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Three questions for Olivier Laroussinie

director of the founding committee for the French biodiversity agency (AFB)

You are the director of the founding committee for the French biodiversity agency and recently submitted your report to Ségolène Royal, the Ecology minister. Could you describe the process?

An initial phase of meetings with biodiversity stakeholders, in conjunction with the work carried out by the National council for ecological transition, put us in a position to identify the fundamental problems. The issues and specific aspects concerning the overseas territories were discussed during the symposium ad hoc at the start of 2015. The national conference in Strasbourg in May brought together over 200 biodiversity stakeholders to discuss the participation of economic forces, the national biodiversity strategy, citizen participation and regional needs. The conclusions drawn were fed into the founding report.

What will be the main guidelines and priorities for the agency?

Over time, the AFB should become the go-to agency for all biodiversity issues. New knowledge is a priority in order to assess biodiversity status. Similar to the water sector, we need to reinforce data-collection systems, set up a biodiversity-monitoring system and support research. The agency will be a true resource centre in a position to inform, train, provide tools and methods, good practices and project feedback. It is urgent to mobilise public and private stakeholders in the effort to halt the rapid degradation of biodiversity and to involve the entire population in citizen-science programmes such as "65 million watchers". Finally, the partnership with economic stakeholders will reinforce their efforts in favour of biodiversity and in changing the techniques employed. The major issue in the regions will be to provide financial support for strategies to create and manage protected zones and the regional ecological-network plans.

What will be the main guidelines and priorities for the agency?

The French biodiversity agency will work in favour of public policies for water, biodiversity and the protection of marine environments. It will assume its missions as part of the French State, i.e. regulatory inspections, assessments and authorisations, and missions with its partners to support projects in favour of biodiversity and the preservation of water and aquatic environments. It will work in conjunction with the existing information and consultation entities and will lead the national biodiversity strategy. The creation of regional biodiversity agencies would be a means to mobilise stakeholders and to organise policies with all our partners, via direct links with the AFB regional directorates.

Will the human and financial resources of the future agency suffice to meet the ambitious objectives?

The founding committee approves the idea of merging the water and biodiversity sectors, however it is clear that water fees, based on the principle that water should pay for water, cannot alone finance biodiversity as a whole. Other sources of funding must be found and study is already being put into "green taxes". Similarly, not all the human resources will be employed by the agency and discussions have already been launched to pool field personnel with ONCFS and with Cerema, as joint departments. The same principle should apply to our work with MNHN.

Water stakeholders have expressed their worries concerning the water and police policies within AFB...

AFB will take over all the missions currently assumed by Onema, notably the environmental police. A joining of the local AFB and ONCFS offices will be studied.



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