The Heads of a number of European Nature Conservation Agencies have established a network (“ENCA-Network”) to strengthen nature conservation in Europe by enhancing cooperation between its members. I was invited to join ENCA last year and attended the previous meeting (the 10th plenary) in Austria.
Several of the ENCA members are also IUCN Members, and I believe that working with ENCA is an effective way of influencing biodiversity policy and action on the ground in Europe. I therefore agreed to join the following meeting, which is taking place in Brussels, yesterday and today.
The agenda for this meeting is to discuss integration of biodiversity and ecosystem services in other sectors. The first day was a reflection on efforts to mainstream biodiversity in European Commission programmes, and in particular the link between biodiversity conservation and business operations in Europe. I presented our experience with the European Business and Biodiversity Platform, The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) talked about TEEB for Business and “Entreprises pour l’Environnement” presented their French Business and Biodiversity platform. We also had presentations from industry, notably from one of Europe’s top 5 energy companies, RWE AG and from the European Aggregates Association, UEPG.
From the presentations and the subsequent discussions is is clear that there is no shortage of opportunities for private sector to work with conservation organisations, but it is not yet clear what that means in practical terms. The ENCA members agreed that they need to reach out to business, and we learned that there is a serious interest from the private sector to work on ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation.
I also realised that we have internal communication challenges. We are still grappling with the terminology of biodiversity, nature, ecosystems and ecosystem services, and there was confusion what we actually mean when we talk about mainstreaming and what we want from business engagement. I believe that the private sector representatives are most interested in the goods and services provided by nature, but we were not all in agreement whether this implies that industrial activities will help protect biodiversity.
The other issue for reflection was the need for increased funding to do our work, but the fact that this may be a challenge during the coming EC Budget 2014-2020. Commissioner Janez Potočnikgave a speech at the evening reception about mainstreaming of biodiversity in the EU programme, and Tony Long from WWF gave us his view during a dinner speech. The picture is gloomy, with an overall reduction in earmarked funding for biodiversity conservation, the hope that money will be made available through funding from other Directorates, but no certainty that this will actually happen.
This is where the word integration gets a different meaning, and I left with the feeling that we are fighting a battle at different levels. IUCN must help its NGO Member lobbyists in Brussels to convince EU decision-makes that funding needs to be made available for nature conservation. Equally importantly is to use our network in support of our Government Agencies and State Members to help them influence at the EU Member State level how to re-direct funds from other sectors to nature conservation.