The EU Biodiversity Strategy in 2015 – making up the balance
Actions are needed to improve implementation of existing EU environmental legislation. President Juncker and Vice President Timmermans have stated this was their intention, rather than piling up ever more rules. This would be a good place to start and show they mean what they say.
The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 is one of the pillars of nature conservation policy in the EU. The Strategy aims to halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystems and their services in the EU by 2020. Realising that implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives was falling behind schedule and hampered by other EU policy, the EU leaders identified in the Strategy a series of targets with actions to be taken.
In total six targets have been formulated, in short, a commitment of EU Member States to: 1) full and swift implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives, 2) deployment of Green Infrastructure and restoration of 15% of degraded ecosystems; a commitment of the European Commission to 3) reform the CAP contribution to biodiversity conservation and 4) to reform the Common Fisheries Policy so that it reduces its ecological impacts and a commitment of the EU to 5) combat Invasive Alien Species and 6) step up its contribution to biodiversity loss.
The Commission will review the progress towards the targets and actions and is expected to publish the results in the second half of 2015. We think it is a timely moment to look at what the Strategy has and has not achieved, and are currently doing some own work on this which will be published in the first half of 2015, ahead of the Commission’s assessment.
One main achievement thus far is the adoption of a new Regulation on Invasive Alien Species. However it still needs to be seen how well the Commission succeeds in getting invasive species listed as being of EU concern, which is needed to trigger EU wide action on them. Rumor has it that dirty lobbies are already gearing up, as garden centres are desperate to keep on selling their Water Hyacinths, regardless of the economic and ecological damage the plant does when it invades rivers and lakes. Fur lobbies will certainly resist listing of their American Minks as well.
We certainly look forward towards the Commission’s assessment on the CAP reform. Substantial evidence is accumulating that the greening of Common Agricultural Policy has been a failure for biodiversity (http://www.birdlife.org/europe-and-central-asia/news/scientists-confirm-worst-fears-new-eu-policy-agriculture-bad-nature), but the question is whether the Commission will do an honest assessment or whether the temptation to sugar-coat reality will prevail.
The year ahead is also decisive for the EU Biodiversity Strategy in another respect. One of the key elements, the No net loss initiative, will be published in 2015. BirdLife remains very worried about one of the options the Commission is pondering for the initiative, which is the option to introduce legislation on offsets. This would be a Trojan horse for the conservation movement in the EU, as enforcement resources in many Member States are inadequate to stop offsets from undermining existing conservation efforts. In some Member States the legislation would have disastrous consequences for any conservation that is happening at the moment.
We hope that the Commission will instead take a series of actions to improve implementation of existing EU environmental legislation, including through new legislative proposals on access to environmental justice and environmental inspections, two key steps to make environmental legislation work better. President Juncker and Vice President Timmermans have repeatedly said they prefer to see EU law properly implemented rather than keep piling up ever more rules. This would be a good place to start and show they mean what they say.
In conclusion, there are exciting times ahead for the Biodiversity Strategy, and if you are interested watch this space!