Inaugural session of Natura Connect PT Think Thank

Miguel Araujo coordinates a Think Tank within the Natura Connect project, bringing together representatives of the public administration, universities, private sector, and NGOs to discuss the implementation of the European Biodiversity Strategy in Portugal.

• Date: November 21, from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
• Location: Évora
• Participation is not open to the public

This unique initiative aims to identify the main political, socioeconomic, and technical obstacles while simultaneously promoting essential transformations to meet the European Union’s objectives.

The European Union has set ambitious targets in its biodiversity strategy for 2030 to reverse biodiversity loss, restore degraded natural ecosystems, and coherently establish a Trans-European Nature Conservation Network. By 2030, at least 30% of the terrestrial and marine surface of each Member State should be legally protected and consolidated, of which 10% should be strictly protected.

Member States are urged to adopt a swift and coordinated approach, involving synergies between public administration, business, academic entities, and civil society, to maximize investment in natural capital. This joint effort should also aim to reinforce the integrity of protected areas and efficient management of biodiversity and natural resources. The establishment of the Natura Connect PT Think Tank is a strategic step to probe Portugal’s specific needs, promoting a multi-sectoral and inclusive dialogue involving stakeholders responsible for land planning, nature conservation, and natural heritage management.

Creation of a multi-sectoral Think Tank

Members of the Natura Connect PT Think Tank include leaders from the following entities: Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF), General Directorate of Territory (DGT), Portuguese Environment Agency (APA), Secretary of State for Nature Conservation and Forests, public company FlorestGal, Sintra-Monte da Lua Parks, Tapada Nacional de Mafra, Mata do Buçaco Foundation, Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD), Navigator, SONAE, CIBIO – University of Porto, Institute of Social Sciences – University of Lisbon, MED Institute and CHANGE Associate Laboratory – University of Évora, Rewilding Portugal, and Natureza Portugal Association (ANP/WWF).

According to Miguel Araujo, “the Natura Connect PT Think Tank aims to establish an open forum for dialogue among those involved in implementing biodiversity conservation policies in Portugal. In this context, we adopt the Chatham House rules, allowing participants to use the information from the debates, provided that the confidentiality of individual contributions is preserved. This innovative initiative will facilitate the identification of vulnerabilities and the development of strategic solutions to drive the technical, administrative, financial, and social changes essential to counteract biodiversity degradation and honor Portugal’s commitments within the European Union.”

During this meeting, participants will dedicate themselves to analysing the main challenges that hinder meeting the European Union’s targets. Based on a collaborative approach, possible strategies for implementing the European biodiversity strategy 2030 will be debated, including identifying suitable management mechanisms, determining funding needs, and strengthening capacities. The Think Tank will convene new face-to-face meetings in 2024 and 2025. Intermediate sessions are also scheduled to consult other groups essential to executing the European biodiversity strategy in Portugal, with a particular focus on municipal and regional levels. There are also plans for four technical training modules, covering topics such as ecological and climate connectivity, ecological restoration, and adaptive planning.

Portugal as a European Case Study

Portugal has been selected as one of the case studies in the Natura connect project, along with the Danube-Carpathian cross-border area, covering 15 Central and Eastern European states, as well as France and Finland. The region of Doñana, in the Guadalquivir estuary in Spain, and the floodplains of the Leipzig-Halle peri-urban region in Germany are also included. In all these cases, a detailed examination of the challenges associated with implementing the European biodiversity strategy for 2030 will be carried out, with the results subsequently synthesised and communicated to the relevant European entities.

The initiative to create a think tank on the implementation of the European biodiversity strategy in Portugal aims to promote inter-institutional collaboration and knowledge exchange to design innovative solutions. The fruits of this work represent a contribution to integrating the objectives of biodiversity preservation and ecological connectivity into sectoral policies and current national programs. Concurrently, the training sessions will serve as a platform to disseminate the latest scientific knowledge and advanced technical tools developed by European partners within the context of the Natura Connect project.