Brussels, 19 January 2010
What next for biodiversity protection in the EU?
Today the European Commission marked the opening of the International Year of Biodiversity with a paper setting out future options for biodiversity policy. Despite past efforts, species extinctions are continuing at alarming rates, and a new vision is required to halt these losses. The Communication sets out a vision and outlines four possible targets to reach it, with different levels of ambition. The aim is to launch and facilitate a debate between Member States with a view to developing a post-2010 biodiversity policy framework for the EU before the end of the year. New targets are needed, as the current EU and global biodiversity targets expire after 2010.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "We will step up our efforts and put in place a new policy and strategy for the post-2010 period. We need a new vision and target for biodiversity considering the on-going loss of species and signalling the importance we attach to this issue. We cannot afford to turn our backs on the fight against biodiversity loss, and a high level of ambition to underpin our policy in the coming period is essential."
What possible measures are being proposed?
The Communication adopted today proposes a long-term (2050) vision for biodiversity, with four options for a mid-term (2020) target – an essential step along the way towards reaching the vision. In this vision, biodiversity and the ecosystem services we get for free from nature are preserved, valued and, insofar as possible, restored for their intrinsic value, enabling them to support economic prosperity and human well-being, and averting any catastrophic changes linked to biodiversity loss.
Four levels of ambition are proposed for a mid-term (2020) target to turn the vision into reality:
Option 1: Significantly reducing the rate of loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020.
Option 2: Halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020.
Option 3: Halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020 and restoring them as far as possible.
Option 4: Halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020 and restoring them as far as possible, and stepping up the EU's contribution to averting global biodiversity loss.
The vision and target will allow the EU to build a strong common position ahead of the upcoming international negotiations on a new global post-2010 biodiversity vision and target, which will be held in Nagoya, Japan in the autumn.
The paper also describes the extent of the biodiversity crisis and the status of biodiversity in the EU and globally, and highlights the main drivers of biodiversity loss and its implications for the environment, the economy and for society as a whole. It outlines the main achievements and shortcomings of the current policy and makes the link to the international negotiations.
Background: what is the problem?
Global biodiversity is under severe threat, with species being lost at 100 to 1000 times the normal rate. More than one third of species assessed are threatened with extinction and an estimated 60% of the Earth's ecosystem services have been degraded in the last 50 years. Human activities are causing this loss, through land-use change, over-exploitation, unsustainable practices, pollution and the introduction of invasive species, which lead to habitat and species destruction, fragmentation and degradation. Climate change is also a factor.
In 2001, the EU set out to halt biodiversity loss in the EU by 2010. Despite considerable efforts, however, there are clear indications that the target will be missed. The implications of biodiversity loss range from micro-level changes to the collapse of entire ecosystems and services, such as the provision of food and water and climate regulation, compromising our future prosperity and well being. Biodiversity is also vital for the achievement of other policy objectives, in particular food security and climate change, and sustains livelihoods in such diverse sectors as farming, fisheries and tourism. As highlighted in a recent study on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), losses in the natural world have direct economic repercussions that are widely underestimated. Biodiversity and ecosystem services are natural assets with a key role to play in future economic strategies seeking to promote growth and prosperity. For these reasons, a new target for biodiversity beyond 2010 is urgently needed.
Thorough discussions with Member States, European institutions and other stakeholders will now follow. These discussions will be launched at a high-level European conference on the "Post-2010 Biodiversity Vision and Target" hosted by Spain in Madrid on 26-27 January 2010 and will continue with the aim of reaching a high level agreement in the months to come. Based on this agreement and further work, the Commission will present, by the end of the year, a new EU biodiversity strategy aimed at reaching the agreed target.
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