2010 biodiversity target is a hundred years away
BirdLife reaction to new Commission report: 'Europe shamefully fails to protect its natural environment'
Reacting to the mid-term report of the European Commission on the EU Action Plan to halt the loss of biodiversity released on 16 December 2008, BirdLife International deplores the 'shameful failure' of Member State governments and EU Institutions to take adequate action for wildlife and the natural environment. Far too little is done to stop the loss of wild species and the degradation of natural systems in Europe and worldwide.
While BirdLife congratulates the Commission in Brussels today for having compiled an impressive analysis, it points out that the most revealing aspect of this report is the "huge gap between stated ambition and real action", stated Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at BirdLife International in Brussels. “The Commission is right when stressing the first successes of the nature Directives and Natura 2000, but we can only turn the tide if they are properly implemented by Member States, adequately funded and most of all if nature conservation is integrated into other policies”.
BirdLife draws direct parallels with the current financial crisis. “Focusing only on short-term profits leads to huge costs for the society in the long-run. When, if not now, will governments learn this lesson? If they shy away from acting for our planet now, the price of a future bail-out will dwarf the current economic crisis”, added Kreiser.
The populations of animal and plant species in the EU continue to decline because their habitats are fragmented by motorways (e.g. by the 'Via Baltica' in Poland), lost to agricultural intensification (as the EU seems unable to reform the Common Agricultural Policy) or devoured to make way to uncontrolled development (e.g. at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast).
In the meantime, the destruction of tropical rainforests is accelerating, coral reefs are dying out, fisheries are collapsing and the list of animals and plants sliding towards global extinction is growing longer. The newly adopted EU biofuels policy will accelerate global biodiversity loss further.
"Focusing only on short-term profits leads to huge costs for the society in the long-run" —Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at the BirdLife European Division
Six governments embarrassingly unhelpful
BirdLife sees it as especially 'embarrassing' that six governments (of Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia and Luxembourg) did not even bother to respond to the Commission’s questions when the report was compiled. “This has to be seen as a clear signal that governments have still not understood the urgency of the environmental crisis we are in, while 90% of Europe’s citizens have stated they are very concerned by the loss of biodiversity”.
Excellent tools, poor implementation
With the Birds and Habitats Directives, and the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, the EU has excellent legislation with which to reconcile the needs of nature conservation with human well-being and economic development. However, as the Commission’s report shows, Member States are dragging their feet in completing the Natura 2000 network (especially at sea) and that far too little is done to manage and protect these sites in a way that people and nature can both benefit.
Governments undermine our chances to come through the climate crisis
Outside protected areas the situation is even worse with nature and its services always loosing out to short-term economic interests. Integrating the maintenance and enhancement of our natural capital into the various policy sectors, like radically reforming agricultural policy, is still a distant dream. “That way governments undermine our chances to come well through the challenges of the century, be it climate change or food security, and they fail to take responsibility for the poor regions of the world who suffer most from environmental degradation”, added Konstantin Kreiser.
Read the danger signs and turn the tide
BirdLife urges the EU leaders and its institutions to read the danger signs and respond in ways that would make citizens proud of belonging to the Union. There is only one year left until 2010 and a huge effort is needed to put nature at the heart of political decisions to achieve lasting change. Instead of taking stock of missed opportunities and failed promises, 2010 should be the year of turning the tide for the diversity of life.
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Credits: BirdLife European Division