EU Environment Ministers meeting earlier today have given only half-hearted support to the Commission’s Biodiversity Strategy, sending a worrying signal regarding the chances of achieving their commitment to halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020.

EU Environment Ministers meeting earlier today have given only half-hearted support to the Commission’s Biodiversity Strategy, sending a worrying signal regarding the chances of achieving their commitment to halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020.

Last year, Environment Ministers gave a strong signal in support of biodiversity protection by adopting a new long term vision and a new headline target for halting biodiversity loss by 2020.

Today, however, the Ministers were less committed to protecting biodiversity and essential ecosystem services. They endorsed the Strategy and its six specific targets that the Commission had prepared, but failed to endorse any actions aimed at achieving those targets. Lack of precise actions was exactly identified as one of the key reasons for the failure of the former Biodiversity Strategy to halt biodiversity decline by 2010.

In a public debate, Ministers all acknowledged the need for urgent action in order to achieve the 2020 deadline, but most wanted more time to discuss the actions proposed by the Commission. Several Member States including Denmark, France, the UK and Italy were even reluctant to support the six targets, which basically build on commitments already made by the EU, representing the bare minimum needed to achieve the 2020 target.

Some Ministers argued that endorsing the specific targets and actions mentioned in the Commission’s Communication would pre-empt their discussions on several on-going policy reforms, such as the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Indeed, a main point of contention was the inclusion of the requirement to achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) for all fish stocks in EU waters by 2015 – a commitment already agreed to in 2002 at the Johannesburg World Sustainable Development Summit.

Monica Verbeek, Executive Director of Seas At Risk, deplored the lack of ambition of the Council: “If Environment Ministers do not stand up unconditionally for biodiversity protection and internationally agreed commitments, what can we expect of crucial processes such as the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy? Ministers have utterly failed today to make their actions match their words, and ultimately biodiversity will come out the loser”.

Many Ministers also stressed that financing the proposed actions would be a problem, even though Commissioner Potočnik pointed out that the costs of inaction will be much higher.

EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020: Council Conclusions

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