A tap on the sea can save the world

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article issued by Ignace Schops, EUROPARC President

This may have escaped your attention.

Last week it was decided to build the largest renewable energy-run desalination plant designed for drinking water and irrigation. The new installation will be located in Agadir, Morocco. The conversion of seawater into worldwide drinking water by desalination – and put a tap on the seas – is probably the best climate adaptation measure ever. The idea of installing a tap on the seas is a multi-win solution: it tackles climate change, climate migration, … it brings back healthy ecosystems and peace!

The Paris Climate Agreement was the beginning of change. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) underline the importance of saving our million stars hotel we call home. So, let’s save our planet and put a tap on our seas! A tap on the sea can be the SDG 18!

Climate Change: the biggest challenge of the human race

Recently, an iceberg the size of Delaware broke away from Antarctica. A chunk of floating ice that weighs more than a trillion metric tons, produce one of the largest icebergs ever recorded and provide a glimpse of how the Antarctic ice sheet might ultimately start to fall apart. Scientists predict that without immediate action, the sea level will rise up to 10 meters by the end of the century.

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN states that “every second” since 2008 one person is leaving his home because of climate or nature disasters. Until now, over 140 million people were forced to move because of climate and weather related disasters in the last six years, displaced by droughts, harvest failures, and devastating storms. The UN believes that 300 million climate refugees could be displaced from their homes by the middle of this century.

And even with the Climate Agreement of Paris, the current pledges lead to a global warming pathway of 4°C by the end of this century. An increasing amount of scientists and scientifical institutes believe we lost the 2°C threshold.

 I could go on for hours … But there is no need to. The evidence of climate change clear. It is staring us in the face and without immediate concrete action, we are doomed to fail. Yes, there is a real threat that self-strengthening processes will occur that cannot be stopped and we will evolve in an unlivable planet.

That’s why Climate Change is existential and the biggest challenge of human race ever!


A tap on the sea: an immediate multi-win-solution

 Among many, Climate change causes two major problems that alarm the world and its civilizations: sea-level rise and drought. Complete cities will disappear due to the rising oceans. Unique places like the Solomon Islands in the Pacific and cities like Bangladesh and Miami will drown and vanish.

On top, drought and desertification lead to a complete system collapse. With the lacking water, we lose the crucial element for life. Failing agricultural systems push people to the brink of survival. Ecosystems degrade and societies are under severe threat.

 Due to global warming, millions of people suffer from an increasing pressure and the survival for life becomes more and more obvious. The result: war, climate refugees, biodiversity loss. In the end, nobody is excluded from a collapsing system. The rhythm and the appearance that gave stability to our planet is changing rapidly.


We are losing our comfort zone

Are we capable to find multi-win-solutions that tackle climate change and can avoid mass migration? War? Collapsing economic systems? …? Yes, we can! It is time for big ambitious solutions. 

A tap on the sea is such an idea. And it works!

So let’s bring the threatening and fast rising water of the oceans to the fast drying regions. We have done it many times before. We brought oil, gas, electricity, water to the most remote places on earth. We build roads, houses, … we even were able to put a man on the moon! So why can’t we distribute the desalinated water of the oceans in the same way?

The water will not only restore the drying ecosystems, it solves many other interconnected problems. Biodiversity loss can be stopped. Agriculture will be restored. And due to the regained food and water, mass migration can be stopped. Disrupted societies will have a renewed perspective for the future.

To solve the problem of mass climate migration – climate refugees –  the world leaders are seeking for rapid interventions and sustainable solutions in the regions of origin. Due to the tap on the sea, it is possible to invest in sustainable agricultural systems where people have food and water available.

We need to act urgently and find multi solutions – mitigation and adaptation – of the dangerous consequences of Climate Change. Converting seawater into freshwater is possible and proved many times due to reverse osmoses and other systems, of which some are in development.

The Agadir project shows again that it is possible to “fuel” the desalination process with renewable energy systems, which is an enormous advantage of course.  

How can Protected Areas contribute to the EU Action Plan for Nature, People and the Economy?


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Earlier this year, the EU Commission launched a new Action Plan to improve the practical implementation of the Habitats and Birds Directives. Despite the positive evaluation of the EU Nature Directives, biodiversity and ecosystem services loss is still happening at a high pace in Europe. The Action Plan aims to reverse the situation and accelerate progress towards the EU 2020 biodiversity goals. 4 Priorities, 15 concrete measures, and over 100 actions were defined in The Action Plan: for nature, people and the economy, which has already hit the ground and carried out until 2019.

europarc, natura 2000, dg environment

Covering around 18% of land in Europe and 6% of its surrounding seas, the Natura 2000 network ranges from breeding sites for rare and threatened species, to some rare natural habitat types. Protected Areas made a significant contribution to keep these important places for biodiversity, as they are responsible for the management of much of the Natura 2000 network.

