EU biodiversity strategy to 2020: Our life insurance, our natural capital

A meadow in Austria with high biodiversity; the importance of biodiversity is emphasized in the EU report

A meadow in Austria with high biodiversity; the importance of biodiversity is emphasized in the EU report

Deterioration of biodiversity jeopardises the wealth and employment we derive from nature, and endangers our wellbeing. In the EU, only 17% of habitats and species and 11% of ecosystems protected under EU legislation are in a favourable state. The targets for 2020 include; improvement in 100% more habitat assessments and 50% more species assessments under the Habitats and Birds Directives better connectivity between ecosystems, at least 15% of degraded ecosystems are restored and an improvement in the conservation status of species and habitats that depend on or are affected by agriculture.

This post is a summary of the report ‘Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020’ by the European Commission which can be accessed at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/biodiversity/comm2006/pdf/ 2020/1_EN_ACT_part1_v7%5b1%5d.pdf , and is taken from a RuSource briefing to provide concise information on current farming and rural issues produced by Alan Spedding in association with the Arthur Rank Centre. These briefings are circulated weekly by email and previous briefings can be accessed on the Arthur Rank Centre website. If you would like to be put on the list for free regular briefings please contact alan.spedding -at- btopenworld.com

Introduction

Biodiversity is our life insurance, giving us food, fresh water and clean air, shelter and medicine, mitigating natural disasters, pests and diseases and contributes to regulating the climate. It is also our natural capital, delivering ecosystem services that underpin our economy. Its deterioration and loss jeopardises the wealth and employment we derive from nature, and endangers our wellbeing. Current rates of species extinction are unparalleled. Driven mainly by human activities, species are currently being lost 100 to 1,000 times faster than the natural rate. In the EU, only 17% of habitats and species and 11 % of key ecosystems protected under EU legislation are in a favourable state. This is in spite of action taken to combat biodiversity loss which has been outweighed by land-use change, overexploitation of biodiversity and its components, the spread of invasive alien species, pollution and climate change. Indirect drivers, such as population growth, limited awareness about biodiversity and the fact that biodiversity’s economic value is not reflected in decision making are also taking a heavy toll.

A new foundation for EU biodiversity policy

The EU mandate

In March 2010, EU leaders recognised that the 2010 biodiversity target would not be met. They therefore endorsed the long-term vision proposed by the Commission:

2050 vision
By 2050, European Union biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides are protected, valued and appropriately restored.
2020 headline target
Halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU and restoring them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss.

Valuing our natural assets to deliver multiple benefits

The EU 2020 biodiversity target is underpinned by the recognition that, in addition to its intrinsic value, biodiversity and the services it provides have significant economic value that is seldom captured in markets and often falls victim to competing claims on nature and its use. The economic value of biodiversity needs to be factored into decision making.

Although action to halt biodiversity loss entails costs, biodiversity loss itself is costly for society as a whole. For example, insect pollination in the EU has an estimated economic value of €15 billion per year. Fully valuing nature’s potential will contribute to a number of the EU’s strategic objectives:

  • A more resource efficient economy: The EU’s ecological footprint is currently double its biological capacity.
  • A more climate-resilient, low-carbon economy.
  • A leader in research and innovation: Genetic diversity, for example, is a main source of innovation for the medical and cosmetics industries.
  • New skills, jobs and business opportunities.

The Commission will work with Member States and the European Environment Agency to develop by 2012 an integrated framework for monitoring, assessing and reporting on progress in implementing the strategy.

The Commission will continue its work to fill key research gaps, including mapping and assessing ecosystem services in Europe, which will help improve our knowledge of the links between biodiversity and climate change, and the role of soil biodiversity in delivering key ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and food supply.

A framework for action for the next decade

Conserving and restoring nature

Target 1

To halt the deterioration in the status of all species and habitats covered by EU nature legislation and achieve a significant and measurable improvement in their status so that, by 2020, compared to current assessments: (i) 100% more habitat assessments and 50% more species assessments under the Habitats Directive show an improved conservation status; and (ii) 50% more species assessments under the Birds Directive show a secure or improved status.

Maintaining and enhancing ecosystems and their services

In the EU, many ecosystems and their services have been degraded, largely as a result of land fragmentation. Target 2 will ensure better connectivity between ecosystems within and between Natura 2000 areas and in the wider countryside.

Target 2

By 2020, ecosystems and their services are maintained and enhanced by establishing green infrastructure and restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems.

Ensuring the sustainability of agriculture, forestry and fisheries

Target 3

A) Agriculture: By 2020, maximise areas under agriculture that are covered by biodiversity-related measures under the CAP so as to ensure the conservation of biodiversity and to bring about a measurable improvement in the conservation status of species and habitats that depend on or are affected by agriculture and in the provision of ecosystem services.

