The 2010 Biodiversity Challenge: Will the EU reach it? What future after 2010?

The 2010 Biodiversity Challenge: Will the EU reach it? What future after 2010?

13 February 2009, Brussels. Will the EU live up to its 2001 promise of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010? What action has been taken at Community and Member State level? The European Parliament Intergroup on Sustainable Development held a high-level event entitled “The European Biodiversity Action Plan – Counting down to 2010: state of play and the post 2010 vision for Europe” on 11 February. Eminent speakers and an astonishingly prestigious audience of more than 150 people from all Europe and elsewhere concluded that even if the target will not be achieved in time, it made it possible to attract action on the issue. As for the post-2010 plans, the new international commitments should be more realistic and measurable, and should also pursue a cross-sectoral approach.

A distinguished panel of experts representing government, business and NGOs discussed the outcomes of the mid-term assessment of the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) – published in December 2008. Reinforced joint efforts are needed both at the level of the EC and by the Member States to try and achieve the target. The results of this and future assessments of the BAP are crucial to determine a post 2010 vision and target for biodiversity in the EU. It also contributes to helping set the new global target to be agreed in September 2010 at the UN Heads of State Summit in New York.

“The challenge and urgency for a new biodiversity target is at least as high as defining the post Kyoto climate target, says Struan Stevenson, Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the Intergroup on Sustainable Development. As a response to these challenges he announced that for the period 2009 – 2013 the Intergroup will focus on climate and biodiversity by noting that, ”Climate change and its impact on biodiversity deserve policy-makers’ maximum attention. To ensure these issues are kept high on the MEPs’ agenda, we launch today the Intergroup on Climate Change and Biodiversity”. This Intergroup will continue its function as discussion and policy-shaping forum focusing on the most pressing issues related to environmental protection.

The recently published mid-term assessment of the BAP is the first real comprehensive report on action taken by the EU and its Member States towards the 2010 biodiversity target. Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for the Environment, highlighted that “Although the Action Plan provides a roadmap for action, the EU will not reach the 2010 target. Implementation is still lacking behind, specifically, more has to be done for marine protected areas as part of the Natura 2000 network and to improve overall cross-sectoral policy integration. Also, new legislation needs to be adopted, such as the Soil Framework Directive and headway has to be made in relation to addressing the challenges posed by invasive species. We need to reinforce our efforts to sustain the variety of life, and the health of the ecosystems that underpin our prosperity and well being”.

Besides assessing the progress in relation to the actions identified in the BAP, the European Environmental Agency (EEA) has developed indicators to assess the status and trends of biodiversity in Europe. This effort of Streamlining European 2010 Biodiversity Indicators (SEBI 2010) indicates that European biodiversity is still in decline. Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA, stated that “some progress has been made towards halting the loss of biodiversity, but overall the status and trends are not yet favourable. Genetic diversity loss in livestock remains a concern and wildlife species extinction in Europe has further increased. Progress has been made in designating terresterial protected areas, however 50% of species, and possibly up to 80% of habitat types, of European conservation interest have an unfavourable conservation status. Losing our biodiversity and ecosystem integrity will affect us all – and not just those of us which enjoy a walk in nature – but the very framework within which our economies operate”.

Sebastian Winkler, Head of the IUCN Countdown 2010 initiative, highlighted that “Countdown 2010 initiative clearly shows that at grassroots level tangible actions have been taken. In less than 3 years 800 partners have joined the growing Countdown 2010 network by committing to more than 7,000 concrete measures related to the 2010 target. Remarkably, initiatives like Countdown 2010 are the proof that the target triggered action not only at governmental level but in any sector – be it local and regional authorities, civil society or private companies.”

But what will happen after 2010? A study on “The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity” (TEEB) concludes that, in a “business as usual” scenario, the current decline in biodiversity and related loss of ecosystem services will continue and even accelerate. Pavan Sukhdev, Study Leader of TEEB and Managing Director and Head of Deutsche Bank’s Global Markets noted that “by 2050 we will be faced with an estimated further loss of 11% of the natural areas that still existed in 2000. In economic terms the loss of ecosystem services by 2050 in a ‘business-as–usual’ scenario represents an annual welfare loss estimated at 6% of global GDP”.

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