EU opens annual conference on environment policy, gathering thousands of experts for four days of debate.
How to stop the loss of biodiversity without impeding human development is one of the biggest conundrums of modern times.
Experts from around the world have gathered in Brussels this week to brainstorm on the problem.
The topic is timely. Not only is stopping the loss of biodiversity one of the EU’s main environmental goals, the UN has also designated 2010 as International Year of Biodiversity.
More than 3000 scientists, business leaders, environmental advocates and government officials are taking part in the forum, called Green Week.
Biodiversity refers to the abundance and variety of plant and animal species and their habitats. The concept encompasses variation in genetic makeup. A large number and wide range of natural habitats and species are essential to maintaining the earth’s ecosystems.
Humans have caused massive losses in biodiversity, mainly by destroying plant and animal habitats. The UN estimates that species are now disappearing at 100 to 1000 times the natural extinction rate. A third of the 1.75m known animal and plant species are under threat.
The conference will explore the importance of biodiversity, why it is declining and how to reverse the trend. In particular, it will examine the functioning of Natura 2000, a network of conservation areas in the EU, and introduce a new web portal centralising information about biodiversity in Europe.
Green Week will also host this year's European Business Awards for the Environment. These recognise companies that make fighting climate change part of their daily work. Four prizes will be awarded for projects that marry commercial acumen with an environmental conscience.
The 10 finalists – selected from 141 entries - include Siemens, Grupo Ferrovial, Ecover and Findus.