B) Forests: By 2020, Forest Management Plans or equivalent instruments are in place for all forests that are publicly owned and for forest holdings above a certain size that receive funding under the EU Rural Development Policy so as to bring about a measurable improvement in the conservation status of species and habitats that depend on or are affected by forestry and in the provision of related ecosystem services.

Target 4

Fisheries: Achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) by 2015. Achieve a population age and size distribution indicative of a healthy stock, through fisheries management with no significant adverse impacts on other stocks, species and ecosystems.

Combating invasive alien species

Target 5

By 2020, Invasive Alien Species and their pathways are identified and prioritised, priority species are controlled or eradicated, and pathways are managed to prevent the introduction and establishment of new species.

Addressing the global biodiversity crisis

Target 6

By 2020, the EU has stepped up its contribution to averting global biodiversity loss. Contributions from other environmental policies and initiatives Several existing or planned policy initiatives will support biodiversity objectives. For instance, climate change, which is a significant and increasing pressure on biodiversity is addressed through a comprehensive EU policy package. Achieving the 2 degrees target for atmospheric warming will be essential to prevent biodiversity loss. The Commission plans to issue an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change by 2013.

The EU has substantial legislation requiring the achievement of good ecological status for water by 2015, tackling pollution from various sources, and regulating chemicals and their effects on the environment. The Commission is assessing whether additional action to tackle nitrogen and phosphate pollution and certain atmospheric pollutants is warranted, whilst the Member States are considering a Commission proposal for a framework directive to protect soil.

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We are all in this together

Partnerships for biodiversity

The Commission has set up the EU Business and Biodiversity Platform, which brings together businesses from agriculture, extractive industries, finance, food supply, forestry and tourism).The Commission will further develop the Platform and encourage greater cooperation between businesses in Europe, including SMEs, and links to national and global initiatives.

The Commission will continue working with other partners to support work on valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in developing countries.

The Commission will further encourage collaboration between researchers and other stakeholders involved in spatial planning and land use management in implementing biodiversity strategies.

The active involvement of civil society will be encouraged at all levels of implementation. The Commission and Member States will work with the outermost regions and overseas countries and territories through the BEST (Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of European Overseas) initiative.

The EU will also support efforts to improve collaboration, synergies and the establishment of common priorities between the biodiversity-related Conventions.

The EU will reinforce its dialogue and cooperation on biodiversity with key partners, in candidate and potential candidate countries to develop to meet the 2020 biodiversity targets.

These partnerships help to raise awareness about biodiversity, which in the EU remains low.

Mobilising resources to support biodiversity and ecosystem services

The Commission and Member States will work to:

  • Ensure a better uptake and distribution of existing funds for biodiversity.
  • Rationalise available resources and maximise co-benefits of various funding sources.
  • Diversify and scale up various sources of funding. The Commission and Member States will promote the development and use of innovative financing mechanisms, including market based instruments. Payments for Ecosystem Services schemes should reward public and private goods from agricultural, forest and marine ecosystems. Incentives will be provided to attract private sector investment in green infrastructure and the potential of biodiversity offsets will be looked into as a way of achieving a ‘no net loss’ approach. The Commission and the European Investment Bank are exploring the scope for using innovative financing instruments to support biodiversity challenges, including through Public Private Partnerships and the possible establishment of a biodiversity financing facility.

A common implementation strategy for the EU

The shared EU and CBD targets need to be pursued through a mix of sub-national, national and EU-level action. Close coordination will therefore be needed to track progress in reaching the targets, and to ensure consistency between EU and Member State action. The Commission will work with Member States to develop a common framework for implementation.

The Commission will support and complement Member States’ efforts by enforcing environmental legislation, filling policy gaps by proposing new initiatives, providing guidelines, funding, and fostering research and the exchange of best practice.

Alan Spedding, 11 May 2011

RuSource briefings provide concise information on current farming and rural issues for rural professionals. They are circulated weekly by email and produced by Alan Spedding in association with the Arthur Rank Centre, the national focus for the rural church. Previous briefings can be accessed on the Arthur Rank Centre website at http://www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk/projects/rusource_briefings/index.html

RuSource is a voluntary project partly supported by donations (including from the Annals of Botany not-for-profit company) and sponsorship.

© Alan Spedding 2011. This briefing may be reproduced or transmitted in its entirety free of charge. Where extracts are used, their source must be acknowledged. RuSource briefings may not be reproduced in any publication or offered for sale without the prior permission of the copyright holder.

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