On the front line – the EU’s overseas entities battle climate change

13 May 2008 | News story

For the first time, the EU’s overseas entities, ranging from islands in the tropics to the polar regions and sections of the Amazon rainforest, will get together to learn lessons and act jointly on climate change adaptation and species loss reduction.

When it comes to the effects of climate change these isolated islands are on the front line. Scattered at three oceans and two continents, the EU's  satellite territories also boast some of the richest biodiversity in the world. New Caledonia, for example, has 2 423 endemic species, while mainland France has  only 353. They all need to work together on adapting to the effects of climate change, conserving species and making sure the remaining natural habitats are protected.

The conference “The European Union and its Overseas Entities: Strategies to counter Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss” – taking place on Reunion Island from July 7-11 and co-organised by IUCN, will address the following key issues:

  • Islands: Overseas Europe has more than 350 tropical, temperate and polar islands. Having developed in isolation they are the most productive playgrounds of evolution. But they are now under serious threat. In the last 400 years, 75 percent of all species extinctions have been on islands.
  • Invasive Species: These remain the single biggest cause of species loss on islands. Rats introduced when islands were discovered, for example, are a major threat to many indigenous birds.
  • Climate Change: The EU’s overseas entities are being first-hit by climate change. They can be used as places where solutions related to climate change that work in the regional context can be found.
  • Oceans: The marine areas around the EU Overseas Entities are extremely vast and host some of the most important oceanic species and resources of the planet.

The conference – an event of the upcoming French Presidency of the Council of the European Union – will bring together the EU’s  seven outermost regions  and 21 overseas countries and territories, as well as governments from the European Union and Small Island Developing States, international and regional organizations, research institutes, civil society and the private sector. Alongside IUCN, the other organisers are the Regional Council of Reunion Island, the French Observatory for the Impacts of Global Warming (ONERC) and the French Ministry of Internal Affairs, Overseas and Territorial Collectivities.

On the occasion of the conference IUCN will publish a background document entitled "Climate change and biodiversity in the EU overseas entities", addressing threats on ecosystems, potential economic and social consequences, and possible strategies.

Note to editors

Seven outermost regions

The territory of the EU has seven outermost regions: Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Reunion (French overseas départements), the Spanish Canary Islands, and the Portuguese islands of the Azores and Madeira. They are all an integral part of the EU.
 

EU's 21 overseas countries and territories

21 overseas countries and territories (e.g. French Polynesia, Falkland/Malvinas, Greenland) have a special status. While the inhabitants of these territories are citizens of the associated member state, EU regulations do not necessarily apply.