The European Commission has made the protection and sustainable management of wild ressources a key priority in its poverty alleviation policies. It has also ratified all the major Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), notably the Biodiversity Convention, the Climate Change Convention and the Desertification Convention, among others. In addition, the EU is committed to helping developing countries fulfil their own obligations regarding these agreements and related ones.
Forest conservation and management
More than 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty depend on forests in some way for their livelihoods. Forests also host more than 70% of all the world’s biodiversity, much of which is still unknown to science. They are of course a huge economic assets – the international timber trade alone is estimated to be worth over €100 billion.
Deforestation rates run at about 13 million hectares per year – equivalent to an area the size of Portugal. The economic pressure on forests has to be put alongside their importance to the natural environment. They are crucial carbon sinks, storing more CO2 than the earth’s atmosphere.
The Commission is committed to supporting forest conservation and sustainable management practices. Projects related to these issues can be found in a range of EU programmes and activities linked to rural development and agriculture.
The EU’s new Environment and Natural Resources Thematic Programme (ENRTP) provides specific budgets to support sustainable forest management. Money has also been set aside to implement the EU Action Plan for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), which aims to combat illegal logging and its associated trades.
Conserving protected areas
Protected areas, with their thriving ecosystems, contribute to the conservation of global diversity. And through tourism and scientific activity, they can provide important sources of income in developing countries.
For the past 20 years, the Commission has been an important donor for protected area conservation, especially in Africa. Commission projects and programmes aim to improve wildlife management techniques and refine the use of wildlife for ranching, hunting, sport, etc. It also encourages wild product development and use; and supports efforts to improve the management of protected areas and to develop conservation techniques. The EU also seeks to boost regional co-operation and help people to share information on good practice.
Coastal zone management
Many people who live at the delicate margin between land and sea depend on coastal marine biodiversity for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, these resources are vulnerable to natural and man-made problems, such as climate change.
Damage to this environment can lead to loss of both coastal and marine resources. Marine protected areas must be developed and nurtured to combat these potential problems. Run together with sustainable fisheries management policies, these areas can play a key role in enhancing the productivity of coastal zones.
Integrated coastal zone management that involves different ministries and stakeholders can maintain coastal resources and address poverty issues in a very effective way. The Commission provides support in this area for biodiversity conservation and monitoring of coastal resources (including mapping key areas in collaboration with the EU’s Joint Research Centre).
It also provides assistance for the management and networking of marine protected areas and encourages the participation of local stakeholders. The Commission supports efforts to develop better policies and build capacity; as well as initiatives tackling integrated coastal zone management issues, good governance practice and decentralised decision-making.