EU Biodiversity Strategy mid-term review: successes at a local level, now action needs to be scaled up
The Headline Target of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 is: Halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, and restore them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss. Achieving this target would help to maintain and restore nature’s capacity to clean the air and water, to pollinate crops and to limit the impacts of catastrophes such as flooding. The economic cost of not halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services by 2020 could add up to €50 billion per year.
However, a mid-term review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, published this month, shows that so far no significant progress towards the Headline Target has been made.
Progress has been made on some of the EU Biodiversity Strategy targets. For example, implementation of Target 5 (Help combat invasive alien species) is on track, provided a list of alien invasive species of Union concern, which is currently being developed, is adopted by the end of 2015. Progress has also been made towards implementation of Target 1 (Fully implement the Birds and Habitats Directives), Target 2 (Maintain and restore ecosystems and their services), Target 4 (Ensure the sustainable use of fisheries resources and achieve good environmental status), and Target 6 (Help avert global biodiversity loss). However, progress towards these targets is happening at an insufficient rate.
Many habitats and species that were already in unfavourable status in 2010 remain so, and some are deteriorating further; ecosystems and their services continue to be degraded; marine species and ecosystems have continued to decline across Europe’s seas; and there has been insufficient progress in reducing the impacts of EU consumption patterns on global biodiversity.
Furthermore, there has been no significant progress towards Targets 3a and 3b (Increase the contribution of agriculture and forestry to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity). The Common Agricultural Policy reform for 2014-20 provides a range of instruments that can contribute to supporting biodiversity. If these opportunities are widely implemented, it could help put the EU back on track to achieve Target 3a. Whilst EU forest area has increased as compared with the EU 2010 biodiversity baseline, the conservation status of forest habitats and species covered by EU nature legislation shows no signs of improvement. The potential of forest management plans remains largely under utilised.
Since 2010, the network of Natura 2000 sites has progressed and is largely completed for terrestrial and inland water habitats. Now finances need to be secured to fully support the Natura 2000 network. Although the coverage of the marine network increased in 2014, the network is still not complete and marine mammals are one of the groups with the highest proportion of threatened species. Completion of this network would therefore contribute towards achieving Target 1. Halting the loss of biodiversity beyond the Natura 2000 network also remains a priority.
Overall, a central conclusion of the mid-term review is that there have been successes at a local level, now action needs to be scaled up. A range of EU policies and initiatives are in place or under development, but greater effort is also required from the Member States to fully implement these EU policies.
Read the mid-term review from the Commission, or for a digested version see the summary of progress towards the 2020 biodiversity targets. Read Karmenu Vella’s blog post: Halting biodiversity loss is a win for all. See also the Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 brochure.
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