Brussels, 22 May 2006
The European Commission adopted today a Communication which sets out an ambitious policy approach to halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010. In particular, it provides an EU Action Plan which proposed concrete measures and outlines the responsibilities of EU institutions and Member States, respectively. It also specifies indicators to monitor progress, and a timetable for evaluations. It spells out what needs to be done to halt biodiversity loss in the EU and to meet the international commitments to reduce biodiversity loss worldwide. It also creates an advisory mechanism to help decision-makers make better use of existing knowledge.
“The extinction of plants and animals is an irreversible loss to humanity. We need to be investing in sustaining the variety of life, in sustaining the health of the ecosystems that in turn underpin our prosperity and well being. We know what needs to be done. The Communication on halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 will help us pull all the actors and resources together so that we meet our commitments”, said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.
The Communication identifies four key policy areas – biodiversity in the EU, the EU and global biodiversity, biodiversity and climate change, and the knowledge base. It proposes 10 priority objectives in relation to these, addressing most important habitats and species; actions in the wider countryside and marine environment; making regional development more compatible with nature; reducing impacts of invasive alien species; effective international governance; support to biodiversity in international development; reducing negative impacts of international trade; adaptation to climate change; and strengthening the knowledge base.
The Communication suggests four supporting measures relating to adequate financing, strengthening EU decision-making, building partnerships and promoting public education, awareness and participation.
Departure from the past
In an important departure from the past, the Communication provides an EU Action Plan which specifies concrete actions and outlines the responsibility of community institutions and Member States in relation to each. It also contains indicators to monitor progress and a timetable for evaluations. Finally the Communication launches a debate on a longer-term vision of biodiversity.
Biodiversity underpins the flow of ecosystem goods and services (food, fuel, fibre, air quality, water flow and quality, soil fertility and cycling of nutrients). It is a key resource for tourism. Yet some two-thirds of ecosystem services worldwide are in decline. In the EU, this decline is expressed in collapsing fish stocks, widespread damage to soils, costly flood damages, and disappearing wildlife. In many ways, biodiversity loss is a greater threat than climate change – when we degrade ecosystems, they reach a point of no return; as for species, extinction is forever.
In the EU, the policy framework for halting biodiversity loss is largely in place. Natura 2000, an EU-wide network of protected areas, now covers some 18% of the territory of the EU-15 and is being extended to the EU-10 and seas. Other environmental policies reduce pressures on biodiversity, including those caused by pollution or ill-considered developments. Recent reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy improve opportunities to benefit biodiversity. Substantial funding has been given to biodiversity research.
Most of the world's biodiversity lies in developing countries. The poorest of this world suffer most from ongoing biodiversity loss. The 1992 UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) sets the framework for global action and the EU is actively promoting its effective implementation. The new EU Development Policy should enhance treatment of biodiversity in international development programmes.
In 2001, EU Heads of State or Government committed the EU to halting biodiversity loss by 2010 and a year later the parties to the CBD and 130 world leaders pledged to significantly reduce the worldwide rate of biodiversity loss, also by 2010. Halfway to the 2010 targets, some progress has been made in the EU – but the pace and extent of implementation has been insufficient. Globally, the recent UN-sponsored Millennium Ecosystem Assessment concluded that an unprecedented effort was required to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.
Much of EU biodiversity remains greatly impoverished and continues to decline. Achievement of the EU 2010 target is still possible but will require accelerated implementation at both EU and Member State levels. Commissioner Dimas emphasized that "halting biodiversity loss is an absolute priority for the EU, an essential goal for humanity".
For more information: MEMO/06/212