Target 2 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy states that
By 2020, ecosystems and their services are maintained and enhanced by establishing green infrastructure and restoring at least 15 % of degraded ecosystems.
Summary of EU progress on reaching Target 2 on ecosystem restoration:
The EU has significantly contributed to putting on the agenda the need to understand the value of ecosystem services, to halt the destruction of habitats and to restore destroyed and degraded ecosystems.
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, championed by the EU, has provided a key contribution to the knowledge base in this area. The EU is currently developing approaches in this context, in particular to halt the net loss of ecosystems outside of protected areas and to create Green Infrastructure.
However, progress is slow, compared to the rapid deterioration of the environment across the continent. Experience shows that only strong legal frameworks, underpinned with financial incentives will be effective, as a complement to the full implementation of EU Nature legislation. A more holistic approach to spatial planning is also urgently needed at Member State and EU level.
The integration of these concepts in EU and national sectoral policies and funds is a must. Unfortunately, the EU initiatives on Green Infrastructure and No Net Loss, which are still under development, are currently not feeding into the main sectoral reforms, e.g. Cohesion Policy, which means that the new EU Budget running to 2020 risks failing to support the achievement of Target 2. (More on Funding for nature)
Positive developments towards Target 2:
- The European Commission and EU Member States are developing initiatives to build up the knowledge base on ecosystems services, including their economic importance, to map ecosystem services and to prioritise restoration needs.
- The scope of an EU ‘No Net Loss of ecosystems’ initiative and its operating principles is being explored.
- Existing legal frameworks for compensation of damage to biodiversity have incentivised businesses to move beyond their obligations and to lead by example. Cement Industry voluntary commitments, Wallasea Island restoration in England
- The EU has adopted and started to implement important Framework Directives on water and marine ecosystems.
Delays and missed opportunities towards Target 2:
- The European Commission has failed to include its Green Infrastructure initiative in its budget reform proposals for 2014-2020 (in particular linked to Cohesion Policy), thus large scale ecosystem restoration projects risk lacking funds.
- Current policy reform proposals, especially on EU Cohesion Policy, do not include sufficient safeguards to avoid damage to biodiversity.
- Restoration initiatives are rare and insufficient. EU Member States are making very slow progress in tapping the potential of Green Infrastructure and ecosystem based approaches to address issues such as flood defence and mitigation, climate adaptation, coastal protection, urban renewal etc. Ooijpolder climate buffer project, Futurescapes projects, Danube Delta restoration
- Despite attempts of the European Commission, a minority of EU Member States are blocking the adoption of the urgently needed Soil Framework Directive, resulting in a lack of progress regarding soil sealing and soil degradation.
Counterproductive developments towards Target 2:
- Destruction and deterioration of valuable ecosystems continues, leading to a clear net-loss of nature in the EU. Habitat loss across the EU
- While there is no progress in coordination of spatial planning at EU-level, some EU Member States are even deregulating land planning, with the likely consequences of increasing habitat destruction and fragmentation. Renewable energy and nature conservation
- The financial crisis has driven many governments to present environmental and nature protection schemes as a break on economic development.
Milestones – what needs to be achieved by 2014:
- The European Commission is finalising an EU-level approach on “no-net-loss”, presenting a proposal for a robust legal framework for this, that would operate outside of and complement Natura 2000.
- The European Commission is developing with EU Member States and stakeholders a coordinated approach to the improvement of national level spatial planning so that it can deliver on the “No-net-loss” and ecosystem restoration/Green Infrastructure commitments. Birdlife principles on Good Spatial Planning for biodiversity
- EU Cohesion Policy and CAP 2014-2020 ensure significant funding to Green Infrastructure and ecosystem based approaches and include effective safeguards to avoid harm to biodiversity from traditional “grey infrastructures” (such as transport infrastructure, drainage systems, dams and dykes, storm water basins, water purification systems and other utilities).
- Renewed efforts by EU Member States to fully implement their obligations under the Birds and Habitats Directives, both inside and outside Natura 2000, are the baseline for any new policy development. Lack of compensation
- EU policies driving the expansion of renewable energy and energy infrastructures (post-2020 policy framework for renewables; Energy Infrastructure Regulation; Connecting Europe Facility, etc.) include appropriate safeguards to ensure biodiversity conservation.
Relevant CBD Aichi Targets: Targets 5, 14 and15.