How can Protected Areas contribute?

“The focus will now be on making sure that they (the EU Nature Directives) are implemented in the most effective and efficient way to realise their full potential for nature, people and the economy”, said Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime affairs and Fisheries, few months before the Action Plan came to life.

Almost 3 months after its launch, there is still some lack of knowledge among Natura 2000 managers. Which tools are being produced by the EU Commission to better support Natura 2000 managers implementing the Directives? Which are the priorities to address and how to be more effective?

To answer these questions, we invited Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director for Natural Capital – DG Environment, to join us in Portugal, at the Plenary Session of EUROPARC Conference 2017. In the morning of 7th September, in Arouca, Mr. Delgado Rosa will introduce the Action Plan for Nature, People and the Economy, and share its priority actions. Delegates will also hear about the latest updates from the European Commission regarding Biodiversity and Nature conservation and get to know the coming opportunities launched by the European Commission.

From theory to practice – A workshop to support implementation

After the speech of Mr. Humberto and the other 4 keynote speakers that will represent some of the new voices and visions for Nature in Europe, delegates will put their knowledge into practice. 16 technical workshops will take place at the Secondary School of Arouca, covering topics from coastal management to health, funding strategies, coexistence with large carnivores or visitor management. Attention is drawn to workshop 6 “The Laws of Nature” as delegates will be looking at the implementation of the Action Plan and the role of Protected Areas.

Micheal o’Briain, Deputy Head of the Nature Protection Unit, DG Environment, will open the debate with a presentation of the Action plan and its pillars/main actions, and a focus on the role of protected areas in its implementation. Then, delegates will learn from the German Länder Mecklenburg-Vorpommern their experience in implementing the Action Plan at a regional level, and hear from EUROPARC Spain the national perspective and actions.

Humberto Delgado Rosa, Micheal o'Briain, DG Environment, european commission,

(left) Humberto Delgado Rosa is the Director for Natural Capital and Micheal
o’Briain is the Deputy Deputy Head of Nature Protection Unit – DG Environment, European Commission

With this special participation of Humberto Delgado Rosa and Micheal O’Briain, EUROPARC is providing members the opportunity to have a direct contact with the European Commission

said Ignace Schops, EUROPARC President, adding “we hope members will give voice to their concerns and expectations, but also find the opportunity to share the good examples they have been implementing in the field”. We are sure that the representatives from the EU Commission will be delighted to hear from you!

Read more about Humberto Delgado Rosa and find out the other keynote Speakers at EUROPARC Conference 2017. Registrations are still open! europarc2017.montanhasmagicas.pt

The Action Plan in a nutshell

Priority A: Improving guidance and knowledge and ensuring better coherence with broader socioeconomic objectives

Actions included in this priority aim at dissolving tensions between nature protection and socioeconomic activities, through smarter participatory processes. For that, is aimed: greater involvement with landowners and users; better access to information and data for the implementation of the Directives; and recognition of how healthy ecosystems contribute to well-being and economic development.

Priority B: Building political ownership and strengthening compliance

This priority involves completing the Natura 2000 network, strengthening Member’s states compliance with the Nature Directives and developing action plans for threatened species and habitats.

Priority C: Strengthening investment in Natura 2000 and improving synergies with EU funding instruments

There is a massive gap between costs of implementing Natura 2000 (around 5,8 billion/year) and the benefits arising from it (estimated in 200/300 billion/year). This priority previews in one hand a strong reinforcement in nature – through the support of State members in their financial plans; increase of LIFE programme budget and Horizon 2020; and stimulation of the private sector to take part in nature conservation activities. On other hand, previews better synergies between the Common Agricultural Policy and the Fishery policies; and support on the implementation of green infrastructures and connectivity.

Priority D: Better communication and outreach, engaging citizens, stakeholders and communities

The European Commission together with the Committee of Regions will use all available platforms to raise awareness and promote local involvement and exchanges of knowledge. This priority previews also a higher recognition on good management practices in Natura 2000 areas and the development of the European Solidarity Corps.

President and Council Elections 2017

Hand with pen over application form, Designed by jannoon028 / Freepik

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EUROPARC members will be voting this year for EUROPARC President and Council. Elections will take place at EUROPARC General Assembly, on the 6th September in Portugal, Sao Pedro do Sul. All information about the General Assembly and Annual Conference can be found at http://europarc2017.montanhasmagicas.pt/en/ 

Agenda and reports to the General Assembly can be found on this page. If you are a member and lost the password to access the page, please contact us to office @ europarc.org.

