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29 January 2019

On the Conference Road

Don’t miss the TRANSGREEN International Conference on Natural-Infrastructure Connectivity, landing in Budapest on 4 April 2019.

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10 January 2019

Time to report!

To face 2019, some forget-me-not remarks from the CEEweb Academy 2018!

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20 December 2018

Holistic global framework is needed to fight biodiversity loss

Heading towards 2020 now it is time to review how much global biodiversity policies have delivered the targets and what we can learn from past experiences. CEEweb also took stock and provided a submission to the Secteratiat of the Convention on Biological Diversity for future policies outlining the proposals below:

The Aichi targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity shall be reached by 2020 to halt biodiversity loss by addressing the drivers, pressures, state, impacts and responses. Even though the Strategic Plan and the Aichi targets take the right approach in covering all elements of the causal framework, countries have not managed to reach the Aichi targets – only one out of the twenty is expected to be achieved!

We beleive that this remarkable underperformance is a result of conflicting sectoral policies, where the traditional approach of biodiversity mainstreaming cannot deliver the necessary results due to several reasons:

  • Tackling the drivers and the pressures primarily lies outside the responsibility of biodiversity stakeholders. The nature conservation sector in general does not have a strong advocacy power within governmental structures, and their position has been even weakening in the last years in several countries, like in Central and Eastern Europe. This weakening position is manifested in legally and/or politically diminishing authority to participate in decisions, shrinking financial and human resources and the decreasing capacities of civil society to engage in nature conservation as a result of undemocratic trends in several countries.
  • This low advocacy power comes from a combination of external factors, such as the conflicting sectoral interests and the lack of political will and low understanding on biodiversity among high-level politicans, which is becoming more apparent in a trend of centralising governance in several countries. The largely unbalanced power relationship between the sectoral interest groups/ economic actors and environmental/nature conservation sector greatly amplifies this. This partly stems from the different nature of the natural resources that the conflicting sectors depend on: while the nature conservation sector primarily safeguards depletable renewable resources (where the yield is limited by the regeneration capacity and speed of natural cycles), most of the conflicting sectors use nonrenewable resources, (where the profit generation is not limited by natural cycles). Another important factor is the type of financial resources on the conflicting sides: public money that is tagged to specific actions with virtually unlimited demands, versus private money being more easily available for exercising the lobby power through various legal and illegal ways of a higher order of magnitude.
  • Siloed policies and policy making, where there are no international and national standards for biodiversity and sustainability proofing of policies. Even though some tools (e.g. strategic environmental assessments) are available and governments do make efforts on this to a varying degree, this is all far from enough. This is also confirmed by the study that finds correlation between sectoral integration and good governance instead with wealth.

 

Thus we suggest more effective holistic policies in the post 2020 policy framework, namely:

 

1. Keep the current structure of the SP focusing on the drivers, pressures, state, impacts and responses. This is important for the proper understanding of the causal relationships among the problems and relationships among natural, societal and economic factors and help to identify the responsibilities of the sectors and stakeholders.

2. Broaden the targets on addressing the drivers, which can help to create the suitable socio-economic environment for all other targets and measures. In particular aim for mitigating the conflict of interests between the nature conservation and other sectors through holistic policies and financing schemes. As the state of biodiversity is influenced by three types of environmental pressures, namely resource use, land use and pollution, effective biodiversity conservation strategies also need to address all of them, while creating the interests for stakeholders to decrease such pressures in their own actions. In the case of resource and land use economic tools are the most effective and efficient means to achieve this. Experience show that voluntary commitments from business actors and endeveurs for legal regulation are insufficient to achieve the necessary results. 

 

Thus we suggest to include global targets for developing holistic resource and land use schemes on national and global levels:

    By 2030, at the latest, coherent land use policies have been introduced for all land use types with a view to decrease the overall intensity of land use with the use of financial incentives.

A concept for coherent land use policy is included here.

 

Suggested target on resource use:

    By 2030, at the latest, coherent resource use policies have been introduced with a view to decrease global resource use with the use of financial incentives based on the principle of global justice.

A concept for coherent resource use policy as also advocated by the European Resource Cap Coalition is included here.

 

3. We suggest to further strengthen the efforts on sectoral integration by developing golden standards, i.e. a new methodological approach of biodiversity and sustainability proofing of all policies. This new approach builds on different substantive, procedural and institutional proofing tools and fully considers the mitigation hierarchy: focusing on preventing problems and decreasing trade-offs with the help of mitigation measures if needed, and using compensation measures as the last resort. Developing the methodological framework can build on cimilar attempts, e.g. the methodolgical framework of biodiversity proofing cohesion funding in the European Union.

