Why the EU Biodiversity Strategy matters

With the whole planet at threat from biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and climate change, an aligned and coordinated response by Europe is essential, says César Luena.
Cesar Luena | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By César Luena

César Luena (ES, S&D) is a vice-chair of Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee

25 Oct 2020

The IPBES scientific report data are alarming. Our delicate environmental balance is approaching collapse; an unprecedented loss of biodiversity is bringing us closer to the sixth mass extinction of species. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, together with climate change, are the most pressing environmental threats to our society, economy and security.

Both are inextricably linked and require us to embrace transformative change in how we live, produce and consume. The current COVID-19 pandemic is closely linked to human activity and its ecological footprint. The degradation of our ecosystems through deforestation and land use changes, the management of agricultural and food production systems, the trafficking of wild species, climate change and increasing urbanisation all contribute dramatically to multiplying unexpected threats. COVID-19 is just one of them.

Biodiversity and habitat conservation and restoration are therefore essential, not to mention a moral obligation for future generations. Furthermore, the social and financial costs of doing nothing objectively exceed the investment required in health protection, citizens’ well-being and economic security to mitigate the risks of new and unforeseen threats. The EU failed to fully achieve the previous 2020 EU Biodiversity Strategy and the AICHI targets agreed at the COP10 of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

We will continue to fail to reverse the biodiversity loss if we do not address climate change. Likewise, we will fail to meet the Paris Agreement objectives and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals if we do not address the alarming loss of biodiversity. Here, the new 2030 Biodiversity Strategy presented by the Commission in May and the future international agreement for the COP15, due to be held in China next year, are a new opportunity - and most likely the last one.

Increasing numbers of scientists, experts from different disciplines and researchers are warning about the incompatibility of the current economic model with conservation and protection of biodiversity. Environmental activists and citizens are demanding transformative change. Thus, the European Parliament declaration of climate and environmental emergency also represents an urgent call for action.

As Parliament’s rapporteur for the report on the new 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, I think we need to put this at the centre of our activities to initiate the required change. Although I am generally satisfied with the level of ambition in the Commission’s strategy, there is still room for improvement. We will not be able to deliver any transformative change without a legal governance framework to provide coherence of actions and measures.

We need a Biodiversity Law, similar to the EU Climate Law recently approved in the Parliament, setting a deadline and the trajectory to follow to reverse the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems. We also need a long-term plan to jointly address the climate and biodiversity crises. The various objectives foreseen in the European Commission’s Biodiversity Strategy must become binding, as voluntary commitments have not seen previous targets met by the EU nor Member States.

While an overexploited and degraded planet cannot provide us with a healthy future, there are many sectors and people around the world whose current and future livelihood today depend on these natural resources. Here, implementing the strategy and protecting our natural capital must go hand-in-hand with critical sectors that live and work these resources, such as agriculture, forestry or fishing.

“The Farm 2 Fork Strategy, the upcoming EU Forestry Strategy and the Circular Economy Action Plan should be fully aligned with the Biodiversity Strategy”

We require a great effort from them, therefore we must provide great support in return. Otherwise, it will not be possible to make their activities compatible with the health of our ecosystems. Success in implementing the strategy will depend on their involvement, on awareness by all citizens and on the political and business alignment.

There are also other domains to work on to halt biodiversity loss, such as correctly implementing existing nature, water and marine legislation, mainstreaming biodiversity with other sectors, instruments and policies and effective financing. Here, I will continue pushing for the phasing out of harmful subsidies and for dedicating at least 10 percent of the next EU MFF - including the Next Generation EU - to biodiversity mainstreaming, in addition to climate-related spending. Many European actions and programmes can affect our relationship with nature.

The Farm 2 Fork Strategy, the upcoming EU Forestry Strategy and the Circular Economy Action Plan should be fully aligned with the Biodiversity Strategy, as none of the sectors addressed could ever survive in a world with degraded forests or soils and without diversity of species and resources. The situation is serious; it requires a common, comprehensive and sustainable response. There is still room for action. Let us not miss the opportunity again.

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