Three days ago, the European Commission launched its new food policy, the ‘Farm to Fork Strategy’, as well as the Biodiversity Strategy 2030. The latter aims to protect and restore nature by limiting the key drivers of biodiversity loss, such as pollution, climate change and over-usage of resources. As integral parts of the European Green Deal, the two strategies can complement each other in supporting the bloc’s climate and environmental ambitions while paving the way for a green recovery after the pandemic.
The need for an effective and transformative plan of action to protect the environment has never been clearer, as the pandemic has highlighted the interrelation between biodiversity, consumption patterns and citizens’ health. With agriculture being one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss in the EU, the Commission proposals aim to rework the way we produce and consume food.
As Europe slowly but gradually enters the phase of recovery from the pandemic, EU institutions and national governments must use this opportunity to build resilience to future outbreaks and lay the foundation for a sustainable economy and society that protects the very nature we need to survive. A successful Green Deal underpinned by ambitious and holistic strategies for biodiversity and farming will therefore be crucial for this recovery period and beyond.
Key points of the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 “Bringing nature back into our lives” are:
- Protecting and restoring biodiversity and well-functioning ecosystems is key to boost our resilience and prevent the emergence and spread of future diseases. Investing in nature protection and restoration will also be critical for Europe’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
- Natural capital investment, including restoration of carbon-rich habitats and climate-friendly agriculture, is recognised to be among the five most important fiscal recovery policies.
- Biodiversity is also crucial for safeguarding EU and global food security. The biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis are intrinsically linked. But just as the crises are linked, so are the solutions. Nature is a vital ally in the fight against climate change.
- The EU is ready to show ambition to reverse biodiversity loss, lead the world by example and by action, and help agree and adopt a transformative post-2020 global framework. This should build on the headline ambition to ensure that by 2050 all of the world’s ecosystems are restored, resilient, and adequately protected.
- For the good of our environment and our economy, and to support the EU’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, we need to protect more nature. In this spirit, at least 30% of the land and 30% of the sea should be protected in the EU.
- As part of this focus on strict protection, it will be crucial to define, map, monitor and strictly protect all the EU’s remaining primary and old-growth forests.
- Certain agricultural practices are a key driver of biodiversity decline. This is why it is important to work with farmers to support and incentivise the transition to fully sustainable practices. As set out in the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Commission will take action to reduce by 50% the overall use of – and risk from – chemical pesticides by 2030 and reduce by 50% the use of more hazardous pesticides by 2030. This must be supported by the full implementation of the EU Pollinators initiative. To provide space for wild animals, plants, pollinators and natural pest regulators, there is an urgent need to bring back at least 10% of agricultural area under high-diversity landscape features.
- Organic farming also provides 10-20 % more jobs per hectare than conventional farms, and creates added value for agricultural products. To make the most of this potential, at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land must be organically farmed by 2030. It is therefore essential to step up efforts to protect soil fertility, reduce soil erosion and increase soil organic matter.
- In addition to strictly protecting all remaining EU primary and old-growth forests, the EU must increase the quantity, quality and resilience of its forests. To make this happen, the Commission will propose a dedicated EU Forest Strategy in 2021 in line with our wider biodiversity and climate neutrality ambitions. It will include a roadmap for planting at least 3 billion additional trees in the EU by 2030.
- The new European Urban Greening Platform will also facilitate urban tree planting, including under the LIFE programme. To better understand and monitor the potential climate and biodiversity risks, the Commission is assessing the EU and global biomass supply and demand and related sustainability.
- Restored and properly protected marine ecosystems bring substantial health, social and economic benefits to coastal communities and the EU as a whole. Some of today’s sea uses endanger food security, fishers’ livelihoods, and the fishery and seafood sectors. Marine resources must be harvested sustainably and there must be zero-tolerance for illegal practices. The Commission will also propose a new action plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems by 2021.
- Greater efforts are needed to restore freshwater ecosystems and the natural functions of rivers in order to achieve the objectives of the Water Framework Directive. This can be done by removing or adjusting barriers that prevent the passage of migrating fish and improving the flow of water and sediments. To help make this a reality, at least 25,000 km of rivers will be restored into free-flowing rivers by 2030.
- The recent lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic have shown us the value of green urban spaces for our physical and mental well-being. To bring nature back to cities and reward community action, the Commission calls on European cities of at least 20,000 inhabitants to develop ambitious Urban Greening Plans by the end of 2021. To facilitate this work, the Commission will in 2021 set up an EU Urban Greening Platform.
- As part of the Commission’s Zero Pollution Ambition for a toxic-free environment, a new EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability will be put forward along with a Zero Pollution Action Plan for Air, Water and Soil.
- In the EU, there is currently no comprehensive governance framework to steer the implementation of biodiversity commitments agreed at national, European or international level. To address the gap, the Commission will put in place a new European biodiversity governance framework. This will help map obligations and commitments and set out a roadmap to guide their implementation.
- The full implementation and enforcement of EU environmental legislation is therefore at the heart of this strategy, for which political support and financial and human resources will need to be prioritised. As regards the Birds and Habitats Directives, enforcement will focus on completing the Natura 2000 network, the effective management of all sites, species-protection provisions, and species and habitats that show declining trends.
- Through its existing platforms, the Commission will help to build a European Business for Biodiversity movement, taking inspiration from recent initiatives and making this movement an integral part of the European Climate Pact. To meet the needs of this strategy, including investment priorities for Natura 2000 and green infrastructure, at least €20 billion a year should be unlocked for spending on nature.
- The Commission will also establish in 2020 a new Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity in close cooperation with the European Environment Agency.
- To help integrate biodiversity and ecosystems into school, higher education and professional training, the Commission will propose a Council Recommendation on encouraging cooperation in education for environmental sustainability in 2021. This will provide guidance for schools and teachers on how to cooperate and exchange experiences across Member States on biodiversity teaching.
The ambition should be that, by 2050, all of the world’s ecosystems are restored, resilient, and adequately protected, overarching global goals for biodiversity for 2050, in line with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the vision of ‘living in harmony with nature’.
Protecting and restoring biodiversity is the only way to preserve the quality and continuity of human life on Earth. The commitments proposed in this strategy pave the way for ambitious and necessary changes – changes that will ensure the well-being and economic prosperity of present and future generations in a healthy environment. The implementation of these commitments will take into account the diversity of challenges across sectors, regions and Member States, recognise the need to ensure social justice, fairness and inclusiveness in line with the European Pillar of Social Rights, and will require a sense of responsibility and strong joint efforts from the EU, its Member States, stakeholders and citizens.
Download here the full Biodiversity Strategy for 2030