areas Cities and Conservation Task Force, and two resolutions adopted at IUCN World Conservation Congress encouraging the Union to address urban conservation issues and to work more closely with local governments.

Countdown 2010, a partnership initiative that aims to support governments and other stakeholders in achieving the 2010 biodiversity target, is engaging city managers at the Congress as partners in its campaign to significantly reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2010. In his intervention Sebastian Winkler, Head of Countdown 2010 said “biodiversity is falling off the political agenda and the conservation community has to engage with cities as the centers for economic and political decision-making.”

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is an international association of local governments and national and regional local government organizations that have made a commitment to sustainable development, addressing key issues, such as water and climate that affect the sustainability of cities. More than 475 cities, towns, counties, and their associations worldwide comprise ICLEI's membership. The objective of the Congress is to define the mandate for ICLEI’s programme, particularly in terms of the contributions of local governments towards global development targets.

Mr Moosa highlighted opportunities for a closer working relationship between the Union and ICLEI to work together on biodiversity issues with local governments. Countdown 2010 provides a target for concrete actions and the successful work of ICLEI on climate change could be expanded to include the biodiversity agenda. He concluded, “a partnership between the Union and ICLEI is a natural fit and 2010 can provide one means for implementing local actions in response to global challenges”.

The Congress continues until 3 March 2006. Given that this is the first ICLEI Congress to take place in the southern hemisphere, Anthea Stephens, Acting Head of the Union’s South Africa Office noted “that it is crucial to keep the momentum alive from this Congress and that urban environmental issues have already been reflected as a priority area for IUCN South Africa’s Programme over the next four years.”

Europeans Seek Funds and Political Will to Save Biodiversity

Lake Plitvice National Park/Photo: Tim Christophersen27 February, Lake Plitvice, Croatia. Officials from 40 European governments and 32 environmental organizations have recognized the need to redouble their efforts if they are to achieve the goal agreed in 2003 of halting the decline in Europe’s biological diversity by the year 2010. This and other conclusions of the Fourth Intergovernmental “Biodiversity in Europe” Conference, will be forwarded to CBD COP 8. The meeting was held at Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, from 22-24 February.

The conference noted that, despite many positive developments, the loss of biological diversity continues to decline at a rapid pace throughout Europe. For example, an area three times the size of Luxembourg was been paved over with roads, car parks, shopping centres and other buildings during the 1990s alone.

One of the success stories highlighted at the conference was the pan-European initiative Countdown 2010, which brings together actors from civil society, the private sector and governments in an attempt to save biodiversity, and to honour the promise of all European governments to “halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010”.

Promoting the 2010 Biodiversity Forum, Sebastian Winkler, Head of Countdown 2010, said in Croatia: “This Forum provides an ideal vehicle to share success stories around the 2010 biodiversity target and to move toward implementation”.

Swiss Countdown 2010 launched

Countdown 2010 at the Natur fair in Basel26 February 2006, Basel, Switzerland. “The 2010 biodiversity target is one of humanity’s most endangered targets”, claimed Klaus Töpfer, Director of the UN Environment Programme, at NATUR 1/06 in Basel, Switzerland. This four-day fair attracted about 40.000 visitors, engaging them with biodiversity conservation. Participants of an associated congress agreed that a Swiss biodiversity strategy with clear targets and action plans would be crucial for advancing towards the 2010 biodiversity target. A number of Swiss environmental organisations and zoos have thus launched a national Countdown 2010 to show that time is ticking away and to trigger action to fulfil the promise of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010.

Pan-European experts preparing for the upcoming CBD Conference in Brazil

Plitvice Lakes National Park22 February 2006, Plitvice National Park, Croatia. Countdown 2010 presents a paper on progress towards the 2010 biodiversity target at the 'Biodiversity in Europe' conference which started today in the Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia. The authors suggest that "while good progress has been made in relation to some of the targets of the Kyiv declaration, more work is needed", in particular in mainstreaming biodiversity conservation into other policy areas and funding for the 2010 biodiversity target. They also propose sharing some European success stories like the Pan-European Ecological Network with other regions to contribute to saving biodiversity by 2010.

The biannual conferences "Biodiversity in Europe" have become the pan-European forum where countries of the region can shape their positions and pro-actively influence the global biodiversity decision-making, policy development and priority setting from a European perspective.

Italian Ministry of Environment passes a bill to ensure multi-year funding until 2010 for their protected areas.

