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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

EU commits to protect 30% of continent’s land, oceans by 2030

The European Commission has released what looks like an ambitious commitment to safeguard the world’s natural places and habitats in an effort to protect people against disease outbreaks, economies from breakdowns, and the world from hunger and runaway climate change.

Ursula von der Leyen
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Central to the “EU biodiversity Strategy for 2030: Bringing nature back into our lives” is a pledge to protect 30% of the EU’s land and sea by 2030 and to promote and support the same target globally.

“It is exciting that the EU Biodiversity Strategy includes the commitment to protect at least 30 percent of the EU’s land and sea by 2030 and to support the same goal at the global level,” Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, said on Wednesday, May 20, 2020.

“I am pleased to see growing recognition of the role that expanding protected areas can play in addressing climate change, preventing wildlife extinctions, and safeguarding our economies. I hope that the EU will lead the rest of the world in adopting similarly bold targets to protect more of our natural world and to do so with the urgency that this moment in history requires,” she added.

The strategy is said to be a response to the urgent need to prevent a mass extinction of plants and animals underway. It also addresses the urgent need to prevent future pandemics, and halt runaway climate change.

“With this strategy, the European Commission is demonstrating its global leadership to end the destruction of the natural world. In doing so, they are unleashing a powerful antidote to biodiversity loss, hunger, climate change and economic recessions – as well as the emergence of diseases like COVID-19,” said Enric Sala, Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society.

The commitment to protect at least 30% of the planet by 2030 from the powerful 27-national bloc marks an important step towards achieving an ambitious global deal for nature at the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity COP15, expected to take place in Kunming, China in 2021. Scientists assert that protecting at least one-third of the planet is the minimum needed to address runaway extinctions, mitigate climate change, provide clean air and water, and support nature-dependent industries like forestry, agriculture and fishing.

Beyond protecting nature, the new strategy also recognises the urgent need for increased funding to protect nature and biodiversity and pledges €20 billion per year for nature. The strategy also points to the need to unlock other public funds as well as private investment.

In a link to the EC’s Farm-to-Fork Strategy and the revised Common Agricultural Policy, which seek to revolutionise the way the continents grow and consume food, the biodiversity strategy lays out how the agriculture sector – one of the biggest threats to biodiversity in Europe – can be transformed to support rather than destroy natural places. Measures include the halving of the use of chemical pesticides, believed to have killed off bees and other critical pollinators.

The Campaign for Nature appreciates that the EU will increase its efforts to improve implementation and accountability by member states. This, it was gathered, is essential in order to not repeat failures of non-delivery on past strategies which had immensely negative consequences for biodiversity in Europe.

According to the EU, the biodiversity strategy offers a powerful endorsement of an ambitious Post 2020 Biodiversity Framework at the global biodiversity summit to take place next year in Kunming, China.  Delegates from 190 countries will gather in 2021 at the meeting – on caliber with the Paris Climate Summit in 2015 – to agree on an action plan for ending the biodiversity crisis.

“The strategy reflects key transformative characteristics required to effectively address the biodiversity crisis. We are happy to see the EC supporting and promoting protection of 30% of our land and seas by 2030,” said Georg Schwede, European Representative for the Campaign for Nature.

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