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Groundbreaking European Commission report: Agriculture Policy jeopardises efforts to save Europe’s biodiversity

Date

13 Jul 2009

Sections

Climate & Environment
Health & Consumers
Sustainable Dev.

Brussels, 13 July 2009 – Today the European Commission published the results of an unparalleled exercise assessing the state of nature in 25 Member States. Using data provided by governments, the report analyses the situation of hundreds of habitat types and more than one thousand animal and plant species that are protected under the EU “Habitats” Directive.

Despite some improvements thanks to special nature conservation efforts , the report points that the EU is very likely to miss its 2010 target of halting the loss of biodiversity. Especially farmland, wetland and coastal habitats are in trouble and only less than one fifth (17%) of the EU’s most important species and habitats are in good shape.

Applauding the Commission for this groundbreaking analysis BirdLife International welcomes the report’s special spotlight on the role of agriculture: “We now have proof that the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) remains a key threat to our wildlife and biodiversity” commented Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at BirdLife.

The report shows that habitats associated to agriculture activities are in particular poor conditions compared to others (7% compared to 21% being in favourable status respectively), with grasslands suffering most from intensification or abandonment.

The EC conclusions match well with evidence collected by BirdLife International about the decline of many farmland birds, like the well-known Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis or the Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus .

“It is mainly the fault of national governments and their Agricultural Ministers if attempts to improve the situation have largely failed in the past” added Kreiser. “Under heavy lobby pressure they refuse to provide nature-friendly farmers with the required financial support. Instead they promote agricultural intensification and the expansion of biofuels, both with major negative impact on the environment. The EC report is very timely as the debate on a radical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy has just started and this represents a great, but maybe last chance to stabilise our rural environment.”

Commenting on the overall findings of the report, BirdLife sees it as “scandalous” that 17 years after adoption of the EU Habitats Directive a number of Member States still claim not to know the status of their most important animal and plant species.

The Commission report especially blames Cyprus, Greece, Spain and Portugal who indicated “unknown” for more than 50% of their species. BirdLife urges the Commission to take firm action to foster governments to invest more in monitoring of nature and wildlife.

BirdLife points at the main reasons for the EU’s failures on biodiversity: “We have excellent nature conservation tools in the EU, like the Natura 2000 network and the Birds and Habitats Directives , but we see a permanent failure of authorities when it comes to reforming the sectoral policies, providing the right financial incentives to land managers and effectively safeguarding our protected areas-” states Konstantin Kreiser. “In this context national governments’ commitment to save the environment seems hardly credible and nobody should be surprised by this sad report the Commission published today.”

Already in April this year BirdLife and other collaborating NGOs have proposed a set of urgent measures to be taken by the EU for safeguarding Europe’s and the world’s ecosystems from 2010 onwards .

“We cannot afford another failure on biodiversity. Human well-being, food security and economic prosperity depend on our natural environment the same way as we need a stable climate”, Konstantin Kreiser concludes.

ENDS

For more information, please contact:

Herlinde Herpoel, Media & Communication Manager at BirdLife International - +32 494 54 28 44, herlinde.herpoel@birdlife.org

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