On 20th May, 2020, the European Commission adopted a new Biodiversity Strategy aiming at tackling the five main drivers of biodiversity loss, such as unsustainable use of land and sea, overexploitation of natural resources, pollution, climate change and invasive alien species.
In the last four decades, global wildlife populations fell by 60% as a result of human activities and almost three quarters of the Earth’s surface have been altered. Interlinks between biodiversity and climate change cannot also be neglected. Protecting and restoring wetlands, peatlands and coastal ecosystems, or sustainably managing marine areas, forests, grasslands and agricultural soils, will be essential for emission reduction and climate adaptation. Adopted in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, the strategy is a central element of the EU’s recovery plan, crucial to preventing and building resilience to future outbreaks and providing immediate business and investment opportunities for restoring the EU’s economy.
This new strategy proposes to establish binding targets for EU countries to restore damaged ecosystems and rivers, improve the health of protected habitats and species, bring back pollinators to agricultural land, reduce pollution, green our cities, enhance organic farming and other biodiversity-friendly farming practices, and improve the health of European forests. In this regard, the Commission will propose a dedicated Forest Strategy in 2021 in line with the EU wider biodiversity and climate neutrality ambitions and further develop the Forest Information System for Europe. Next year, the Commission will also propose a new action plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems where measures to limit the use of fishing gear most harmful to biodiversity, including on the seabed will be introduced. The EU will also put greater efforts to restore freshwater ecosystems and the natural functions of rivers, in line with the EU Water Framework Directive. In terms of pollution, the commission will promote the reduction of use of fertilisers by at least 20% and put forward a new initiative in 2021 on sustainable corporate governance, to ensure environmental and social interests are fully embedded into business strategies. Finally, a new Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity will be established in 2020 in close cooperation with the European Environment Agency.
To meet the needs of this strategy, at least EUR 20 billion a year will be unlocked for biodiversity through various sources, including EU funds, national and private funding. In 2021, the Commission will adopt a delegated act under the Taxonomy Regulation to establish a common classification of economic activities that substantially contribute to protecting and restoring biodiversity and ecosystems. This will be further supported by a Renewed Sustainable Finance Strategy later this year which will help ensuring that the financial system contributes to mitigating existing and future risks to biodiversity and better reflect how biodiversity loss affects companies’ profitability and long-term prospects.
Biodiversity is also a priority of the EU’s external action and an integral part of efforts to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The strategy reaffirms the EU’s determination to lead by example in tackling the global biodiversity crisis, ensuring that EU actions do not result in deforestation in other regions of the world. In this spirit, the EU is ready to lead all efforts to agree an ambitious new global framework for post-2020 at the upcoming 15th COP to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming. In particular, the Commission will propose to that this will include, at a minimum, the following elements: