Hares Sitting upright in a field

EU raises funds for biodiversity

The European Commission has committed to protecting 30 per cent of the EU’s land and oceans by 2030 as part of the European Green Deal.

Within that protected 30 per cent, one third will be carbon-rich habitats such as peatlands, old-growth forests and wetlands under “strict protection”, meaning no human intervention other than minimal management to keep areas in good condition for wildlife.

The EU’s 10-year plan also includes commitments to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 50 per cent, plant 3bn trees by 2030 and reverse the decline in pollinators.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries said: “Nature is vital for our physical and mental wellbeing, it filters our air and water, it regulates the climate and it pollinates our crops. But we are acting as if it didn’t matter and losing it at an unprecedented rate.

“This new Biodiversity Strategy builds on what has worked in the past and adds new tools that will set us on a path to true sustainability, with benefits for all.”

A significant proportion of the EU’s climate budget will also be invested in biodiversity. Ten per cent of agricultural areas are to be transformed into “high-diversity landscapes” with the creation of features such as buffer strips, hedges, ponds and fallow land. A quarter of agricultural land will be managed organically by 2030.

The EU’s new strategy comes after decades of catastrophic biodiversity loss, which critics insist have in part resulted from common agricultural policy (CAP) subsidies, with wildlife populations falling on average by 60 per cent in the past 40 years as a result of human activities.

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said: “The coronavirus crisis has shown how vulnerable we all are, and how important it is to restore the balance between human activity and nature. Climate change and biodiversity loss are a clear and present danger to humanity.”

The announcement was tentatively welcomed by environment groups, however, who warned that ambitions must not only exist “on paper” and that the commitments lacked detail about how changes would be implemented. Some campaigners have also called out the European Commission – the chief enforcer of EU law – recently for being reticent to take national governments to court for breaking environmental rules.

Nevertheless, the new strategy is expected to be brought to the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity COP15, in Kunming in 2021, where delegates from 190 countries will set global biodiversity targets for the next decade – where it’s hoped that many will follow the EU’s lead in their environmental ambitions.

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