The EU must reform fisheries and farm policies if it is to save biodiversity
BirdLife Europe welcomed the release of the EU Biodiversity strategy issued on May 3rd, setting out the key actions the EU must take in order to reverse the decline of biodiversity and ecosystems by 2020. According to BirdLife Europe, the strategy has the potential to bring Europe closer to environmental stability, although the targets and measures published by the European Commission represent the bare minimum needed to avoid massive ecological and economic costs, and will only be achieved if the strategy is fully implemented and financed by the EU and Member States.
At the same time the NGO stressed that the real tests of the EU’s commitment to achieving its biodiversity target commitment are the reforms of the EU’s fisheries and agriculture policies, currently being debated in Brussels. “The new strategy offers a positive, if somewhat un-ambitious, blueprint for saving our natural capital and the crucial services it provides to society”, said Angelo Caserta, Regional Director of BirdLife Europe. “It remains to be seen whether the EU and Member States have the political will to actually put an end to over fishing and to shift farm subsidies from those farmers that are harming the environment to those practicing sustainable farming and hence address the key pressures driving biodiversity loss”.
The strategy provides a six-point battle plan for tackling the collapse of biodiversity, from properly managing the EU’s Natura 2000 network of protected areas to combating the spread of invasive alien species, from habitat restoration to supporting developing countries in their own nature conservation efforts. But it also clearly highlights the key role played by the two most problematic natural resource-based sectors under EU control: agriculture and fisheries. The strategy calls for far reaching reforms including finally matching fishing effort to the regeneration capacity of fish stocks and the extension of biodiversity-friendly agri-environmental schemes .
In 2010 the EU failed its target of halting biodiversity decline, but Heads of State renewed their commitment, promising not only to reverse the decline but also to start restoration efforts by 2020. At global level, at the biodiversity summit in Nagoya/Japan last year, the EU committed in addition to achieve sustainability in its farming and fishing sectors and to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies - all by the end of this decade. With EU decisions looming in the coming year about the Community budget and sectoral policies for the 2014-2020 period, it is clear that without meaningful reforms now, the new Biodiversity Strategy’s chances for success will be reduced to almost zero from the start.
“We are fast reaching a point of no return. If we want to steer our Planet back into safe ecological and climatic limits, governments must act decisively now and see beyond short-term interests. Whether our children and grandchildren will still be able to eat wild fish, enjoy the songs of farmland birds, or indeed live in a world where natural systems protect us against floods, droughts and the worst of climate change, are still open questions” added Angelo Caserta “having a strategy is a good start, but taking action is what matters”. BirdLife Europe is taking action on the ground now to conserve Europe’s amazing wildlife for future generations, and is committed to closely follow implementation of the strategy by the EU and its Member States and ring the alarm bell if progress is hindered through unnecessary delays or political interference.
The final text of the Strategy, as well as Commission press release and other supporting documents, such as a "citizen summary" are available now at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/biodiversity/comm2006/2020.htm