Global biodiversity conservation: The dual role of the EU
The European Union, in terms of GDP, is the largest economic block in the world and a major driver of global biodiversity loss. Its unsustainable production and consumption patterns and its policies notably on agriculture, fisheries and trade result in Europeans using much more of the planet than their fair share in ecological and ethical terms. In addition, the EU countries still serve as role models for development patterns and lifestyle in emerging economies with raising per-capita income. If these follow current European and North American nutrition patterns or transport behaviour, the collapse of global ecosystems seems unavoidable. For these and other reasons, the EU therefore has to move rapidly to a low-carbon and ecosystem friendly economy.
At the same, time the EU has a good track record in promoting ambitious global action through the support of multilateral environmental agreements. For example, at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the CBD, the EU has been crucial for the adoption of an ambitious Strategic Plan 2011-2020 for the CBD, as well as the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing of genetic resources.
Collectively, the EU Member States and the EU budget represent the largest donor of financial support to developing countries worldwide with an ODA/GNI ratio more than double those of Japan and the USA. Average annual external assistance for biodiversity amounted in the last years, according to European Commission estimates, to 750 – 1000 million EUR.
Furthermore, the European Commission and several EU Member States have been instrumental for financing the ground-breaking study on “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity” and are supporting the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity (IPBES) in Bonn/Germany.
In this context it is welcomed that the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy aims to address the two essential sides of the same coin: reducing its negative impact on global biodiversity and stepping up its (still far insufficient) support to developing countries in tackling the roots and consequences of biodiversity loss and climate change, following the principle of “shared, but differentiated responsibility”.