Declaration of the IENE 2022 International Conference.
Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 19 – 23 September 2022
We, the participants to the IENE 2022 International Conference in Cluj-Napoca, Romainia, acknowledge that:
While the transport sector (including infrastructure and energy networks) is crucial to the development of human society, a diverse and functional natural environment is the prerequisite not only for our well-being but ultimately for our survival as a species.
The centuries of intensive transport development in Western Europe also taught us how detrimental for nature, and especially wildlife and the coherence of the ecosystems and landscapes, this infrastructure could become if it is designed, built or operated in an unsustainable way.
The transport sector is closely connected, directly or indirectly, to the five main direct drivers of biodiversity loss: i. Land- and sea-use change, by irreversibly fragmenting habitats and populations and by increasing wildlife mortality risks and sealed soil, changing the structure and functionality of ecosystems and generating a cascade of changes at landscape levels. ii. Direct exploitation of organisms, by facilitating access to previously remote natural areas / road-less areas and overexploitation, of animals, plants and other organisms, mainly via gathering, logging, hunting and fishing. iii. Climate change, by increasing green-house gas emissions during the construction and use of the infrastructure. iv. Pollution from all sources, emitted during the construction and use of the infrastructure. v. Invasive alien species, facilitating their introduction and spread.
As these drivers are reinforced by underlying causes such as the lack of consistency across sectoral policies, subsidies, and between regulations, there is a strong and urgent need for integrated sustainable approaches and an adequate and effective governance.
Although during the past decades the concern about the impacts of the transport sector led to better approaches, adapted techniques and increased expertise on how to plan, build and operate sustainable transport networks, the past issues remained, making Western Europe one of the most fragmented landscapes worldwide, which has led to several countries responding by implementing vast and costly defragmentation programmes and plans.
In contrast with Western Europe, the Eastern part of the continent is rightfully demanding urgent extension and modernization of its transport infrastructure. At the same time, this area of Europe still holds unique natural and cultural values, productive landscapes and functional ecosystems as a result of predominantly extensive use of natural resources.
In the current political and socio-economic context, Eastern Europe and regions like the Balkans and the Black Sea are being presented with a unique possibility: to develop transport infrastructure that does not cause a devastating and costly fragmentation of nature, making the best use of existing knowledge accumulated over the last decades.
Moreover, Eastern Europe has the opportunity to become a reference region for overall sustainable development, especially in the critical context of climate change, water shortage, land degradation and biodiversity loss.
WE CALL FOR URGENT ACTIONS, FROM POLICY TO PRACTICE, and invite the entities at all levels (local, national, European and international) governments, conventions, organisations, academia, institutions, businesses, transport planners, constructors and operators, networks, experts, funders, mass-media and civil society to foster cooperation, in order to:
Adopt sustainability in transportation development across the spectrum of human activities in the 21st century as essential under four basic pillars: i. The well-being of societies. ii. The resilience of healthy economies. iii. Environmental quality and safety and the link with effective biodiversity conservation. iv. Keeping the impacts of human activities on the environment reversible.
Recognize that safeguarding ecological connectivity is a key aim and a major challenge for the transport sector which needs to be addressed in spatial planning in collaboration with other sectors (i.e., other infrastructure, agriculture, forestry, tourism, hunting, water management, protected areas, etc.).
Include as a key objective for sustainability the avoidance of fragmentation of nature and landscapes in all developing activities, in accordance with relevant strategic policy documents and technical recommendations.
Adopt and implement the principles of the IENE Global Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Transport and other Linear Infrastructure, namely: i. Create a strong policy and legal framework on safeguarding landscape connectivity as a primary concern for any project scale including regulatory requirements through standardization of tools, methods, etc. ii. Begin with strategic planning with the implementation of ‘Avoidance – Mitigation – Compensation’ mitigation hierarchy. iii. Follow an ecosystem approach based on the “Precautionary Principle4” respecting the value of natural capital and ecosystem functions and services. iv. Evaluate that any case is a unique case. Each project is site-and species-specific and therefore unique. Mitigation should be based on scientific and best available local knowledge without “copy paste” from other projects and cumulative impacts of other local projects should be taken in to account. v. Enhance multi-disciplinary and cross-sectoral cooperation. vi. Implement the responsible polluter pays principle not only from the pollution perspective, but also taking into consideration the impacts on biodiversity and ecological connectivity as well as ethical and transparency concerns.
Develop an urgent common framework of priority actions from policy to practical implementation of evidence-based solutions to mainstream biodiversity into a sustainable transport sector, such as: i. Support the appropriate political will for taking decisions based on criteria of the four pillars of sustainability and biodiversity conservation needs. ii. Think globally and implement policies locally while filling the gaps and overcoming barriers that have been highlighted by relevant transport & ecology projects (e.g., BISON, TRANSGREEN, ConnectGREEN, SaveGREEN, HARMON, among others). iii. Cooperate to enable the coexistence of ecological and transport corridors through the implementation of EUTEN-G, TEN-N and TEN-T Strategies while effectively sharing experience and know-how between countries and entities across Europe and globally. iv. Develop cross-sectoral tools and management practices for effectively protecting the coherence ofthe ecological networks (e.g.,NATURA 2000, Emerald) and the integrity of their component sites and of other protected areas (e.g., parks or reserves). v. Proactively produce and use the scientific and practical knowledge to promote innovative and sound evidence-based sustainable solutions and make use of updated data bases, modern standards and innovative methodologies. vi. Include in the necessary assessments (e.g., Strategic Environmental Assessments, Environmental Impact Assessments, Appropriate Assessments, Climate Change, or Water Framework Directive Assessments) independent scientific expertise and environmental supervision while involving the local society and the relevant stakeholders. vii. Implement the appropriate measures to avoid, reduce and compensate the impacts on biodiversity, based on multidisciplinary cooperation between social scientists, environmentalists and engineers in order to achieve infrastructure sustainability, resilience and acceptability at landscape level.
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