Bringing Nature Back into our lives
Biological diversity lays the foundation for every living organism on this Earth, including mankind. It consists of all living species, within different ecosystems and the natural wildlife, making up the current environment we live in, and very much depend on. The state of our biodiversity thus reveals the degree of environmental strength of ecosystems and so, a healthy biodiversity fosters a resilient system of species which must survive in those conditions.
Biodiversity degradation and its overall damage have accelerated beyond naturally sustainable levels. The animal extinction rate is troubling, and many other mammals have become endangered. Water has become extremely scarce, due to the increasingly warmer climate, and rising deforestation threatens the safety of organisms. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised an alarming awareness of the link between a necessary clean ecosystem and healthy biodiversity for our own health benefit.
Environmental action in this regard is vital and specifically entails investing much further in the protection, conservation and restoration of nature as it stands.
The EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy directly tackles the concern of biodiversity deprivation in the European Union. A long-term plan was issued in 2020 and presented a ten-year-long project to guarantee the full protection of the environment, whilst also attempting to reverse the present degradation of our ecosystem, through several strategies. It also incorporates plans for environmental poverty which occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Main Goals set out in the Strategy
According to the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, entitled ‘Bringing nature back into our lives, the five main direct drivers of biodiversity loss are the constant and volatile changes in land and sea use, environmental overexploitation, climate change, pollution, and invasive alien species; and these are making nature disappear quickly.
This Biodiversity Recovery Strategy introduces key commitments to be achieved by 2030. It first consists of protecting at least 30% of land and sea in the EU, meaning that a goal of 4% more land protection and 19% more sea protection is yet to be reached. Secondly, one-third of protected Natura 2000 areas, which represent 10% of EU land and sea respectively, must be strictly protected, especially all EU’s remaining primary and old-growth forests. Finally, there must be more effective management of all protected areas which define clear conservation objectives, measures and monitoring systems.
Through a new EU legislative Nature Restoration Plan, the sustainability of landscapes and ecosystems will be warranted. The plan in the proposed Nature Restoration Law, which was published on the 22nd of June 2022, is two-fold; The European Commission primarily placed a proposal for legally binding EU nature restoration targets in 2021 to re-establish degraded ecosystems. It aims to achieve good conditions for ecosystems that can sustainably deliver benefits, namely, climate regulation, water regulation, soil health, pollination and natural disaster prevention. Moreover, the European Commission has requested Member States to guarantee no deterioration in the conservation trends and status of protected habitats and species by 2030.
Following the approval of the Regulation proposal by the European Parliament and the Council, Member States would have to submit National Restoration Plans to the Commission within two years of its coming into force, showing what delivery targets they aim to achieve, as well as regular monitoring and progress reporting. The Commission would, in turn, report back to the European Parliament and to the Council on its implementation and results.
The Strategy discusses various means of preserving biodiversity through safe, sustainable and nutritious food, which is also affordable. In fact, together with the new Farm to Fork Strategy and Common Agricultural Policy (2023-2027), farming practices will be supported to incentivise the transition to fully sustainable practices; such as reducing the overall use of chemical pesticides by 50% until 2030 and bring back at least 10% of agricultural area under high-diversity landscape features.
Another goal in this regard is focusing on having at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land farmed organically. All these targets are to promote genetic diversity and variety in crops and breeds. Protecting our soils is a core aim of the Zero Pollution Action Plan for Air, Water and Soil (more information may be accessed here.) In addition, marine and freshwater ecosystems are also protected with a zero-tolerance policy for any illegal practices at sea, such as by-catching. Further, at least 25,000 km of free-flowing rivers must be restored.
In line with protecting the quality of land, sea and crops, the EU also strives for increasing the quantity and quality of forests. At least 3 billion additional trees in the EU must be planted by 2030, as expressed in the EU Forest Strategy. The European Urban Greening Platform facilitates the promotion of afforestation, reforestation and further tree planting. Other goals include introducing Urban Greening Plans for cities which have at least 20,000 inhabitants and a 50% reduction in species included in the Red List; which are those threatened by invasive alien species.
Through the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the Commission has also instilled a new European biodiversity governance framework which contains a clear set of agreed indicators to facilitate easier environmental progress monitoring and result assessment by the various Member States. This is whilst keeping in mind that Member States possess different capabilities for achieving the above environmental outcomes. Their ambition, however, remains and must remain, the same.
The Commission has taken a robust stance to restore the EU’s nature through a coherent network of protected areas and a solid initiative of an EU Nature Restoration Plan, placing the EU in an ambitious biodiversity agenda to enable an imperative transformative change.
The presence of good-quality ecosystems is beneficial since it ensures clean water, and purified air and replenishes soils. The EU food system will be safeguarded and places our nutrition on a secure level. It regulates the climate, recycles nutrients and promotes the growth of nature and variety in biodiversity. Conserving our biodiversity would also have direct economic benefits for sectors such as marine stock, and habitat restoration such as flooding reduction. It is essential that we all protect nature since it is one of the major tools to fight climate change and its negative repercussions. The natural life cycle acts as a regulator of all climate, existing habitats and active wildlife, so restoring such cycle to its status quo ante would minimise land degradation, mitigate the chances of future natural disasters and get back on track with the ambition of protecting our Biological Diversity and be sustainable.
 By-catch, or unwanted catch, as the name implies, refers to those non-targeted marine species which are discarded by fishermen during the fishing process. This results in an increased and unobserved mortality rate of marine organisms, negatively impacting many food chains and contributing to the issue of overfishing