For the first time in 30 years, legislation addressing the EU’s catastrophic loss of wildlife has been proposed. Along with a crackdown on chemical pesticides, legally enforceable goals for all member states to restore wildlife on land, in rivers, and in the sea were revealed today.
Targets set forward by the European Commission include reversing the decrease of pollinator populations and restoring 20% of land and sea by 2030, with the goal of restoring all ecosystems by 2050, as a boost to UN negotiations on halting and reversing biodiversity loss. The commission also suggested eliminating the use of chemical pesticides in the vicinity of playgrounds, hospitals, and schools by 2030.
The measures, according to the commission’s executive vice-president Frans Timmermans, are a step in the right direction in addressing the “looming ecocide” threatening the world. There will be about €100 billion (£85 billion) available for biodiversity-related projects, including ecosystem restoration. Farmers will have time to identify alternatives thanks to the 2030 goal date for reducing pesticide use.
“We need to reduce the use of chemical pesticides to safeguard our land, air, and food, and ultimately the health of our citizens,” said Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety. It is not our intention to outlaw pesticides. Making them a last-ditch measure is the goal here.
Campaigners have lauded the measures as a potential turning point for nature, and they might become legislation in about a year. The restoration proposal is a key component of the EU’s biodiversity plan and the first piece of biodiversity legislation since the 1992 publication of the Habitats Directive.
To demonstrate to the commission how they would meet the goals established, member states would need to develop restoration plans; if they failed to do so, they would be held legally liable.
A variety of ecosystems, including farms, forests, rivers, urban, and coastal areas, will be the subject of targets. Ecosystems that have the highest capacity to absorb and store carbon and to lessen the effects of natural disasters are considered priority ecosystems.
Some nations will have a lot more work to do than others: Romania, Estonia, and Greece are among the EU member states with relatively healthier ecosystems, whereas Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden are among those with very unhealthy ecosystems.
It’s a major accomplishment. It has the potential to completely change how we interact with the natural world, according to Ariel Brunner of BirdLife Europe. “Ultimately, the ability to sue people for disobeying their obligations distinguishes successful policy from mere propaganda.
He added that there had been significant disagreement within the commission over the report’s specifics and that there had been several delays due to objections from the farming and forestry lobbies. “We will need to go through the text with a fine-tooth comb, because several loopholes have been snuck in at the last minute,” he said.
According to commission officials, the climatic catastrophe and biodiversity loss pose the biggest threats to food production and security, thus nature restoration will assist to increase food security. The advantages of restoration surpass the expenses by an eight to one margin. One official stated, “We show that we can lead by example. “It is a thorough proposal.”
According to the law, by 2030 there cannot be a net decrease in urban green space or tree canopy cover, and by 2050 there must be a rise of at least 10% in tree canopy cover throughout all cities and towns. Member states will need to improve bird populations, forest connectivity, and the stock of organic carbon for forest ecosystems.
Targets include dam removal, opening floodplains, and river restoration. There will be pressure to shut down fishing grounds in marine areas so that habitats devastated by bottom trawling can start to recover.
Despite current EU law, almost a third of the classified habitats are in poor shape and are degrading. “Setting precise targets and gaining strong national implementation tools can turn the tide in the fight against these twin crises, but only if they are enforced,” said Ioannis Agapakis, wildlife and habitats attorney at ClientEarth.
The aims set forth in the law must be monitored, carefully planned, and subject to restrictions if they are to be met; otherwise, they will just be abstract numbers on a page.
Some advocates contend that the overall aim shouldn’t include agri-environmental forest management practices that don’t actually help restore habitat. Additionally, because detrimental offshore fishing consequences are not being managed, there are worries that the marine restoration targets may not be practicable.
Prior to a final agreement being reached in Montreal in December, UN biodiversity negotiations are starting up in Nairobi at the time of the announcement. Governments are presently discussing a global restoration target, and according to Brunner, these regulations will greatly increase the EU’s bargaining credibility. In a sense, he said, “this would position the EU legitimately as a biodiversity frontrunner because a lot of the international debates about biodiversity are muddied with accusations from developing countries or less wealthy countries which tend to accuse the Europeans of preaching conservation and environment.”
The ideas will be discussed by the environment council and the European Parliament. Once all revisions have been agreed upon, compromises will be negotiated in order to produce a text that the council and parliament may vote on and support. Within two years of the law’s implementation, national plans must be produced.
Lead Image: Greater flamingos in wetlands in Malaga, Spain. Targets will be made for a range of ecosystems. Photograph: Rudolf Ernst/Alamy.
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