Biodiversity Beyond 2010

The European Commission presented a Communication in January on an EU vision and target for Biodiversity beyond 2010.  The Communication is in response to the fact that targets set by the Commission in 2001 to halt biodiversity loss by 2010 have not been met. The Commission believes that the erosion of biodiversity continues to threat EU ecosystems and economies. 
 
The Communication presents the current situation regarding biodiversity loss and  shortcomings of previous legislation.  To address this situation, the Communication proposes four options for policy action, and aims to stir debate on the next steps to follow. This debate will feed into an Action Plan that the Commission will come forward with at the end of 2010. 

Biodiversity Loss in the EU

Biodiversity in the EU is eroding at an ever faster pace, says the Communication. A third of all species are endangered and more than half of the world’s ecosystems have been degraded. In addition to the environmental implications, biodiversity loss affects the economy through the decline in “ecosystem services” such as food and water provision, natural protection from soil erosion and floods, technological and pharmaceutical services and climate regulation. The Communication states that genetic diversity for instance is critical for pest management, and that ecosystems play a key stabilising role in maintaining agricultural areas fertile and viable. The Communication considers that accurate indicators and a cost evaluation of ecosystem services are vital to better addressing the loss of biodiversity and communicating its implications for the economy and well-being of societies.

Failure of Previous Policies

The 2010 target for the halt of biodiversity loss was initially set in the EU sustainable Development Strategy.  This paved the way for the development of the EU Biodiversity Action Plan in 2006. Other measures such as the Habitats Directive, the Water Framework Directive and the EU’s Natura 2000 network have moreover endorsed the objective of protecting biodiversity. However, these measures have not sufficed to hinder the erosion of biodiversity. Difficulties and delays in the implementation of Natura 2000 have prevented it from fully displaying its results. Other policy gaps in the areas of alien species, soil protection spatial planning and infrastructure remain to be addressed. Important knowledge and policy gaps concerning monitoring reporting and availability of indicators exist at EU and Member State levels. The Communication identifies a need for further integration of biodiversity concerns in other policies, such as CFP and CAP. In addition funding and equity must be looked into.

Options for Policy Action

A new target for the conservation of biodiversity for 2020 is currently being established at the international level. The Commission believes that an EU target should coincide with this, in order for the EU to have more weight in defending its position at the international level. This Communication aims to foster debate on possible actions to reach this target, and to this end proposes four policy options that are gradual in ambition. All options presume the integration of biodiversity in other policy areas, the need for further research and the creation of a scientific baseline to measure biodiversity loss in the EU.
 
Option 1: Reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2020. This constitutes the least ambitious target. It proposes to slow down the rate of biodiversity erosion, since it cannot be stopped. This option would effectively give more time for current actions to reach the 2010 target.
 
Option 2: Halt biodiversity and ecosystem services loss by 2010. Similar to the first option, this option would focus on halting the loss of some ecosystems in order to allow the recovery of the services they provide.
 
Option 3: Halt biodiversity and ecosystem services loss and restore them insofar as possible. This option would postpone the deadline for the achievement of the 2010 target, while widening its scope to ecosystem services and recovering the degraded ecosystems in order to ensure that these continue to provide the services needed.  Restoration objectives could correspond to those set in the Habitats Directive.
 
Option 4: Halt biodiversity and ecosystem services loss, restore them insofar as possible and step up the EU’s contribution to averting global biodiversity loss. Building on the principles of option three, this option would also promote EU biodiversity conservation measures elsewhere on the globe through specific instruments and international negotiations.

Next Steps

This Communication and the reactions to it will serve as a basis for the development of an EU Biodiversity Action Plan later in 2010. The Action Plan will follow an integrated approach to address cross-sectoral issues such as land-use change, over-exploitation, invasive species, pollution and climate change. The approach will however be differentiated according to specific situations and build on the principle of shared responsibility between different policy levels. The Commission will conduct further stakeholder consultations and establish further scientific evidence to contribute to the Action Plan.