Action Plan for biodiversity
The Commission is introducing an Action Plan which includes objectives to halt the decline of biodiversity and measures enabling these objectives to be achieved by 2010. The Action Plan is based on an assessment of biodiversity loss in the EU and globally and the measures taken by the European Union to deal with the problem to date.
Commission Communication of 22 May 2006 "Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 - and beyond - Sustaining ecosystem services for human well-being" [COM(2006) 216 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission has produced an Action Plan aimed at conserving biodiversity and preventing biodiversity * loss within the European Union (EU) and internationally.
Halting damage to ecosystems * is a matter of urgency if we are to protect the future of the natural world, on account of both its intrinsic value (recreational and cultural value) and the services it provides (ecosystem services *). These services are essential for competitiveness, growth and employment and for improving livelihoods worldwide.
The Action Plan stipulates priority objectives, which are divided into four policy areas (biodiversity in the EU, the EU and global biodiversity, biodiversity and climate change, and the knowledge base). It further specifies four main supporting measures (financing, decision-making, building partnerships, and public education, awareness and participation), as well as monitoring, evaluation and review measures. The Action Plan is aimed at both the EU and the Member States. The relevant measures will have to be taken by 2010 and will be continued beyond.
Biodiversity in the European Union
The Action Plan provides for safeguarding the EU's most important habitats and species. Achieving this objective involves stepping up the Natura 2000 network (designation and management of protected areas, the coherence and connectivity of the network) by re-establishing the most endangered species and by conservation measures in the outermost regions.
Sustainable biodiversity protection requires more than Natura 2000 and action on endangered species. This is why the Action Plan specifically outlines ways in which biodiversity and ecosystem services in the wider EU countryside can be conserved and restored. In particular, this involves optimising the use of available measures under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), notably to conserve high-natural-value farmland and forest.
Along similar lines, the Action Plan seeks to conserve and restore biodiversity and ecosystem services in the wider EU marine environment. This involves restoring fish stocks, reducing impact on non-target species and marine habitats, in particular under the Common Fisheries Policy.
Reinforcing the compatibility of regional and territorial development with biodiversity in the EU is another priority objective of the Action Plan, to be achieved in particular by better local, regional and national planning, which takes more account of biodiversity (environmental impact assessments, projects funded by the Community, partnerships with planners and developers).
Another objective of the Action Plan is to substantially reduce the impact on EU biodiversity of invasive alien species and alien genotypes. A comprehensive strategy as well as specific actions, such as an early warning system, should be developed.
The EU and global biodiversity
In order to substantially strengthen the effectiveness of international governance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, the Action Plan suggests focusing on more effective implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and related agreements.
The Action Plan further proposes to substantially strengthen support for biodiversity and ecosystem services in EU external assistance, through funding as well as sector and geographical programs.
Measures to substantially reduce the impact of international trade on global biodiversity and ecosystem services are particularly urgent, particularly to curtail tropical deforestation.
A more coherent EU approach is needed in three areas: governance, trade and development cooperation. Furthermore, effective action in the overseas countries and territories of Member States is vital to the EU's credibility in this arena.
Biodiversity and climate change
The Action Plan emphasises the potential of biodiversity to limit atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, thanks to carbon capture mechanisms. The impact of climate change on biodiversity is also highlighted; this is why the Action Plan insists on the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to reduce future pressure on biodiversity. It also envisages supporting biodiversity adaptation to climate change by securing coherence of the Natura 2000 network and minimising potential damage to biodiversity arising from climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.
The knowledge base
In its Action Plan, the Commission considers it vital to substantially strengthen the knowledge base for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, in the European Union and globally. In particular, this requires strengthening the European Research Area, research infrastructures, communication and interoperability of data, and the collection of independent scientific opinion and advice to inform policy development. In this connection, the Commission intends to create a mechanism whereby scientific opinion can be easily collected.
Measures supporting the Action Plan
The Commission has identified four key supporting measures to ensure that the objectives laid down in the Action Plan are achieved:
- ensuring adequate financing, using the Community instruments available under the Financial Perspectives for 2007-2013;
- strengthening EU decision-making, in particular improving coordination and complimentarity between European, national and regional levels, taking account of biodiversity and environmental costs in decision-making;
- building partnerships between government and the finance, educational and private sectors (including landowners and conservation practitioners);
- building public education, awareness and participation.
A longer-term vision for biodiversity
Beyond the objectives set for 2010 by the Action Plan, the Commission proposes to launch a debate on a longer-term vision for biodiversity as a framework for policy. According to this vision, human interdependence with nature should be recognised in the framing and application of Community policy, as well as the need for a new balance between economic and social development and nature conservation.
The need to protect biodiversity
Biodiversity must be preserved for two kinds of reasons:
- its intrinsic value: nature is a source of pleasure and inspiration, and provides a basis for many recreational, tourist and cultural activities;
- the ecosystem services which it provides: nature gives us all the essential elements for human life and well-being (food, medicines, water, air, etc.) There is a limit to the extent to which human technology and creativity can substitute adequately for this natural life support system.
The Commission underlines the alarming rates of degradation of habitats and of extinction of species, and identifies the threats to biodiversity as the following:
- changes in land use, causing degradation and destruction of habitats. Land-use change is chiefly driven by population growth and growing per capita consumption (two factors which are set to intensify considerably in future, increasing pressures on the environment);
- climate change, which destroys certain habitats and certain organisms, disrupts reproduction cycles, forces migrating species to move to new territories, etc.;
- other key pressures, including over-exploitation of biological resources, the spread of invasive alien species, pollution of the natural environment and natural habitats, globalisation, which increases pressures due to trade, and governance failures (the failure to recognise the economic values of natural capital and ecosystem services).
In addition, the EU has already adopted the following measures on biodiversity:
- in Community environment policy: the European Community Biodiversity Strategy and Biodiversity Action Plans which provide the general framework for action on biodiversity. Moreover, the Wild Birds and “Habitats” Directives establish the "Natura 2000" network aimed at protecting habitats and species. Other specific provisions protect wild flora and fauna species;
- in other internal policy areas: biodiversity is a factor taken into account in agricultural policy (the 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the 2005 Rural Development Regulation), regional policy (environmental impact assessments, strategic environmental assessments) and fishing policy (reform of the Common Fisheries Policy);
- in EU external policy: the Community and the Member States are signatories to a number of international conventions related to biodiversity, but the implementation of these conventions must be stepped up. The Commission also underscores the need to increase the funding of development projects on biodiversity and to integrate biodiversity concerns into aid projects for non-EU countries.
The objectives and supporting measures defined in the Action Plan are underpinned by widespread consultation of experts and the general public.