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28 May 2010

International Experts Meet at the Vienna International Centre (VIC) to Discuss Future of Biodiversity

VIENNA, 28 May (UN Information Service) - International experts on biodiversity met today at the Vienna International Centre (VIC) to share their experiences at a symposium titled "Environment Day Talks '10: Value of Diversity - Diversity of Value". The symposium which was organized by the Austrian NGO "die umweltberatung" (Eco Counselling Austria), in co-operation with the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Vienna Office and the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna, was held to mark World Environment Day and the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.

Eco Counselling Chairman Christian Mokricky opened the symposium and welcomed the diversity of partners ranging from business and environmental organizations to science and politics, all joining forces to contribute and mark World Environment Day.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner welcomed the participants in his video opening address and highlighted the fact that the loss of biodiversity does not only constitute an ecological but also an increasing economic risk: "Protection of the environment is also economic policy, and economic policy has to also be protection of the environment in the year 2010." The combination of ecological wealth and its newly developed, groundbreaking environmental policy were reasons for selecting Rwanda as host country for this year's global celebration of the World Environment Day. The slogan 'Many Species. One Planet. One Future.' for World Environment Day is to emphasize that "we as a community of people, nations and societies have the responsibility to conserve biodiversity and work together on this issue as a community of nations," Steiner said.

In a video message to the symposium the British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace, Jane Goodall, well-known for her 45-year study of chimpanzee social and family interactions in Gombe Stream National Park (Tanzania), called for action to stop biodiversity loss and prevent ecological systems from moving closer to a tipping point.

Keynote speaker Hans Friederich, IUCN Regional Director PAN/ EUROPE, referred to the interconnectedness of economy, environment and human well-being: "The world is grappling with economic and climatic uncertainty, and the consequences this may have for food and water security. Healthy biodiversity and ecosystems underpin the long term resilience of social and economic development. We can no longer ignore the fundamental role of biodiversity as a foundation of human well-being," he said

WWF Director of the Danube-Carpathian Programme Andreas Beckmann referred to current and future trends in biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, as well as to the essential functions, products and services biodiversity provides: "There is plenty of reason to care about biodiversity. It is our critical life support system, the essential basis for our lives, our health and well-being, and not least the bedrock of our economies. Besides essential products like food or medicine, biodiversity provides a variety of life support systems and ecosystem services, such as topsoil production, flood defences and water regulation, but also cultural services such as recreation or aesthetic pleasure."

The value of biodiversity in monetary terms and the global impact of biodiversity loss on the business sector in particular was examined by Kristina Jahn, Manager for Sustainable Business Solutions at PricewaterhouseCoopers:  "The consequences of biodiversity loss and  ecosystem degradation will not just affect primary industries with a direct reliance on natural resources such as extractives, forestry, farming and fishing but they will also affect the supply chains and growth objectives of  the consumer goods industry and most of the other sectors in the developed and developing world," she stressed. "When it comes to integrating measures for the protection of biodiversity into the management systems of different industries and their decision making processes, the financial industry could play a key role. For example, banks could consider integrating biodiversity principles into their lending and investment policies," she continued.

Professor Franz Wuketits from the University of Vienna's Institute of Philosophy of Science examined the moral value of biodiversity. "It is not only biologists who are interested in the diversity of life on earth; this diversity is also a moral challenge …humans rely on the diversity of species. Therefore, species preservation actually has to be seen as preservation of humankind. This requires an ethics that critically reflects human actions with regard to other living beings. However, any moral system consisting of mere imperatives will not meet the requirements of a comprehensive ecological ethics. Of crucial importance is the recognition of other living beings as a moral value for humans," he said

In the afternoon participants explored the issue of biodiversity at three parallel discussion forums on "Biodiversity and Economics", "Biodiversity and Spatial Planning" and "Biodiversity and Tourism". The results of the separate debates were shared in a closing panel discussion, outlining ideas to encourage efforts to reduce biodiversity loss.

"Over the past half-century, human activities have caused an unprecedented decline in biological diversity. Species are going extinct a thousand times faster than the natural rate - a loss now being further compounded by climate change" UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stressed in his message on the International Day for Biological Diversity annually observed on 22 May. To raise awareness of the impending crisis the UN General Assembly will hold a special high-level meeting in September 2010.

"It will give the International Community an opportunity to demonstrate much-needed leadership in advance of the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit, which will adopt a new strategic plan for implementing the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity" UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon further emphasized.

In his message for World Environment Day on 5 June the Secretary-General said: "This year, Kigali will be the heartbeat of a global, multicultural, intergenerational celebration of our planet, its millions of species and the countless ways in which life on Earth is interconnected. On World Environment Day, I appeal to everyone - from Kigali to Canberra, from Kuala Lumpur to Quito - to help us sound the alarm. Get involved, speak out. Learn and teach others. Show leadership and help clean up. Reconnect with nature, our life force. Together we can develop a new vision for biodiversity: Many Species. One Planet. One Future."

The symposium in Vienna has kicked-off World Environment Day celebrations in Europe.  Among hundreds of other environmental activities planned for the next two weeks are major public events in Baku (Azerbaijan), Genoa (Italy) and Geneva (Switzerland).

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For further information, please contact:

Maria Naderhirn
NGO/CSO Liaison, UNIS Vienna
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-3324

Harald Egerer
Programme Officer, UNEP Vienna
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-4545

Gabriele Pomper
"die umweltberatung" NÖ (Eco Counselling NÖ)
Telephone: (+43-1) 2742-71829
Mobile: (+43-676) 6688-558

For further information on the symposium, visit

For further information on World Environment Day 2010, visit