13 February 2006, The Hague, Netherlands. Under the banner of Countdown 2010 the Italian Ministry of Environment approved today a multi-year funding programme running until 2010 to finance their protected areas system. This was communicated to representatives of all IUCN National and Regional Committees during their first global meeting last Monday. In the past funding for the protected area system in Italy was only on an annual basis. “The new bill ensures for long term stable funding and thus allows for protected areas managers to plan and implement on a five year basist”, says Frederico Cinquepalmi, representative from the Italian Ministry of Environment.

This intervention from the Italian Ministry of Environment was preceded by a lunch presentation in which Sebastian Winkler, Head of Countdown 2010 Secretariat, encouraged participants to share in public their experiences in Countdown 2010 projects.

The Italian Ministry of Environment has been backing the Countdown 2010 initiative in a constant basis since the official national launch in Italy, which took place 13th June 2005 at the Convention on Biological Diversity Ad Hoc Open Ended Working Group on Protected Areas meeting in Montecatini.

The World Conservation Union announces Global Biodiversity Forum to focus around the 2010 biodiversity target

Global Biodiversity Forum7 February 2006, Gland, Switzerland. Global Biodiversity Forum will be held at this year’s meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil from 24-25 March 2006.

This multi-stakeholder dialogue, initiated by the Union will focus on means how to significantly reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2010. This global target – known as the 2010 biodiversity target – originates from decisions of the CBD and the World Summit on Sustainable Development four years ago.

The pan-European alliance Countdown 2010, led by the Union, is coordinating the preparation of the 2010 Biodiversity Forum. “This Forum provides an ideal vehicle to share success stories around the 2010 biodiversity target and to move toward implementation,” said Sebastian Winkler, Head of Countdown 2010.

Four main themes have been identified for the 2010 Biodiversity Forum - raising finance, measuring progress, national and regional implementation and linking biodiversity to the Millennium Development Goals – which are seen as the four most crucial challenges to achieving the 2010 biodiversity target.

These four themes will be reflected in four interactive workshop streams and side events, which are being organized jointly by some twenty partners from governments, civil society and the private sector. Other organisations are cordially invited to contribute to the workshop streams. The recommendations of the 2010 Biodiversity Forum will be reported to the Ministerial Meeting and the debates of the CBD’s 8th Conference of the Parties, to be held from 20-31 March 2006.

The 2010 Biodiversity Forum also creates links with a variety of organisations and initiatives dedicated to implementing the 2010 biodiversity target. The secretariat of the CBD recently launched the Virtual Curitiba Biodiversity Conference, an online forum where stakeholders and interested parties exchange views on what needs to be done to meet the target.

Marine Environment in danger

Aldo Cosentino and Tamas Marghescu26 January 2006, Paris, France. The international goal of eliminating illegal fishing and fishing overcapacity by 2004 and 2005 has not been met, and 75 percent of the world's fish stocks are either being fully exploited or overfished said ocean experts at the UN Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts and Island. A study presented at the conference forecast that the goal of establishing representative networks of marine protected areas by 2012, will only be met in 2085 at the present rate of designation.

Aldo Cosentino, Italy's director-general, nature protection, re-announced Italy's endorsement of Countdown 2010 to stop the loss of biodiversity in Europe by 2010 at a reception for conference participants given by Italy's Ministry for the Environment and Territory.

Limburg adopts endangered species as contribution to Countdown 2010

Ignace Schops26 January 2006 Brussels, Belgium. The province of Limburg is one of the most biodiverse regions in Belgium. At a seminar held today in the European Parliament, Ignace Schops, Director of Regionaal Landschap Kempen en Maasland, announced that its twelve municipalities would adopt one of the most endangered species each and take steps to save them by 2010. After Noord-Brabant, Limburg is thus the second region to officially join Countdown 2010. Tamás Marghescu, IUCN Regional Director for Europe welcomed this step and urged Europeans to acknowledge that the environment is the foundation of sustainable development. Pointing to the experiences of the National Park Hoge Kempen, he said that "investing in biodiversity can pay off in the long run".

The Virtual Curitiba Biodiversity Conference

Virtual Curitiba Biodiversity Conference19 January 2006, Montreal, Canada. A virtual conference enabling all the citizens of the world to participate in discussions about achieving the 2010 biodiversity target has been officially launched by Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, the new Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Virtual Curitiba Biodiversity Conference invites people around the world to offer their views on biodiversity loss and progress towards 2010, which will then be submitted to more than 100 ministers expected to attend the International Curitiba Biodiversity Conference in Brazil on 27th-28th March.

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