New approach to maintaining biodiversity aims to bring down high species-extinction rates by 2020, restore natural ecosystems in the EU as far as possible, and contribute more to averting a global problem.
Global biodiversity - the wide range of ecosystems, species and genetic differences - is under threat. Species extinction rates are extremely high - between 100 and 1 000 times the natural rate.
Within the EU, only 17% of species and habitats and 11% of EU-protected ecosystems are doing well. The rest are under pressure, mainly from human activities, or are in decline. For example, a quarter of animal species face the risk of extinction, including the Mediterranean monk seal, the Iberian lynx and the Karpathos frog.
Diminishing biodiversity is an enormous loss - damaging the natural systems our societies and economies depend on. Alongside climate change, it is the biggest environmental challenge the world faces.
A fresh approach
The EU's approach to tackling biodiversity loss over the previous decade was too wide-ranging and not effective enough. It failed to reach the EU's shared goal of halting further losses. A new strategy , running until 2020, focuses more tightly on six priority targets and related measures. These are aimed at:
The strategy is in line with the EU's international commitments under the UN convention on biological diversity, which include a set of global targets for 2020.
It also aims to meet the targets set by the EU's resource-efficient Europe initiative.
An EU-level approach is needed to help governments coordinate their actions to address a shared problem. It will build on the Natura 2000 network of 25 000 nature-protection areas, which cover 18% of the EU.
The proposal next goes to the European Parliament and EU governments for discussion and endorsement.