“Capitals of Biodiversity” launched: European local authorities compete for biodiversity crown

In the International Year of Biodiversity 2010, France, Hungary, Slovakia Spain and Germany are searching for their Capitals of Biodiversity – Competition launched by Executive Secretary of UN Convention on Biological Diversity – Small villages and large cities can become national capitals

20 January 2010; Paris, Madrid, Bratislava, Siófok, Radolfzell:  Natureparif (France), Regional Environmental Center Slovakia and Lake Balaton Development Coordination Agency (Hungary) are launching their national competitions “Capital of Biodiversity” today. Competitions organized by the Biodiversity Foundation in Spain and German Environmental Aid in Germany will follow later this year.

The competitions reward villages, towns and cities for innovation, commitment and excellence in preserving the wealth of nature. In the end, Europe will have found the first five of its capitals of biodiversity, and the top ranking municipalities will be honoured and highlighted in national and international events. The five winners will be invited to present their actions at the margins of the UN Biodiversity Conference in Nagoya (Japan) in October this year.

“Every day animals and plants disappear from our planet forever,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and one of the keynote speakers at the opening ceremony in Paris tonight. Another keynote speaker, Dr. Ahmed Djohglaf, Executive Secretary of UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), emphasises that the battle for life on Earth will be won or lost in the cities.

The International Year of Biodiversity 2010 marks the year when the United Nations had anticipated stopping the global loss of biodiversity. This goal is not going to be achieved, and global efforts need to be intensified in order to achieve it as soon as possible.

The competitions aim to highlight the importance of the local level to reach this goal. There is a wide variety of biodiversity within many European cities, towns and villages. This is due to the range of habitats available: gardens and parks, rivers and small forests, old buildings and walls, fallow land and much more. For many people this is their first, or even their only, contact with nature as they live and work far away from bigger natural habitats which are more commonly found in rural areas. Therefore, local authorities – from the smallest village to the largest city –are key players in conserving biodiversity, and in increasing public awareness for the need to do so.

About the project

The project  “European Capitals of Biodiversity”  is led by German Environmental Aid (Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V.), a German NGO with more than 20 years of experience in environmental competitions for municipalities. The competitions in the five countries will be implemented by Natureparif (France), Lake Balaton Development Coordination Agency (Hungary), Fundación Biodiversidad (Spain), the Regional Environmental Center (Slovakia) and German Environmental Aid (Germany). IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and ICLEI–International Training Centre are international partners of the project. More organisations from other European countries are envisioned to join and establish competitions in their respective countries within the next years.

Local authorities will be judged in different size classes and thematic categories including municipal green spaces, planning instruments, protection of species and ecosystems,  agriculture and forestry,  water management, organisation and cooperation, communication and environmental education. The competitions are accompanied by a series of workshops in each country and the release of printed brochures to present strategies and best-practice examples from the participating municipalities.

The project is supported through LIFE, a programme of the European Union.
More information is available on www.capital-biodiversity.eu


Robert Spreter, Head of dept. „Environmental Protection in Municipalities“, Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V., Fritz-Reichle-Ring 4, 78315 Radolfzell, Germany, Tel.: +49 (0)7732 9995 -30, Fax: +49 (0)7732 9995 -77, spreter@duh.de