Europe and Central Asia
11 Dec 2019

EU Green Deal - good for climate, bad for biodiversity

© BirdLife Europe and Central Asia
By Honey Kohan

Today, the European Commission announced their highly anticipated European Green Deal. The first of its kind in EU history, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has promised to deliver the Green deal in her first 100 days in office.

The document which has been described as a ‘growth strategy’, predominantly focuses on the current climate crises but fails to be a game changer for biodiversity and ecosystems. Despite several important and overwhelming major research papers which have been issued in the last few months confirming the biodiversity crises, with one million species threatened to go extinct – the EU green deal leaves much to be desired on the biodiversity front.

On biodiversity:
The Green Deal must have a biodiversity strategy that focuses on acting as soon as it is published. Nature in Europe has been degraded beyond recognition. Although vague, this Deal leaves the door open for the legislation nature actually needs, a set of legally binding restoration targets that Member States are obliged to meet. The Commission fails to mention any of the ecosystems beyond forests and fresh water that must be restored to fight climate change and preserve the EU’s biodiversity.

On enforcement:
Although the Commission commits to enforce environmental laws, the means they propose to do so are largely ineffective, as they focus on business as usual instead of focusing on holding Member States accountable for breaking the laws. In order to enforce the already existing nature laws we have in Europe, the Commission should firstly strengthen their own capacity to deal with Member States breaking the law.

On forests:
The Commission risks a continuation of the business-as-usual forest strategy which neither addresses degraded forest systems nor the fight against climate change. Increasing plantation forestry to simply provide biomass for energy will not address biodiversity or climate issues, in fact they could exacerbate both. 

On agriculture:
The agriculture content of the EU Green Deal remains vague consisting of a vague commitment to sustainability, reducing pesticides and fertilisers, and boosting organic farming. The most obvious omission is the total absence of actions to achieve a reduction in meat and dairy consumption. Worryingly, it repeats the greenwash claim that 40% of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will contribute to climate action – something the Court of Auditors has previously referred to as an ‘invention’. Expected targets to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilisers and reduce food waste have been taken out under lobby pressure.

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On marine:
The ambition the Green Deal puts behind our oceans remain largely underwhelming. Although the Commission will propose measures to manage maritime space more sustainably to bring greater attention to healthy and resilient ecosystems, there are no concrete targets to tackle destructive fishing, reducing consumption of fish, nor how to manage Marine Protected Areas.

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy, Birdlife Europe:

“This EU Green Deal is admittedly a step forward but falls far short of what is needed to tackle the biodiversity crisis. A commitment to nature restoration is overshadowed by vague language about re- and afforestation, likely concessions to the forestry lobby. Changes to agriculture are timid, and although it touches upon pesticide reduction, it shies away from addressing the essential reform needed in the CAP. Finally, there is a complete lack of clarity on reducing overall consumption across Europe. The Commission will need to do a lot better than this in the coming months if it is to offer Europe a way out from the ecological crisis that threatens to submerge us all.”

For more information, please contact:

Honey Kohan, Media Officer, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia
+32 2541 0781

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia
+32 48663 0042

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.