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Steiner Calls for Promoting European Development Cooperation

Comments by Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme

Chair of Opening Session Discussion-Biodiversity in European Development Cooperation, Paris 19 September 2006

Honorable Ministers, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends and colleagues.

Some years take on special significance. There are ones that are cause for celebration-others cause for sadness, hand wringing and general concern.

1989-the fall of the Berlin Wall ending Europe's artificial and tense partition highlights the former.

1980-few can forget where they were on that fateful day 26 years ago when John Lennon was shot.

(Incidentally, 2006 is a big year for me personally-leaving IUCN and joining UNEP. You, the jury, are still out on whether this will be cause for celebration or cause for the sad tolling of bells!!)

So what of 2010? Will it be a red letter year for the world's biodiversity and the globe's ecosystems.

Will it also be a year when the industrialized nations can pop the corks for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change?

A year when we can look forward with confidence to the even deeper, 60 per cent to 80 per cent cuts in greenhouse gases needed to stabilize the atmosphere?

For we know that reversing the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010 without meeting climate change commitments- and going beyond- will indeed by a short-lived and hollow dream.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are here to chart a new way forward for European Development Cooperation-one aimed at boosting its effectiveness, its delivery in respect of the 2010 biodiversity target.

A target that is part of the wider, internationally agreed development goals, emerging from 2000, expanded at the World Summit on Sustainable development in 2002 and re-affirmed at the World Summit in 2005 at the UN headquarters in New York.

In the past, the true economic value of ecosystems like forests, coral reefs and wetlands were all too often an invisible objective in development cooperation.

Conserving environmental goods and services was an after thought, the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the growing body of work from organizations like UNEP and the World Bank to NGOs and bodies such as the IUCN are changing this perception-a perception that has played its part in keeping environmental sustainability on the fringe and thus frustrating our attempts to eradicate poverty.

Now the bandages are slowly peeling off this invisible man-and woman-and we are starting to see the true value for the first time.

Some of these values are local and regional. An intact wetland is worth perhaps tens of thousands of dollars a hectare in terms of, for example, its pollution filtering services.

Gorilla watching in the Great Lakes-tourism revenues of $20 million a year.

But large swathes of the developing world's biodiversity and ecosystem services are of global importance.

The 20th century was an industrial one. The 21st century increasingly a biological age in which European companies are key players-the lion's share of this genetic diversity rests in the developing world.

Let's take coral reefs. Coral reefs not only protect shorelines and generate tourism revenues.

They are nurseries for fish and thus increasingly happy hunting grounds for European fleets and European consumers deprived of local fish stocks as a result of over exploitation at home.

How can we ensure that global fisheries are harvested sustainably to the benefit of Europe?

But also in a way that fights poverty and delivers long lasting improvements to the lives and economies of the people, communities and countries of the developing world?

Tropical forests? Does European Development Cooperation-indeed does Overseas Development Aid generally- contribute to their destruction or can we find new ways of sharing the benefits?

One step is to promote value-added so this timber is not simply shipped out to Rotterdam, Hamburg or Southampton as low value logs.

But increasingly we are recognizing that the actual value of these forests may be worth billions of dollars a year for the carbon soaking, carbon sequestration, service alone.

How can development cooperation factor this service in, so that the poor people of the tropics share in this wealth?

There are some beacons. Let me give you one. We are in Paris, so I will mention France. Earlier this year France signed a debt-for-nature swap with Cameroon under which $25 million will be invested in people and in nature in the Congo River Basin.

There are also some guides on how we might perhaps take these ideas forward.

I mentioned the Kyoto Protocol and so I must mention the flexible mechanisms like Joint Implementation, trading and the Clean Development Mechanism.

Can we take these financial instruments and adapt them for achieving the 2010 biodiversity target and the conservation of healthy- and the rehabilitation of damaged- ecosystems.

Could damage to nature or natural capital in Europe be offset by backing projects in the developing world that conserve water basins, coral and mangrove forests or genetic and biologically rich hotspots?

Can we trade ecosystem services and if so how might that work?

These are demanding and also exciting and creative challenges and are unlikely to be the only solutions.

But urgent solutions are needed and demand everyone's attention- not only the environment ministers, but ministers of finance, foreign affairs up to development, trade and the President or Prime Minister's office.

For in the end, unless we deal with how we slice the environmental cake-how we better manage the globe's natural resources- there will be less and less of it to go around we will all be poor and impoverished.

And in 2010 we will be holding another wake- rather than a celebration- for the species and ecosystems lost and a further funeral for the credibility of the international community to deliver on its promises.

Now one of the great joys of being the chair is that I can raise some issues and pose a few questions without necessarily having the answers!!

In summary I would offer the following few issues which Europe's development cooperation could focus on in rethinking its contribution to achieving the 2010 target of reversing the rate of loss of biodiversity.

- climate change, adaptation and biodiversity

- infrastructure development and biodiversity

- economic policy instruments such as payment for ecosystem services and greening of national tax regimes

- markets, trade and biodiversity

So let me now invite our first speaker to address the audience.




Further Resources

Biodiversity in European Development Cooperation
Paris 19 September 2006

IISD Linkages Coverage

UNEP Resources on Biological Diversity


Convention of Biological Diversity

Biodiversity Indicators


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