 

   By 2025, biodiversity and sustainability proofing standards have been developed for the integration of biodiversity values into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes, which enables good governance in the pursuit of biodiversity objectives.

 

4. Finally, we also urge the reinforcement of the CBD through liability mechanisms to encourage government responsibility with regard to biodiversity resources, human rights, and a healthy environment.

 

5. Suggestions for resource mobilisation

The most effective means of resource mobilisation for biodiversity are holistic land use and resource use policies including an incentive scheme as for instance outlined in the annexes. However, all kinds of incentive schemes and financing mechanisms shall respect a number of principles for the benefit of biodiversity conservation.

It must be consistent with the CBD and the delivery of all of its three objectives, such as the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources. Any potential trade-offs among the impacts on the three objectives shall be carefully considered.

 

The resources created and mobilised through the mechanism should be generated from unsustainable use of resources or land and lead towards more sustainable use. However, financial resources always – directly or indirectly – are generated with the use of resources and energy, which are themselves environmental pressures. Thus, when designing the financing mechanisms they should be only in place until the conservation objectives are reached, and the overall environmental costs and benefits should be calculated within the framework of a “sustainability check”.

Such assessment shall include consideration of:

a. How are the finances generated, do they have negative environmental impact elsewhere (e.g. lead to indirect land use change, increased resource use)?

 

b. How long is the mobilised resource available – what does the availability in time depends on – and how does it relate to the biological cycles it is supposed to preserve or restore?

 

c. How much is the mechanism vulnerable to market forces?

12 December 2018

Homecoming

Aiming for the future, CEEweb is touring around Hungarian universities to present the INSiGHTS project and start discussions on slow, green and healthy tourism.

One project, two weeks, four universities, five presentations and 120 students in the field of sustainable tourism: looking to properly expand its impact into the future, the INSiGHTS project has been recently working towards helping prepare the next batches of tourism professionals to understand and be ready to work on integrated slow, green and healthy tourism strategies.

Thus, between 14 and 28 November2018, CEEweb for Biodiversity, INSiGHTS’ Project Partner, carried out a series of presentations in universities of Budapest and Gödöllő, Hungary, in order to introduce the project, its working pillars and their relation to the concepts of slow, green and healthy tourism, as well as the corresponding strategies currently being worked on the project. An emphasis was also put on the work carried upon for the production of the booklet “Collecting state-of-the-art good practices in slow, green andhealthy tourism in the Danube region and beyond,” which was shared with the participants, as well as with each of the libraries of every university visited.

The booklet allowed to start discussions with several students and professors on how to define good practices to look upon to, replicate and adapt to distinct contexts, as well as on what other local and international examples and practices they had seen or worked on during this early stage of their careers.

In total, three presentations were done for Hungarian students, while the other two were done in English language for international students. The academic institutions visited thus far have been Szent István University (on the 14th and 19th at its Budapest and Gödöllő campuses, respectively), Edutus University (on 16 November), the Metropolitan University and Kodolanyi Janos University (both on 28 November).

Finally, the interest in the project’s theme and on its outcomes have already meant to be invited by all of the aforementioned universities to come back on 2019 and present the final results of INSiGHTS.

11 December 2018

Preparing for the final lap

INSiGHTS partners met in Komarno to discuss sustainable tourism marketing and integrated management schemes.

Partners from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia gathered at the 5th Steering Committee meeting and 7th thematic meeting. The meeting took place in Komárno, Slovakia on 22–23 November 2018 and was hosted by the lead partner Pons Danubii EGTC.

Partners met on Thursday morning at Restaurant Kortina, located in an old reconstructed fortification in Komárno and were welcomed by Zoltán Bara from Pons Danubii EGTC. The welcome speech was followed by a short presentation of the city of Komárno and the work of Pons Danubii EGTC in the city. The introductory words were followed by the discussion on project management issues and progress of work packages. Project partners were informed about the project performance so far and reminded about the important details regarding the reporting in the last period. Partners presented their actions and plans in the scope of Tour & Picnic events, Michael Meyer from CEEweb and Prof. Ulrike Pröbstl-Haider from BOKU University from Vienna presented the professional publications on the project results and Eva Vovk from the Development Centre of the Heart of Slovenia presented the draft version of the project video. After lunch, the meeting continued with a strategy building session and discussion on sustainable tourism marketing and promotion, smart tools and methods for coordinated sustainable supply linked to greenways and integrated management schemes.

