Assessment confirms EU has missed biodiversity 2010 target

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Assessment confirms EU has missed biodiversity 2010 targetA report published today confirms that the EU has missed its target of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010. The assessment of implementing the Commission’s Biodiversity Action Plan shows that Europe’s biodiversity remains under severe threat from the excessive demands we are making on our environment, such as changes in land use, pollution, invasive species and climate change. Nevertheless, the assessment reveals that significant progress has been made over the last two years. Important lessons learned from implementing the action plan will underpin the EU’s post-2010 strategy.

EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said, “We have learned some very important lessons and managed to raise biodiversity to the top of the political agenda. But we need everyone on board and not just in Europe. The threat around the world is even greater than in the EU. That’s why it’s imperative that Nagoya delivers a strong global strategy on the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems.”

The Biodiversity Action Plan was launched in 2006 with the aim of halting biodiversity loss in the EU by 2010. Today’s assessment of progress made on some 150 different actions concludes that while significant progress has been made in a number of areas, the overall 2010 biodiversity target has not been reached.

Targeted actions to reverse the decline of endangered species and habitats have been successful. The Natura 2000 network has been significantly extended and now comprises around 26,000 sites, covering 18% of the EU’s land territory. The scope of LIFE+ funding was broadened to cover wider biodiversity issues and support implementation of the EU biodiversity plan.

Efforts to protect marine and freshwater ecosystems have been boosted by the new Marine Strategy Directive. This summer the Commission set out the criteria to be used by Member States to assess the environmental status of their seas.

The work of the ongoing study on the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity (TEEB) has led to the increased recognition of the economic value of nature’s assets. TEEB is already helping decision makers to recognise the value of investing in natural capital.

The Biodiversity Action Plan has helped increase understanding of the drivers of biodiversity loss (such as climate change), how biodiversity and other sectoral activities are interlinked and the important role of ecosystems such as for mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Lessons learned will be invaluable in ensuring that renewed efforts to halt biodiversity loss are successful. In March, the EU committed to a new target: to halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, restore them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss.

The integration of biodiversity and ecosystem concerns into other EU policies will be central to the post-2010 strategy. The planned reforms of policy areas which have significant implications for biodiversity – such as the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy – as well as the preparations for the next programming period for EU Regional Policy, offer important opportunities. These are significant both in terms of reducing impacts on biodiversity and as potential sources of financing for biodiversity conservation and restoration.

The new strategy will benefit from a significantly strengthened knowledge base, including a biodiversity baseline that will allow trends beyond 2010 to be clearly established and measured.

Outside the EU, the situation is even more worrying as pressures on biodiversity continue to intensify. Between 12% and 55% of selected vertebrate, invertebrate and plant groups are threatened with extinction at global level (Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, 2010). The international community has failed to achieve the global target of significantly reducing biodiversity loss worldwide by 2010. New global targets for biodiversity will be discussed at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, from 18-29 October.

The EU has been working to reduce the impact of its high consumption on the rest of the world, as well as the impact of international trade on global biodiversity and ecosystems. Developments include the signing of the first Voluntary Partnership Agreements designed to combat illegal exploitation of forests. One of the key issues on the agenda in Nagoya will be ensuring that benefits from the use of resources for the development of products such as pharmaceuticals and cosmetics are shared with the country they came from.

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