Writes Dionysus, Content writer, Headline Diplomat, LUDCI.eu
Climate change and environmental degradation are an existential threat to Europe and the world. To overcome these challenges, Europe has created a new growth strategy that transforms the Union into a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy. The European Green Deal provides a roadmap with actions to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy, restore biodiversity, and cut pollution. It also outlines investments needed and financing tools available and explains how to ensure a just and inclusive transition.
On 20 May 2020, the Commission presented its EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 to protect our planet’s fragile natural resources. The strategy focuses on the elements below:
- Establish protected areas for at least:
- 30% of land in Europe and 30% of the sea in Europe with stricter protection of remaining EU primary and old-growth forests legally binding nature restoration targets in 2021; this helps preserve the current natural settings as the EU Biodiversity Strategy works around the clock to restore more areas.
- Restore degraded ecosystems at land and sea across the whole of Europe by:
- Increasing organic farming and biodiversity-rich landscape features on agricultural land – this is vital as it increases biodiversity. Biodiversity provides various ecosystem services to agriculture. The reduction of insect-pollinated plants and their pollinators has been reported as a result of agricultural infestation. But with organic farming, there will be biological pest control, which doesn’t require the use of pesticides.
- Halting and reversing the decline of pollinators – Most pollinators are suffering and going extinct because of encroaching diseases and pests, like viral & fungal pathogens, mites, loss of habitat, changing climate, loss of species & genetic diversity, and exposure to pesticides.
To maintain biodiversity, pollinators must also be protected by implementing better agricultural practices. Also, several studies are ongoing on how to protect endangered pollinators like the honey bee.
- Reducing the use and risk of pesticides by 50% by 2030 – Pesticide use has a catastrophic impact on biological diversity. And the best way to limit the effects of pesticide is by growing plants organically. Also, people should use non-toxic methods to control pests in the garden.
- Restoring at least 25 000 km of EU Rivers to a free-flowing state – With more than 1 million dams, European rivers are among the most developed in the world. However, the development is one of the major causes of the 80% declining freshwater biodiversity and a loss of 55% of the abundance of watchdogged migratory fish. To improve the river’s ecosystem, better nature-based solutions to water storage, flood-risk reduction, and more cost-effective ways of generating renewable energy should be devised.
- Planting 3 billion trees by 2030 – Planting trees is a true game-changer as it will help fight global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. On top of that, trees will provide a habitat for many species of wildlife.
- Unlock €20 billion per year for biodiversity through various sources, including EU funds and national and private funding. Natural capital and biodiversity considerations will be integrated into business practices; this will help to run all the programs put in place in the union. Already, there are several universities researching how to restore and maintain biodiversity, with some majoring in marine life, while others wildlife.
- Put the EU in a leading position in the world in addressing the global biodiversity crisis. The Commission will mobilize all tools of external action and international partnerships for an ambitious new UN Global Biodiversity Framework at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2021.
Several member countries of the European Union have already started implementing the EU Biodiversity Strategy. These include Italy, Greece, Portugal, France, Denmark, and Poland.
How Italy is Implementing EU Biodiversity Strategy
Italy is working around the clock to restore biodiversity within its boundaries. In December 2013, the Ministry of Environment planned in Rome a national conference on “The Nature of Italy. Biodiversity and Protected Areas: the green economy for restarting the country,” which was attended by the European Commissioner for Environment Janez Potocnik.
Besides, the country has also increased protected areas of land and at sea. By 31st March 2014, it had a protected land area of 21.6% and a protected marine area of 19.1%. Furthermore, there has been a steady decrease in the number of fishing vessels at sea. In 2009, the catch per unit was 26.5, but it reduced up to 23.9 in 2012.
Various Italian institutions are taking part in the Ballast Water management system for Adriatic Sea protection (BALMAS). The project aims to offer the basis for creating a common cross-border control and management of ships’ ballast water and sediments.
Other areas that Italy is already addressing are setting guidelines for protecting wetlands, environmental accounting in National Park, agriculture & forestry, restoration of marine environment, and protecting alien species.
What Italy hasn’t done?
Even though Italy has increased Natura 2000 areas, it’s estimated that plants in the Alps will lose 44% to 50% of their current alpine habitat ranges. The government needs to do something about this.
How Greece is implementing EU Biodiversity Strategy
Greece is also playing its part to maintain and restore biodiversity following the EU Biodiversity Strategy. The protected area in Greece covers around 27.2% of land and 6.1% of territorial waters. The country started to progress in biodiversity conservation in 2010 with the National Operational Program “Environment – Sustainable Development 2007 – 2013,” which featured a particular part on the “Protection of natural environment and biodiversity.”
