Brussels, 22 May 2008.
Today is World Biodiversity Day, and yet biodiversity is disappearing at an unprecedented rate. The EU has a package of measures in place to try and halt the loss, with an action plan well under way, a huge network of protected areas nearing completion, and a major report forthcoming on the economic consequences of biodiversity loss.
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Biodiversity is the natural wealth of the Earth, the basis of life and the prosperity of mankind. But the pool of life is shrinking at an alarming rate. The message is clear: we are robbing ourselves of our own future. It is now vital to step up our actions to safeguard the variety of life on Earth."
The Convention on Biological Diversity
Policymakers are aware of the problem, and in 2002 the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and its 190 Contracting Parties pledged to significantly reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2010. The EU went a step further, and pledged to halt the loss altogether by the same date. Progress in the EU has been fair to date, but the world needs more national and international alliances between policymakers, scientists, the public and business to stop the loss. There is still a need to raise awareness.
The Convention is currently meeting in Bonn, Germany, where many related issues will be in the spotlight, including agriculture and forest biodiversity, deforestation, protected areas (including the need for increased funding and protected ocean areas), the biodiversity impacts of the increasing demand for biofuels, the harmonisation of biodiversity and climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.
Biodiversity loss – an economic issue
Nature provides us with many benefits which are often taken for granted. An enormous number of medicines originate in natural products. Forests, grasslands and wetlands purify water and air; forests and farmland provide food, timber and other materials; tree cover in mountainous areas and around cities helps to reduce flooding and protects soils from erosion; insects pollinate crops and wild areas offer space for recreation.
The economic arguments for nature protection are beginning to enter mainstream thinking, but the approach is still new and more work is needed. Together with the German Environment Ministry, the Commission has therefore launched an initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity and highlight the cost of biodiversity loss and deteriorating ecosystems. The first results of the study will be presented at the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn next week.
Natura 2000 is now bigger than the Amazon basin
One of the Commission's biggest contributions to the fight against
biodiversity loss is the Natura 2000 network. This is now the largest ecological
network in the world, consisting of around 25,000 sites spread across 27
countries and covering an area bigger than the Amazon river basin. The green
infrastructure it provides safeguards numerous ecosystem services and ensures
that Europe's natural systems remain healthy and resilient. The network makes it
possible for rare animals such as the otter, the beaver and the wolf to
re-populate areas from which they have been absent for centuries. It also serves
to reconnects an increasingly urban society with nature.
The Living Planet Index:
The Living Planet Index (LPI), published by the World Wide Fund for Nature, tracks nearly 4,000 wildlife populations, covering mammals, birds, fish amphibians and reptiles. The latest index shows an overall fall in population trends of 27% between 1970 and 2005. Marine species such as swordfish and scalloped hammerhead have been particularly badly affected, falling by 28% between 1995 and 2005. Seabird populations have suffered a rapid decline of about 30% since the mid-1990s.
For more information:
Read more about the European Green Capital Award on: www.europeangreencapital.eu
Commission website on the urban environment: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/urban/home_en.htm