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“2010 biodiversity target is a hundred years away”

Date

17 Dec 2008

Sections

Climate & Environment
Health & Consumers

BirdLife reaction to new Commission report: “Europe shamefully fails to protect its natural environment”

Brussels, 16 December 2008 – Reacting to today’s mid-term report of the European Commission on the EU Action Plan to halt the loss of biodiversity [1] BirdLife International [2] deplores the “shameful failure” of Member State governments and EU Institutions to take adequate action for wildlife and the natural environment. Far too little is done to stop the loss of wild species and the degradation of natural systems in Europe and world-wide.

While BirdLife congratulates the Commission in Brussels today for having compiled an impressive analysis, it points out that the most revealing aspect of this report is the “huge gap between stated ambition and real action”, stated Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at BirdLife International in Brussels. “The Commission is right when stressing the first successes of the nature Directives and Natura 2000, but we can only turn the tide if they are properly implemented by Member States, adequately funded and most of all if nature conservation is integrated into other policies.”

BirdLife draws direct parallels with the current financial crisis. “Focusing only on short-term profits leads to huge costs for the society in the long-run. When, if not now, will governments learn this lesson? If they shy away from acting for our planet now, the price of a future bail-out will dwarf the current economic crisis” added Kreiser.

The populations of animal and plant species in the EU continue to decline because their habitats are fragmented by motorways (e.g. by the “Via Baltica” in Poland [3]), lost to agricultural intensification (as the EU seems unable to reform the Common Agricultural Policy [4]) or devoured to make way to uncontrolled development  (e.g. at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast [5]).
In the meantime, the destruction of tropical rainforests is accelerating, coral reefs are dying out, fisheries collapse and the list of animals and plants sliding towards global extinction is growing longer. The newly adopted EU biofuels policy will accelerate global biodiversity loss further [6].

Six governments embarrassingly unhelpful
BirdLife sees it as especially “embarrassing” that six governments (of Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia and Luxembourg) did not even bother to respond to the Commission’s questions when the report was compiled. “This has to be seen as a clear signal that governments have still not understood the urgency of the environmental crisis we are in, while 90% of Europe’s citizens have stated they are very concerned by the loss of biodiversity”. [7]

Excellent tools, poor implementation
With the Birds and Habitats Directives, and the Natura 2000 network of protected areas [8], the EU has excellent legislation with which to reconcile the needs of nature conservation with human well-being and economic development. However, as the Commission’s report shows, Member States are dragging their feet in completing the Natura 2000 network (especially at sea) and that far too little is done to manage and protect these sites in a way that people and nature can both benefit.

Governments undermine our chances to come through the climate crisis
Outside protected areas the situation is even worse with nature and its services always loosing out to short-term economic interests. Integrating the maintenance and enhancement of our natural capital into the various policy sectors, like radically reforming agricultural policy, is still a distant dream. “That way governments undermine our chances to come well through the challenges of the century, be it climate change or food security, and they fail to take responsibility for the poor regions of the world who suffer most from environmental degradation.” added Konstantin Kreiser.

Read the danger signs and turn the tide
BirdLife urges the EU leaders and its institutions to read the danger signs and respond in ways that would make citizens proud of belonging to the Union. There is only one year left until 2010 and a huge effort is needed to put nature at the heart of political decisions to achieve lasting change. Instead of taking stock of missed opportunities and failed promises, 2010 should be the year of turning the tide for the diversity of life.

ENDS

For more information, please contact:

•    Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at BirdLife International,
Tel: +32 498 54 22 92, Konstantin.kreiser@birdlife.org

Notes for the editor:

[1] The European Commission (DG Environment) today published its mid-term review of the 2010 Biodiversity Action Plan (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/biodiversity/comm2006/bap_2008.htm  ). This Action Plan, that has been adopted and welcomed by Commission, Parliament and Member States in 2006, outlines a detailed roadmap how the EU can halt the ongoing loss of biodiversity within and outside Europe (see also http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/biodiversity/comm2006/index_en.htm ). The mid-term review provides a detailed analysis of progress to date, at EU and individual Member State level.

[2] BirdLife International is a global alliance of conservation NGOs working in more than 100 countries and territories that, together, are the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting them. BirdLife is represented in 42 European countries and in all 27 Member States.
Sign up to BirdLife’s e-newsletter today to receive a monthly update on BirdLife’s activities on EU Policy at: http://europe.birdlife.org

[3] – Despite being brought in front of the European Court of Justice, the Polish government continues to ignore biodiversity concerns by advancing infrastructure plans in the North-East of Poland, labeled “Via Baltica”. While the development of transport routes is a legitimate interest, it must be ensured that strategic environment assessments are undertaken and unique nature sites remain unharmed. An alternative, less harmful route for Via Baltica exists. More information on Via Baltica at www.birdlife.org/eu/pdfs/briefing_via_baltica_oct2008.pdf and about BirdLife’s work on transport and biodiversity at www.birdlife.org/news/news/2008/05/tent.html 

[4] – The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) of the EU is seen as a main driver for biodiversity decline in the EU (see recent BirdLife/EBCC release at www.birdlife.org/news/news/2008/12/monitoring.html ) and seen as the prime example why the EU Budget needs to be reformed. Nevertheless the recent “Health-Check” of the CAP has failed to address any of the future challenges (see BirdLife release www.birdlife.org/news/extra/europe/health_check.html )  

[5] – On 27th November 2008 the European Commission opened legal procedures against Bulgaria to protect its Black Sea coast. Currently, more than 450 individual development projects are constructed or proposed on the unique Kaliakra site, among them tourist complexes, golf courses and more than 200 wind turbines. The government has failed to ensure strategic and sustainable planning, and failed to protect the sites designated under the EU Birds Directive (see BirdLife release www.birdlife.org/news/extra/europe/kaliakra.html )

[6] - BirdLife and many other environmental NGOs are outraged by the fact that EU governments are unwilling to introduce adequate sustainability standards for biofuels, which would protect the world’s poor, biodiversity and also the climate from harmful biofuels (see also BirdLife’s biofuels pages at www.birdlife.org/eu/EU_policy/Biofuels/index.html).

[7] - see Eurobarometer poll published by the Commission in January 2008
http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/08/62&format=HT...

[8] – The EU Birds and Habitats Directives require Member States to designate Natura 2000 sites to ensure the survival of the EU’s most threatened animal and plant species and their habitats. The ‘Natura 2000’ network of the EU covers about 18% of the EU’s territory, and aims to reconcile human activities with nature conservation. Natura 2000 sites are not fenced-off areas, but encourage sustainable and nature-friendly land-use and business. The Birds and Habitats Directives form the cornerstones of EU action to address the decline of biodiversity, which in combination with climate change is seen as the most pressing environmental problem of the 21st century. EU governments have committed to halting the loss of wildlife by 2010, and to implementing its nature legislation.

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