The first day of the meeting was concluded with a guided tour of the city and visit of the fortress. The participants had the opportunity to see the well-preserved remains of the fortification structure, Komárno’s main historical monuments symbolizing both the pride and resilience of this historically important town. The fortification structure includes Old and New fortresses at the confluence of the rivers Danube and Váh and the bastions from the Palatine’s line to protect the city from the west. After the tour of the fortress, partners walked through the city to the Courtyard of Europe. The unique architectural work is stylistically designed to represent historical architecture typical for the European Union member states. In the middle of the Courtyard of Europe stands a functional copy of the original well which stood in the square until 1878. On the walk through the city, partners stopped in front of the monuments of Komárno’s famous citizens such as Franz Lehár, famous composer and Mór Jókai, the world-famous Hungarian romantic writer and novelist and learned about their importance for the city.

On Friday partners met again at Restaurant Kortina and discussed pilot action plans. First, an overview of pilot action plans implementation was made. Then partners presented their pilot activities and its progress. As part of pilot action plan presentations, the hosts organized a presentation of Virtual reality tour of the fortress that was visited the previous day. Partners had the opportunity to try the VR Tour and see how the fortress looked like while it was still in use. Partners officially concluded the meeting with a presentation of planned activities in the forthcoming months.

The final multilateral meeting will be held in Litija and Šmartno pri Litiji, Slovenia at the end of May 2019.

About the project

The 30-months long project (January 2017 – June 2019) was approved within the Interreg Danube Transnational Programme financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA).

The INSiGHTS project is about finding solutions for making regions more attractive to tourists by developing tourism strategies that keep in the focus the protection of natural and cultural resources. Regions in INSiGHTS all have outstanding natural and cultural resources, and at the same time they have a great potential related to the fast-growing recreational trend of slow, green and healthy tourism.

Partners are working in close cooperation with stakeholders in eight regions to gain relevant local feedback on the current situation of tourism and also ideas and proposals for new opportunities for slow, green and healthy tourism. There will be eight integrated sustainable tourism strategies developed by the partner regions and they will be adaptable all across the Danube Region.

For more information about the INSiGHTS project please visit www.interreg-danube.eu/insights


7 December 2018

European leaders must act on sustainable development

In advance of the planned European Council summit in December (14th & 15thSDG Watch Europe  has issued an open letter to EU Leaders highlighting the urgent need for them to focus on the Union’s future by adopting a strong political vision and showing global leadership on sustainable development. Civil society organisations see very real political risks linked to the current, almost exclusive, focus of EU leaders on the management of Brexit and associated political issues and ingoring other challenges linked to sustainable development. Klara Hajdu from CEEweb, who is also a member of the Steering Group of SDG Watch Europe said: “The key findings of the recently published IPCC report on climate change again remind us that humanity has moved beyond planetary boundaries. Climate change, but also and the destruction of ecosystems pose serious risk to the survival of humanity. We now have a window of opportunity over the next decade to radically change how our economy and society works, or we will need to face ever more devastating consequences of not acting in time. We must restore the planet’s ability to provide us with a stable climate and other essential services like pollinating crops, protection from floods, producing nutritious food or controlling pests and diseases,.  This all underpins the implementation of the whole 2030 Agenda. Please also see the press release and the letter to European leaders.   

26 November 2018

Time to vote!

Voting time!

Deadline to cast your votes for the “People’s choice” and “Public vote” categories: 3 December 2018.

Help us pick the winners of the “Go Wild! Stay cultured” Photo Contest!

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15 November 2018

Financing Green Infrastructure after 2020

The concept of Green Infrastructure (GI) is importantly also about prevention: conserving ecologically active areas to provide ecosystem services for the people. Our ability to conserve them very much depends on the various investments in rural and urban areas, and sustainability and biodiversity proofing can  provide useful tools to prevent harmful investments with the use of EU (or other type of) funds and to encourage investments in GI projects.  Klára Hajdu from CEEweb provided this insight at the conference organised by the Ministry of Agriculture of Hungary within the framework of an EU funded project on GI, Natura 2000, landscape and ecosystem services. In her presentation (see in Hungarian) she pointed out to the various available sustainability and biodiversity proofing tools,  calling for the ministry and other stakeholders to integrate the GI  into the programming of the EU funds, and the Hungarian strategic plan under the Common Agricultural Policy for 2021-27. Integrating GI in the objective setting of the Operational Programmes, requiring bidders to consider GI and nature based solutions in providing public services, including GI into the project selection criteria, integrating GI indicators into the programme and project monitoring, involving also biodiversity experts in the evaluation committees are just a few tools to avoid investments that are harmful to GI in the future cohesion spending.   Photo: Archive of the Ministry of Agriculture, Hungary    

10 November 2018

Water, water, everywhere!

The Natura 2000 Plitvice Lakes National Park is the place to hydrate eyes and soul, and to take outstanding pictures for our photo contest.

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8 November 2018

The EU Council should better integrate sustainability in the future EU budget

We call on the General Affairs Council to better integrate sustainability safeguards in the future EU budget. (more…)