IUCN EU Newsletter

May 2014


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Editorial from Luc Bas, Director, IUCN Brussels Office
Luc Bas, Director, IUCN EU Representative Office

Dear Members, dear Readers,


Welcome to the IUCN EU Newsletter! As you will see, the newsletter now has a stronger focus on issues relevant to EU policy developments, and we hope that it can contribute to informing the discussions on environmental issues that are high on the agenda, both at EU and Member State level.
IUCN’s Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, who recently visited Brussels for high-level meetings with the European Commission, will give you a detailed account of her impressions of the developments in Brussels. In addition, you will find updates on some key issues, including EU approach to tackle wildlife trafficking, the status of European bumblebees, invasive alien species and the restoration of Europe’s peatlands.
As always, we welcome any feedback you might have to foster debate on these important issues.
Kind Regards,
Luc Bas

A letter from Brussels - Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General, IUCN
Julia Marton-Lefèvre

I recently spent three very productive days in Brussels, meeting with the EU Commissioners from Environment, Development Cooperation, and Climate; the Head of the Cabinet of the Commissioner and Director of Environment for DG Research and Innovation; and the Director-General for DG Environment. 


The discussions with the Commissioners and high-level officials centered around issues of key concern to IUCN, such as the post-2015 development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals, and mainstreaming nature-based solutions in the EU’s environment and climate policies.


Environment Commissioner Potocnik announced an upcoming Commission Communication on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will aim at deepening the understanding of the important role of biodiversity and ecosystem services for poverty reduction, and asked IUCN to provide input. We will focus on linking nature based solutions and human well-being, and I emphasised the key role of governance in this respect, which deserves to be a stream in sustainable development.


The Commission is planning to issue a strategic document on nature-based solutions for the new Commissioner, and IUCN offered to provide the science-policy interface for a conference on this topic planned for the fall. The Commission is also working to launch a project for nature-based solutions across Europe with a focus on getting citizens involved in the debate. It was also agreed that IUCN would organise a side event at the EU’s upcoming Green Week (3-5 June) on the role of nature-based solutions in the circular economy. 


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European Parliament adopts legislation to tackle invasive alien species at EU level
American red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)

The European Parliament on 16 April adopted legislative plans to prevent the introduction and manage the spread in the EU of invasive alien species (IAS) of plants, animals or insects that cause ecological and economic damage. The legislation aims to tackle the threat through better, more coordinated action by member states, and provides for a ban on species declared to be of “Union concern”.


This new regulation is an important step towards strengthened action to protect the EU against the devastating impacts of invasive alien species on its biodiversity and economy. Among other positive elements, IUCN welcomes the removal of the cap of 50 species of EU concern. On the other hand, the negotiated outcome has not met all of IUCN’s asks, such as the full inclusion of species that are native in some parts of Europe and invasive in others, and remaining openings for derogations.


The challenge now is implementation and IUCN looks forward to providing scientific expertise through our broad network in the coming years.

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Bad news for Europe’s bumblebees
Changes in land use and agricultural practices that result in the loss of the species’ natural environment  represent a serious threat to many bumblebees in Europe

Twenty four percent of European bumblebee species are threatened with extinction according to a recent study assessing the species group at the European level.


The study examines all of the 68 bumblebee species that occur in Europe. It is part of the Status and Trends of European Pollinators (STEP) project and the European Red List of pollinators, both funded by the European Commission. The results feed into The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.


Bumblebees, like other pollinators, play a critical role in securing food production. They allow plants to reproduce and improve the production of crops, such as tomatoes, peppers and many other types of fruit, vegetables and seeds that make up our diet. Of the five most important pollinators of European crops, three are bumblebee species. Together with other pollinators, bumblebees contribute more than 22 billion Euros to European agriculture per year.


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IUCN calls for strengthening international cooperation to tackle wildlife crime
Asian rhinos

Wildlife crime, including poaching, illegal harvesting and other illegal cross-border trade in biological resources taken from the wild, has reached worrying levels and become a serious transnationally organised criminal business, now representing the fourth largest illegal activity in the world after drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human trafficking. This can have potentially disastrous implications for the conservation of the trafficked species.


“Wildlife crime puts entire ecosystems at risk, and international intelligence, policy and enforcement efforts have to be urgently strengthened, in particular to address the role of international crime in driving illegal activities. We need to be better organised than the organised crime. The EU now has to play a crucial role to help convene different stakeholders internationally, and take a lead in strengthening efforts on its own territory and also in supporting countries from which trafficked wildlife originates,” said Luc Bas, Director of IUCN’s EU Representative Office, on the occasion of a Conference on the EU Approach Against Wildlife Trafficking organised by the European Commission, which took place on 10 April 2014 in Brussels.