Today we bring you an overview of the candidates that are applying to President and Council.

Candidate for President

 Name: Ignace Schops

Nationality/Citizenship: Belgian

Member Organization: Regionaal Landschap Kempen en Maasland (BE)

Nominated by: Krkonose Mountains National Park

Current Position: Director National Park Regionaal Landschap Kempen en Maasland

Download candidate Information

Candidates for Council

organised by alphabetic order

 Name:  Enzo Lavarra

Nationality/Citizenship:  Italian

Member organisation:  Dune Costiere Regional Park (IT)

Nominated by: Cinque Terre National Park

Current Position: President of the Dune Costiere Regional Park


Download candidate Information

 Name:  Michael Hošek

Nationality/Citizenship:  Czech

Member organisation:  Krkonoše National Park (CZ)

Nominated by:  National Park Bohemian Switzerland

Current Position:  Coordinator of international relations and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board at Krkonoše National Park Administration; Coordinator of the EUROPARC Central and Eastern Europe Section; Councillor of the International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN; Entrepreneur (DHP Conservation Ltd.)


Download candidate Information


Name:  Nele Sõber

Nationality/Citizenship:  Estonian

Member organisation:  Keskkonnaamet / Environmental Board (EE)

Nominated by:  Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

Current Position:  Nature education specialist


Download candidate Information


 Name: Olaf Holm

Nationality/Citizenship: German / French

Member organisation: Parc naturel regional de la Montagne de Reims (FR)

Nominated by:  Fédération des Parcs naturels regionaux de France

Current Position: Director of the Parc naturel regional de la Montagne de Reims



Download candidate Information

 Name:  Paulo Castro

Nationality/Citizenship:  Portuguese

Member organisation:  individual member category

Nominated by: Principado de Asturias

Current Position:  owner and manager of Ponto Natura a consultancy on sustainable development and nature and in what concerns EUROPARC I am an elected council member and treasurer


Download candidate Information

 Name:  Pete Rawcliffe

Nationality/Citizenship:  British

Member organisation:  Scottish Natural Heritage

Nominated by:  Cairngorms National Park Authority

Current Position:  Head of the People and Places Unit, Scottish Natural Heritage


Download candidate Information

Adaptation to climate change in protected areas

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The Climate is changing, bringing changes that affect the life of every being on earth. Nature was never so threatened – nor so needed – as before.

The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we crop, they all depend on the quality of our ecosystems. Hence, more than ever, it is necessary to develop criteria to guide actions for climate change adaption. This will require strengthening mechanisms for collaboration between scientists and managers of protected areas. 

At EUROPARC Conference 2017, we will have a dedicated workshop to discuss how can Parks incorporate measures for climate change adaption and mitigation.

Adaptation to climate change in protected areas

Earlier this year, EUROPARC Spain launched a practical manual for Protected Area technicians and decision makers to better Incorporate Climate Change Mitigation Actions in management Plans. 

Management plans are the main and most important tool for natural areas, as they set biodiversity and conservation targets along with indicators and evaluation criteria. However, while other drivers of climate change (like changes in land use, invasive species or
pollution) are well identified and targeted in management plans, the attention shown to climate change is very scant, often non-existent.

EUROPARC Spain, with the support of several experts on climate, protected area technicians and researchers, defined criteria and compiled a roadmap for considering climate change in all phases of the planning process.

The manual is available in Spanish (with executive-summary in English)

From theory to practice: how to implement?

Adaptation to climate change in protected areas should be based on an ecosystem approach, aiming for the protection of the natural resources and ecosystem services provided to society.

Facing this complex challenge requires the establishment of alliances at administration level with the different sectors of society. Within workshop 10- Changing Climate, Changing Parks, on EUROPARC Conference, EUROPARC Spain will introduce the findings of the book and share good practice – both in the development of planning tools and in the design of conservation projects.

Case study 1

Incorporating climate change adaptation into planning and management. Experiences from Spain.

Jose Atauri, EUROPARC Spain (ES)

How to include climate change measures in our job? Tools to incorporate climate change adaptation measures in the cycle of planning and management of protected areas will be presented.

Case study 2

Planning Protected Areas – Adaption to Climate Change in Catalonia

Leonardo Bejarano, Generalitat de Catalunya (ES)

Leonardo will share the proceedings for incorporating climate change adaptation criteria in the planning and management of a protected areas network system of a regional government. Pilot cases, good practice and support tools in the field of adaptation to climate change in protected areas in Catalonia will also be shared.

EUROPARC Conference 2017, magic mountains, portugal, montanhas magicas


Are you joining us in the biggest event of Protected Area professionals?

Learn all about the Programme and join us in Portugal, between the 6-10th September!