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<< Back to: ICLEI e-News | issue 11, December 2007 - January 2008

Cities from around the world meet to plan action for urban biodiversity

20 cities met in an historic biodiversity workshop in the Croatian capital of Zagreb last week, to focus on programmes and strategies aimed at protecting and developing biodiversity as a natural resource within their municipalities.

Officials and political representatives from 20 cities attended the first Local Action for Biodiversity (LAB) pilot project workshop in Zagreb, Croatia from 22-24 October 2007. The meeting affirmed the foundational value of biodiversity to humanity and the critical role of cities and local governments in protecting and enhancing biodiversity resources.

LAB is the first project in the world to bring together local governments from all continents around the cities and biodiversity theme.  

LAB was pioneered by the Cities of Cape Town and eThekwini in South Africa, two of the cities which attended the meeting. The other cities and regions, represented by both politicians and technical officials, were São Paolo, King County (Seattle), Edmonton, Île de France (Paris), Barcelona, Bonn, Johannesburg, Seoul, Liverpool Council (Sydney), Leicester, Waitekere (Auckland), Joondalup (Perth), Tilburg, Ekhuraleni, Walvis Bay, Nagoya, Amsterdam and hosts Zagreb.

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.  “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.”

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.

The eThekwini Municipality (Durban, South Africa) presented its Biodiversity Report at the LAB pilot project meeting.

Each participating city must produce a Biodiversity Report as the first output of the LAB project. The eThekwini Municipality (Durban, South Africa) is the first city to complete its report. The reports describe cities’ biodiversity assets, biodiversity goals, institutional arrangements and implementation activities. In the case of Durban there is a strong emphasis on the last-mentioned. Planning has been ongoing for many years and the city is trying to act rapidly and innovatively to secure remaining biodiversity assets for the environmental goods and services they provide to the residents of this rapidly developing city. Action needs to take place in a range of areas and the eThekwini Municipality is active in development assessment, the preparation of a specific by-law, the alleviation of poverty through biodiversity-related projects, awareness and monitoring and reporting, to name a few.

Durban’s report will shortly be presented to local politicians and has been printed in sufficient numbers to be distributed to a range of roleplayers.

Cape Town’s Biodiversity Report, presented at the workshop by Dr. Pat Holmes, biological specialist at the City, listed the destruction of endangered habitat through rapid urbanization as the primary threat to the City’s biodiversity management plans.  

Invasive alien vegetation, climate change, poor communication and lack of capacity were listed by other cities as the primary challenges facing biodiversity management in an urban context.

“LAB offers a diversity of local government experiences to serve biodiversity”, emphasised Susanna Nolden of Bonn, host of the Convention for Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties in May 2008.

For further information contact the LAB’s communications coordinator, Ms Shona Young, at shona.young@capetown.gov.za.