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Biodiversity Will Be Won in Cities

Cities occupy 2% of the planet surface, but absorb 75% of the world’s natural resources

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California water conservation in watersheds In the past, biodiversity conservation and protection has been viewed as the domain and responsibility of national, provincial and regional governments with little attention or focus on the local government level. However, more recently, city governments globally have started to recognize that their role is increasingly relevant, especially in light of increasing urbanization.

Cities occupy just 2% of the surface area of the planet, but absorb a staggering 75% of the world’s natural resources, said Sebastian Winkler, Director of IUCN’s Count Down 2010 project.

"Human activities are having an increasing impact on the integrity of ecosystems that provide essential resources and services for human well-being and economic activities. Managing the natural resources base in a sustainable and integrated manner is essential for sustainable development." The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (section 24) that arose out of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002)

An international workshop was held by local government leaders in October 2007 to focus urban planning resources on biodiversity. Local Action for Biodiversity (LAB) is a project of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. LAB is the first project in the world to bring together local governments from all continents around the theme of cities and biodiversity.

International Biodiversity Day: 22 May

The International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD) commemorates the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity and is a UN-sanctioned international holiday for the promotion of biodiversity issues. The focus of 2007's World Biodiversity Day was on Biodiversity and Climate Change, which corresponds with the designation of 2007 as the International Polar Year and with UNEP’S World Environment Day theme of Climate Change.
"The war for biodiversity will be won in the cities,” continued Winkler. "Through LAB, cities will be able to access a range of tools, developed to assist cities in planning and implementation for biodiversity.” Because local government is tasked with service provision and ensuring that social and economic development proceeds within the carrying capacity of the biological resource base, it is a significant front-line manager of global biodiversity.

Destruction of habitats through rapid urbanisation, invasive alien vegetation, climate change, poor communication and lack of capacity were listed as the primary challenges facing biodiversity management in an urban context.

ICLEI’s Biodiversity Initiative, which started in 2006, initiated a range of (pilot) projects and aims to involve many more local governments in biodiversity conservation in its next phase. The initiative is preparing an ICLEI Biodiversity Program which will provide a framework for ICLEI members to integrate biodiversity conservation into planning, policy and decision making.

LAB partner cities will receive the following benefits through their participation in LAB:

  • International exposure through the LAB website and other media, and in international forums
  • Enhanced communication with other cities regarding biodiversity planning and management
  • Assistance in producing a comprehensive city-specific Biodiversity Report and City 10-year Biodiversity Action Plan and Framework
  • A synthesis and analysis of best practice emerging from other partner cities and the global literature
  • Capacity building and development of staff through interaction with the LAB team and the development of documents and projects

ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability

The LAB Project

European Urban Biodiversity Conference Notes ie: Urban Density and Green Structure Case Studies

Nature in the City

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| urban planning | natural systems | biodiversity | governance | global |


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