Various ecosystem restoration projects have been done in Greece. These include Lake Carla and the restoration of burned fir forest in Parnitha National Park. The National Operational Program funded these restoration programs.
Additionally, there are several measures put in place to conserve genetic resources. There are also legal restrictions imposed on the type of vessels and fishing gear used, fishing methods applied and types of fish caught when it comes to marine life.
Apart from the above efforts, Greece has also set general regulations in a bid to protect and conserve the Natura 2000 Network by setting it into law, 3937/2011.
What Greece hasn’t done?
To date, Greece has not fully implemented some biodiversity programs that have left some endangered species in deplorable conditions. At least more than half of species of European interest are in danger.
How Portugal is implementing EU Biodiversity Strategy
Portugal has not been left behind as it is also working tirelessly to ensure biodiversity is maintained and restored for a better future. In Mainland Portugal, the land under protection in 2013 was 22% of the land territory. Aside from that, 190,000 ha of the marine area is also protected.
Portugal has various projects aimed at restoring land, forest, and marine environment. These include Project Fame (Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment, 2010 – 2012), Projeto LIFE+ MarPro (2011 – 2015), PCESLI – Ex Situ Conservation Programme of Iberian Lynx, LIFE+ Berlengas, LIFE+ Steppic Birds, and much more.
What hasn’t Portugal Done?
The biggest threat to Portugal’s biodiversity is the destruction of habitats and invasive alien species. For the country to meet EU’s biodiversity goals, it needs to address these issues.
How France is implementing EU Biodiversity Strategy
France is also committed to ensuring that biodiversity is restored. In 2012 at the first French Environmental Conference, the country drafted the biodiversity framework law. The law was later adopted in August 2016 and has led to several milestones in achieving biodiversity. However, the main one is when it formed the French Biodiversity Agency by merging in January 2020 with the National Agency for Wildlife to create the French Office for Biodiversity.
Over the years, France has been involved in various biodiversity restoration programmes, such as the restoration of dynamics of Rhine alluvial habitats on Rohrschollen island, functional rehabilitation of the Jura mountains peatlands or Franche-Comte, and many more.
What hasn’t France done?
France may have made several breakthroughs when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lowering some air pollutants, but it has not yet properly addressed the issue of pesticide use.
How Denmark is implementing EU Biodiversity Strategy
Denmark is also at the forefront of ensuring it has a sustainable future by protecting its biodiversity. The country has adopted several plans in accordance with the EU Biodiversity Strategy. One of those plans includes the River Basin Management Plans, which focuses on substantial nature restoration objectives and management measures.
The management plans aim to halt the decline in biological diversity and maintain and restore conservation status for species and habitats. These plans were adopted in 2011, and they are in line with EU directives. Some of the pans include managing around 130,000 hectares, 20,000 hectares of forest, and protecting marine reefs.
Other programs that Denmark has implemented are the EU Nature Protection directives featuring the Birds Protection Directive and the Habitats Directive. Additionally, it has implemented the EU Water Framework, which lays down the plan of protecting lakes, streams, groundwater, transitional waters, and coastal waters.
What hasn’t Denmark done?
Among the six countries that we’ve highlighted in this post, Denmark seems to be ahead of the pack – not only have they improved in every aspect of biodiversity, but they have excelled. However, they need to place more emphasis on the restoration of nature and protect biodiversity.
How Poland is implementing EU Biodiversity Strategy
Poland came up with a draft for 2014-2020 programme on how to conserve and restore valuable natural habitats. As a result, this strengthened the management system of the protected areas and protection of areas of high natural value. The restoration of degraded ecosystems and their services is one of the 2014 – 2020 draft objectives.
On top of these practices, Poland has introduced the Code of Good Agricultural Practices. As a result, the share of organic farms is growing daily. The forest share in Poland is also growing steadily by approximately 0.075% every year. Surprisingly, Poland is one of the few countries in Central Europe local forms of crop plants have been preserved to date.
Aside from Denmark, Poland also scored highly among countries with great biodiversity. Whether its agriculture, nature, marine, or ecosystem restoration, Poland is ahead of most countries in Europe.
What hasn’t Poland done?
Poland needs to monitor some of its regions where degradation of nature is taking place; thus, putting endangered species in danger.
For humanity to have a promising future, biodiversity is needed. From the air, we breathe to the water we drink, and the food we eat, all of these depend on biodiversity. Therefore, restoring the degraded biodiversity should be the priority of the European Commission and other countries worldwide.
That’s why the EU Biodiversity Strategy has indeed established natural areas and endangered species and has taken specific steps to protect them. In short, biodiversity is vital in both natural and human-managed ecosystems, hoping that such a strategy and its overall implementation will ensure a better future tomorrow and for generations to come.
Featured photo by Quentin Pelletier, Pexels