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Major conference on future EU biodiversity policy opens in Athens

A two-day conference in Athens on the future of European biodiversity policy entitled "Biodiversity Protection – Beyond 2010" will open on Monday the 27th of April. Some 230 delegates from all the EU Member States, together with representatives from NGOs, European business and UN organisations will discuss current EU policy on preserving EU biodiversity identify priorities for future action. There is growing evidence that although important progress has been made - for example with the establishment of the Natura 2000 network - the decline of ecosystems and species is continuing. To meet the EU's objective of stopping biodiversity loss it will be necessary for the political and economic decision making process to take the true value of biodiversity into account.

"Ecosystems are the foundation of life on earth and they are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate" said Environment commissioner Stavros Dimas. "It is well understood that there is a moral obligation to protect nature. But biodiversity is also the basis of human wellbeing. Ecosystems ensure clean water, purify our air, regulate the climate and provide us with food. Nature provides us with raw materials and is the origin of many of our most effective medicines. Current policies to halt the alarming loss of biodiversity are having a positive effect but are not sufficient to meet the scale of the challenge. Business as usual is not sustainable and this conference aims to launch a renewed effort to halt the loss of biodiversity in Europe and beyond."

A road map for future policy

The conference will begin with an up-to-date overview of the state of biodiversity in the EU and beyond, before looking to the future. Parallel sessions will cover topics including the effects of climate change on biodiversity, the response from industry and business, possible improvements to the Natura 2000 network, the need to more effectively include biodiversity considerations in other policy areas (such as agriculture, fisheries, regional development, transport, energy, trade and development aid), and the need to ensure that the true value of biodiversity is included in economics and accounting. The conference will end with a synthesis of recommendations and a "Message from Athens" that draws together suggestions for future biodiversity policy.

An ethical and economic imperative

Biodiversity protection is about conserving the resilience and vitality of our natural ecosystems both for their intrinsic value and for the benefits that they provide to human society. Healthy ecosystems, therefore, constitute our best defence against the worst extremes of weather associated with climate change.

There is increasing recognition that the benefits that human society derives from nature have a very high value and that sustainable human development is dependent upon the continued delivery of these benefits. However, the true value of these benefits is not currently reflected either in their market price or in political decision making. Until this basic failing is addressed, biodiversity will continue to be lost.

by S. C.
24 april 2009, Food & Fun > Nature