Unique New Tool Helps Key Industries Factor in Biodiversity

10/6/2008

Conservation Groups and Leading Companies Develop Tool to Protect Biodiversity

Barcelona, Spain � Today a coalition of conservation organizations and businesses launched a new tool that will enable companies to access critical biodiversity information by using a single, Web-based tool. The new tool, called the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) for business, allows companies to integrate biodiversity considerations at the earliest stages of project planning, which permits companies to consider alternative projects, approaches or locations at a time when such changes are still economically viable. 

The new tool is the result of a three-year collaboration between conservation non-governmental organizations and the private sector.  Founding partners from the conservation community include: BirdLife International, Conservation International (CI) and the United Nations Environment Programme - World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently participating as an observer. Private sector founding partners include: BP, Bank of America, Cargill, Chevron, and JP Morgan Chase. The initial partners represent a diverse selection of business user needs, drawing on experience in the investment, agriculture, and oil and gas sectors.

�The launch of IBAT represents a significant milestone towards enabling the private sector to practically integrate conservation priorities within project decision-making processes,� said Glenn T. Prickett, Senior Vice President at CI. �By working together to meet conservation and business objectives we were able to build an effective tool that could have far reaching benefits for some of the world�s most important forests and the species that live within them.�

Before IBAT�s creation, decision makers had to compile what biodiversity information on potential project sites they could find by contacting individual organizations and collecting available information from a suite of Web sites, books and reports. The process was arduous at best, and was often not completed before crucial decisions needed to be made about a site. With the new tool, businesses are now provided with integrated information simply by going on-line. 

�As one of the sector founding partners, BP has been very active in supporting the development of IBAT for business,� said Liz Rogers, Director, Environmental Operations at BP. �The information available through this tool allows us to meet our commitments to identify sensitive areas and use this information to better inform senior management decisions whether to proceed with developments in such areas.�

The IBAT integrates spatial information from key site-scale datasets, currently available in two main types:

  • Legally protected sites are designated by national lawmakers as well as international conventions, such as UNESCO, and are drawn from the World Database on Protected Areas jointly managed by UNEP-WCMC and IUCN.  The database is also supported by the Proteus Partnership, which includes about a dozen leading companies across the oil, gas, mining and information technology sectors.   
  • Globally important sites for biodiversity are also known as key biodiversity areas.  These key biodiversity areas include both protected and unprotected sites that are identified by using internationally recognized standards based on the presence of globally threatened species, endemic species, globally significant concentrations or populations, significant examples of biological communities, or any combination of these features. These datasets are drawn from the World Biodiversity Database (WBDB), managed by BirdLife International and CI, which is informed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species�.  

Through IBAT, users can also explore supporting information as to why these sites are important, such as information on protected areas, lists of key species at each site and information on those key species. Identifying these priority conservation targets can then guide environmental impact assessment studies, required of companies by national governments, and management plans that are required by many national and international laws and policies.
 
�There is no longer any excuse for ignoring development impacts on the world�s biodiversity� said Jon Hutton, Director of UNEP-WCMC. �Up to now companies have often had to opt out of global reporting on biodiversity because the data wasn�t freely available. The IBAT is a huge leap forward.�

As IBAT comes online and begins to be used, there is expected to be an increase in both information providers and users joining and supporting the initiative. Ultimately, the aim is to create a sustainable mechanism that will provide comprehensive and accurate site level information to support and encourage practical interventions on the ground by a wide range of actors.

�IBAT is only the first instrument in this broader vision to support decision-makers,� said Leon Bennun, Director of Science and Policy at BirdLife International. �We will be working together to develop new IBAT applications, each tailored to a specific user group, that will help all kinds of decision-makers comprehend these critical data and make them useful to a wide range of planning processes.�

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Media Contacts:

Katrin Olson
Conservation International
Office: 703-341-2768
Mobile: 202-549-3953
Email: k.olson@conservation.org

Jon Hutton 
UNEP-WCMC
Mobile: +44-7850-257389
Email: jon.hutton@unep-wcmc.org

Leon Bennun
BirdLife International Secretariat
Office: + 44 1223 277318
Email: Leon.Bennun@birdlife.org


BirdLife International
is a global alliance of conservation organisations working in more than 100 countries and territories. As a worldwide community, BirdLife is the leading authority on the status of birds and their habitats. The BirdLife Partnership promotes sustainable living as a means of conserving birds and all other biodiversity. To learn more, visit http://www.birdlife.org.

Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in science, economics, policy and community participation to protect the Earth�s richest regions of plant and animal diversity and demonstrate that human societies can live harmoniously with nature. Founded in 1987, CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents to help people find economic alternatives without harming their natural environments. For more information about CI, visit www.conservation.org.

United Nations Environment Programme -  World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). For 25 years UNEP-WCMC has provided objective, scientifically rigorous products and services to help decision makers recognise the value of biodiversity and apply this knowledge to all that they do. Its core business is managing data about ecosystems and biodiversity, interpreting and analysing the data to provide assessments and policy analysis and making the results available to national and international decision makers, business and the public, with emphasis on knowledge management. To learn more, visit http://www.unep-wcmc.org.

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