Europe and Central Asia
9 Oct 2015

Co-operation key for reversing biodiversity declines

By Finlay Duncan

Protecting and restoring nature in the European Union is incredibly important, but how do we stop declines in biodiversity? With the European Commission’s publication of a mid-term report on the Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 last week came confirmation that the situation remains hugely concerning. Added to this, a Eurobarometer poll published on the same day indicates a large majority of people in Europe are very worried about the state we are in.

As a result, the situation as it stands is critical; a number of species remains under threat of extinction and not enough is being done to tackle unsustainable agriculture.

So where can a solution be found? That question may be hard to fully answer, but now 19 NGOs[1], including BirdLife Europe, have come together and published a number of key points they believe will raise awareness of the issue and lead to action.

It includes re-affirming the importance of key European nature laws, the Birds and Habitats Directives, that are still the subject of an ongoing Fitness Check by the European Commission. A public consultation may have concluded (with the overwhelming number of responses in favour of keeping, not re-opening, the legislation), but the process is far from over. Evidence has shown that where these Nature Directives are properly implemented, they get results. For that reason, the joint paper published by the 19 NGOs is urging better overall implementation and stronger integration of the directives into other complementary policies.

Action for biodiversity is also urged by the co-operation, not just on robust implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives, but also the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The EU also needs to invest in nature, dedicating around 6 billion EUR of national and European funding. This would be used for better management of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, for targeting conservation actions for areas of biodiversity particularly under threat, for rolling out a Europe-wide network of Green Infrastructure (the so-called Ten-G network), restoration of degraded ecosystems and for close monitoring of the state of nature in the EU.

Member countries of the EU also have a key role to play, by speeding up the restoration of at least 15% of degraded ecosystems in line with the EU Biodiversity Strategy. Currently, very little is being done in this area.

An initiative to help pollinators is also among the urgent requirements of the NGO co-operation. They provide a vital ecosystem service and tackling the threat of extinction to pollinators can be seen as getting to the root of the problem. Concrete action on the threat pesticides pose to pollinators is also key here.

These main action points are by no means a magic solution to all the problems we currently face, but it is hoped by working together these NGOs can give nature conservation a louder voice and the prominence it requires at this critical time for biodiversity in Europe.

[1] – “Joint paper on the Action for Biodiversity in the EU and the Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives” – BirdLife Europe, BatLife Europe, Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation Europe, CEEweb for Biodiversity, ClientEarth, EUROPARC Federation, European Environmental Bureau (EEB), European Centre for Nature Conservation (ECNC), European Natural Heritage Foundation (Euronatur), Eurosite, Friends of the Earth Europe, Oceana, Planta Europa, Rewilding Europe, Societas Europaea Herpetologica, Society for Ecological Restoration (SER), Wetlands International – European Association and WWF European Policy Office (WWF EPO).

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.