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European Tree of the Year Award – Winner Announced at Ceremony
IUCN Director General announcing one of the winning trees

The winner of the European Tree of the Year 2014 was announced on 19 March at the European Parliament in Brussels at a ceremony organized under the patronage of Mr Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, and Mr Pavel Poc, Member of the European Parliament.


Unlike other contests, the focus of this award was on the stories of the trees and their link with communities living around them rather than their age, beauty or height. Ten trees from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Scotland, Slovakia, and Wales were in the running for first place, but it was The Old Elm tree from Bulgaria that managed to gain the most votes (77526 votes in total) and win the first prize. Second place went to The Giant Wild Pear of Gödöllő (Hungary), and the Wybicki Oak at Będomin (Poland) came in third.


IUCN Director-General Julia Marton-Lefèvre was at the ceremony to hand over the second place award. In her speech to the audience she emphasized IUCN’s support for the annual European Tree contest and the importance of protecting trees not only in Europe, but all over the world.

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New Report highlights multiple benefits of peatland restoration around the world
Blanket bog of the Flow Country, Forsinard, UK

Europe is rich in peatlands and these important ecosystems can bring environmental, social and economic benefits for communities and wildlife alike. A new report published today highlights innovative projects from around the globe which are helping restore and conserve our threatened peatlands.


Peatlands provide vital natural services in tackling climate change and maintaining our water supply as well as being beautiful havens for wildlife and places for people to enjoy. Peatlands are ancient landscapes in which the naturally wet conditions preserve dead plant material as peat. Carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis is effectively ‘locked up’ in the peat for millennia, thereby acting as ‘carbon sinks’ which keep CO2 emissions down in a way even more effectively than rainforests.


Across the globe, peatlands occupy only 3% of the world’s land area, yet hold over 30% of the global carbon store. However, damaged peatlands lose their ability to remove CO2 and instead start to release it back into the atmosphere, thereby accelerating climate change, at a high cost to the environment and society.


The latest publication from the IUCN UK Peatland Programme and CEM Thematic Group on Peatlands, ‘Global Peatland Restoration – Demonstrating Success’, launched today in Brussels, showcases successful restoration projects across the world. Case studies illustrate opportunities for restoration and sustainable management as well as innovative ways of engaging communities in conservation action.


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IUCN celebrates 50th Anniversary of Red List of Threatened Species
The IUCN Red List logo

Throughout 2014, IUCN is celebrating the significant contribution of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in guiding conservation action and policy decisions over the past 50 years. The IUCN Red list is an invaluable conservation resource, a health check for our planet – a Barometer of Life.


The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species and their links to livelihoods. Far more than a list of species and their status, the IUCN Red List is a powerful tool to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation and policy change, critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive. It provides information on population size and trends, geographic range and habitat needs of species.


Many species groups including mammals, amphibians, birds, reef building corals and conifers have been comprehensively assessed. However, there is much more to be done and increased investment is needed urgently to build The IUCN Red List into a more complete ‘Barometer of Life’. To do this we need to increase the number of species assessed from the current count of 71,576 to at least 160,000 by 2020, improving the taxonomic coverage and thus providing a stronger base to enable better conservation and policy decisions.


Join us in celebrating the contribution that The IUCN Red List has made in guiding conservation for 50 years – spread the word, get involved, follow our news through www.facebook.com/iucn.red.list and  @amazingspecies.


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Upcoming events

Renaturing Cities: Addressing Environmental Challenges and the Effects of the Economic Crisis through nature based solutions, 13/14 May, Brussels

Environmental Conference of the Regions of Europe (ENCORE), 15/16 May, Munich

International Day for Biological Diversity, 22 May, worldwide

High-Level Conference on Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES) in Europe, 22 May, Brussels

European Elections, 22-25 May, Europe-wide

Resilient Cities 2014 - 5th Global Forum on Urban Resilience & Adaptation,  29-31 May, Bonn

2nd URBES Training Session, 27-28 May, Bonn

Green Week 2014: Circular economy – saving resources, creating jobs, 3-5 June 2014, Brussels

Green infrastructure as a solution: sharing success stories (IUCN event organised as part of Green Week 2014), 4 June 2014, Brussels

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IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) © 2014

IUCN helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN’s work focuses on valuing and conserving nature, ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development.


The IUCN Brussels Office is an out-posted headquarters unit providing global services to the organization and vital linkages for IUCN, its Members, National Committees and scientific Commissions to key EU institutions and other public and private actors with regional headquarters in Brussels. The principal focus of the IUCN Office in Brussels is policy influencing and fundraising at the EU level.


See www.iucn.org/europe for more information.

Photo credits: Riccardo Scalera, Pierre Rasmont, Tiffany Velez, Michal Vesely (Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation), RSPB