Overseas Territories and the European Union

 

In July, JNCC participated in a conference entitled “The European Union (EU) and its Overseas Entities: strategies to counter climate change and biodiversity loss”. This was hosted on Réunion Island in July, under the auspices of the French Presidency of the European Union. JNCC was an official supporter of the event and a member of the Steering Committee.

JNCC has produced a series of materials on Climate Change in the UKOTs which include brochures for individuals, policy and decision makers and businesses; guidance for practitioners on planning and managing biodiversity and an overview of the basics of climate change. There is also a DVD on the basic science of climate change. All of the materials are available on the JNCC website: http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-4362

 

 

 

Details and images of the event, and the full content of the 'Message from Réunion' can be found at www.reunion2008.eu

 

 

 

 

 

There were over 700 participants, including representatives from Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs), Outermost Regions (ORs), relevant European Member States, the European Commission, the European Parliament, scientific institutions and non-governmental organisations. JNCC were represented by Tara Pelembe, Overseas Territories Officer, and Deanna Donaovan, Environmental Economics Adviser.

 

The objectives of the conference were to:

  • reinforce awareness amongst the European institutions, the EU Member States, the relevant regional and global institutions and the media about the unique natural heritage of the EU’s overseas entities, the threats that this heritage faces and the opportunities it can present;
  • enhance the effectiveness of action and cooperation between the EU, the Member States and the ORs and the OCTs in terms of adaptation to climate change, a model energy policy as well as the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity; and
  • enhance regional cooperation between the ORs, the OCTs as well as their neighbours, and strengthen the voice of the ORs and OCTs on the international environmental scene in concert with the European Union and Small Island Developing States.  

 

The programme included plenary sessions on the environmental challenges of the European Overseas Entities; climate change and biodiversity; adaptation and mitigation; sustainable energy; and links between ORs, OCTs and European policy. There were also a series of workshops that explored topics such as economic valuation, invasive species, the role of civil society, how to integrate the marine environmental challenges in the ORs and OCTs into EU policy, and challenges and opportunities for regional cooperation and sustainable financing.

Reunion Island © IUCN/ Wiebke Herding

Nine of the UK Overseas Territories were represented and made valuable contributions to the conference. These included the Montserrat Minister of Agriculture, Land, Housing and the Environment, Mr Ruben Meade, who chaired a plenary session entitled “How can European policies help address the environmental challenges in the ORs and OCTs?”; Ms Lynda Varlack (British Virgin Islands) who gave a presentation at a workshop entitled “What partnership between ORs, OCTs, the EU member states and the European Commission to promote the protection of habitats and species?”; and Mr Kenneth e-Banks (Cayman Islands Government) who participated in a podium discussion on “Alliances between the EU, ORs, OCTs, African Caribbean and Pacific countries and Small Island Developing States to counter climate change and biodiversity loss.”

 

Tara Pelembe, JNCC, gave a presentation at the opening plenary session, highlighting the wealth of biodiversity in the UK Overseas Territories, adding that there were many successful biodiversity conservation projects. She emphasised how this conference provided an opportunity to develop collaborative partnerships at a regional and international level to address the complex issue of climate change and biodiversity loss. She also launched a series of materials that JNCC has produced which outline the basic science climate change. One of these products, a DVD, was screened at a plenary session on the final day of the conference, and feedback was very positive.

 

Deanna Donovan and Tara co-facilitated (with the French Development Agency) a workshop session chaired by Nicholas Connor (IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Economic Evaluation Task Force) entitled ”Economic valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services: what role in development strategies? Past experiences and future perspectives”. The workshop featured excellent presentations of environmental economic JNCC's Overseas Territories Officer Tara Pelembe © IUCN/Wiebke Herdingvaluation case studies from Mr Stephen Mendes (Montserrat Government), Ms Samia Sarkis (Bermuda Government) and Mr Mat Cottam (Cayman Government). Deanna outlined the JNCC’s environmental economics project explaining how our environmental economics toolkit on valuing the environment in small islands has been developed (http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-4136).

 

The outcomes of the workshops and the plenary sessions were incorporated into a 'Message from Réunion' which highlights, among other things, that the links between people, biodiversity and climate need to be recognised when considering issues of biodiversity loss and climate change. It also states that there is an urgent need for EU member states, the EC, the OCTs and the ORs to:

  • establish a voluntary scheme for the protection of species and habitats inspired by Natura 2000, adapted to the local situation;
  • highlight the importance of species-level conservation outside of protected areas;
  • develop a network of stakeholders;
  • strengthen involvement in regional cooperation;
  • make stronger reference to OCTs and ORs in the EC white paper on climate change adaptation;
  • encourage participation in international initiatives such as Global Islands Partnership (GLISPA);
  • recognise that energy is at the heart of development policy as well as climate change; and 
  • recognise that marine and coastal areas of the OCTs and ORs deserve to be part of a long term, geo-strategic vision.

 

It was also highlighted that there is a need for earmarked additional funding for biodiversity conservation. The French Presidency of the Council of the European Union also issued a statement supporting these outcomes.

 

This event was the first of its kind to successfully provide a platform for discussion and an excellent opportunity for collaboration and networking. The outcomes of this positive initiative need to be taken foward working with the  EU, its Member States and its Overseas Entities.