Looking to the future
The EU’s natural habitats and biodiversity face multiple pressures. A Green Week session on ‘The future of nature’ assessed the latest trends, broadly agreeing that while there has been some progress, greater commitment will be needed.
Presenting his agency's recent ‘State of Nature in the EU’ Report, Ronan Uhel of the European Environment Agency painted a mixed picture. While there has been some notable progress, many species and habitats are still in decline. Multiple systemic pressures, such as intensive agriculture and forestry, urbanisation and grey infrastructure, are the causes.
Ronan Uhel, European Environment Agency
“We are mismanaging our natural capital,” he warned, although the situation could still be turned around: “When fully implemented, nature legislation delivers – for the environment, economy and people’s well-being,” he said.
Europe needs better mobilisation of financial capital, he added, especially in the context of the EU’s infrastructure and investment plan, and better communication of the benefits and services from nature. Meeting the targets in the Biodiversity Strategy will require better implementation of existing legislation by Member States, more green infrastructure and more targeted funding.
Policies and progress
Professor Paul Leadley of the Université Paris-Sud, France, presenting the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Global Biodiversity Outlook IV report, noted the close links between biodiversity and climate change.
Europe is making progress towards many of the Aichi Targets on biodiversity protection, he said, "but if we do not work harder, we are unlikely to achieve them". Most indicators of biodiversity are still in decline, although many regions and countries now have the right policies in place.
On invasive alien species, he noted that while EU legislation is well designed, “the real trick is implementation”. And climate change will make the challenge more difficult in future.
Dutch MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, a member of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, said that while politicians seem to care about nature, support often fades when difficult choices have to be made.
He stressed the need to use money in a smarter way, noting that innovative financial instruments and better integration of nature into greener policies for infrastructure and agriculture could have a big impact.
"We need to be more self-confident about the value of the work we do in protecting nature," he said, "our socio-economic system depends on it. Nature and biodiversity underpin everything we do, even if we often ignore it. We need much more political commitment,” he concluded.