Biodiversity took centre stage at this year’s Green Week, which was held during early June and included LIFE projects being recognised for their good practice in helping to strengthen the conservation status of many endangered EU species.
"The world needs a reality check on the importance of biodiversity loss,” said European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik, at the launch of the EU’s Green Week for 2010. Focusing on biodiversity’s vital role in sustaining the planet’s life support systems, the week of events promoting green approaches and nature conservation brought together more than 3000 participants from business and industry, non-governmental organisations, EU institutions, public authorities, the scientific community and academia.
Over 30 Green Week events took place to raise awareness about the needs of EU wildlife and share experiences in nature conservation actions. New strategic tools were also unveiled during Green Week events to help halt species loss. These include the European Commission’s Business @ Biodiversity (B@B) Platform which, by promoting the competitive advantages available from conserving biodiversity, encourages EU businesses to integrate wildlife protection activity within their core commercial operations. Other tools launched during Green Week targeted information gaps concerning the state of EU biodiversity. Weaknesses in knowledge about EU species had previously been linked with failures to stop biodiversity loss by 2010 and two new developments (a ‘Biodiversity baseline’ and a ‘Biodiversity Information System (BISE)’) are now in place to help authorities more accurately measure the condition of EU biodiversity.
Local LIFE projects will be able to feed into these high-level EU biodiversity initiatives and LIFE’s special role in EU nature conservation ventures was acknowledged by Green Week participants. Several dedicated LIFE events were organised during and just before the week including a two day conference titled ‘LIFE Nature and Biodiversity – preparing the future’.
Exploring both the scope of support and benefits available from LIFE’s Biodiversity component, the two day conference (day 1, day 2) generated some quite considerable conclusions, as previewed in the headline article of this LIFEnews edition. Speaking after the event, Mr Angelo Salsi, Head of Unit at the DG Environment LIFE unit, explained how the conference had been useful in helping to define a path for the future of the LIFE Nature programme. Expanding on this he said, “We want to adopt a different approach to LIFE Nature, which keeps one foot in the past but also places one firmly in the future.”
Delegates attending the LIFE conference were able to see for themselves that the Commission was keen on taking forward the new-look LIFE Nature programme in partnership with Europe’s nature conservation stakeholders. Mr Salsi welcomed the way that the conference had provided a means of connecting with delegates in this respect and he reinforced the fact that the “Commission does understand stakeholders’ needs and that it wants an open debate with its partners”.
In addition to LIFE’s biodiversity conference, a variety of different LIFE project profiles were showcased at the ‘LIFE space’ Green Week stand. Highlighting LIFE’s multi-faceted contributions to safeguarding EU biodiversity, the project presentations underscored LIFE’s achievements in implementing the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, the Natura 2000 network and the EU’s Biodiversity Action Plan.
Particular attention was drawn to nine projects. These included nature conservation works supporting: rare raptors in Greece; brown bears in Italy; sea birds in Spain, endangered snake species in Hungary and France; and improved wintering conditions for protected geese in Romania. Habitat projects profiled at LIFE’s Green Week stand included recent management works at an active blanket bog in Wales and an important Coastal SPA in Eastern England, as well as forest restoration interventions in Sweden’s Söderåsen National Park.
Other LIFE projects in the news at Green Week were the winners of this year’s ‘Best of the Best’ awards. Separate ceremonies took place for the 2009-2010 awards from LIFE Environment and LIFE Nature components.
The Best LIFE-Nature Project award scheme is a new initiative that aims to recognise some of the best LIFE Nature projects that completed their work during the reference period 2008-2009. All projects completed within the reference period were initially technically assessed by the LIFE Unit’s External Assistance Team to produce a first list of 23 Best Projects. The final selection was then undertaken by Member States and resulted in five projects being given the award as ‘Best of the Best’ LIFE Nature projects for 2009. These are, (in alphabetical order):
Angelo Salsi described the five ‘Best of the Best’ LIFE Nature Awards winners as “outstanding” and he greatly appreciated the hard work made by each of the project coordinators to inform Green Week delegates about their LIFE projects’ long-term and sustainable impacts.
Full details for all 23 Best LIFE-Nature Project award winners are available on the Best projects pages.