Thursday

22nd Oct 2020

'We failed' on species extinction, admits EU

  • EU ministers have given themselves a new biodiversity deadline (Photo: lant_70)

European Union environment ministers officially gave up on a decade-old target to stop the depletion of the continent's animal and plant species on Monday.

"We have missed our 2010 biodiversity target, obviously," European environment commissioner Janez Potocnik told reporters in Brussels following his first attendance at an EU environment council. "We must not repeat that mistake."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"This is year we want to establish [new] baseline targets and develop a convincing strategy on how to ensure we won't fail again," he added.

At a meeting of EU premiers and presidents in Gothenburg in 2001, the EU pledged to put an end to biodiversity loss by the end of 2010 - the International Year of Biodiversity.

According to the commission, this was the result of an incomplete implementation of nature protection laws and insufficient integration of extinction considerations into other policies, despite the existence of an EU biodiversity action plan.

The ministers were "seriously concerned that both the EU and the global biodiversity 2010 targets have not been met, that biodiversity loss continues at an unacceptable rate entailing very serious ecological, economic and social consequences."

In response, EU ministers have extended their own deadline by ten years, setting a new, mid-term headline target that all species loss within the EU will be ended by 2020 and a long-term target that by 2050, ecosystems will be appropriately protected and restored to prevent such losses in the future.

The ministers requested the European Commission to submit a detailed plan for a post-2010 biodiversity strategy.

Commissioner Potocnik said that the failure showed the need for an international body tackling biodiversity issues - "Something like the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," adding that EU ministers "certainly stand behind" such a proposal.

According to experts, more than a third of species are facing extinction and an estimated 60 percent of the earth's ecosystems have been degraded in the last 50 years.

At the global level, discussions on the review of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

are already under way ahead of an international summit on the topic in Najoya, Japan from in October.

"Protecting biodiversity is not just something in terms of intrinsic value, but also useful for human life. Ecosystems make a contribution to human welfare and economic prosperity," said Spanish environment minister Elena Espinosa.

Green groups, long aware of that the 2010 pledge was never going to be met, welcomed the new target date, noting that the ministers had gone for the most stringent of four policy framework options suggested by the commission last January.

According to BirdLife International, said it is "good to see that the Council voted for the strongest option on offer."

However, others warned of repeating the same mistakes.

"A similar decision was made in 2001 and nine years later the target was not achieved," warned WWF, which called on the biodiversity target adopted by ministers to be endorsed by EU premiers and presidents at the end of this month and for biodiversity to be integrated in the bloc's ten-year growth strategy, currently under discussion.

"It's all lip service unless biodiversity is fully reflected in key cross-cutting EU policies and strategies," the group said.

EU seeks to renovate 35 million buildings by 2030

The European Commission unveiled the EU's "renovation wave", aimed at doubling the renovation rate of existing buildings in the decade, and creating five new 'European Bauhaus' hubs across the EU, where architects and engineers can collaborate on green projects.

EU Commission methane plan lacks binding agriculture targets

The new European Commission strategy on slashing methane emissions focuses first on obtaining better data. Critics say it is a missed opportunity to impose targets and other binding measures on agriculture, the largest single emitter.

Investigation

Hydrogen - the next battlefield

Part Two of Investigate Europe's long-form examination of the EU gas industry looks at hydrogen - touted as the clean, green, future. But with NGOs sidelined, and industry leading the push, how sustainable is it really?

MEPs ignore Commission to vote for 60% climate target

The European Parliament voted in favour of a 60-percent emissions-reduction target by 2030 in the first-ever EU climate law. MEPs also supported an interim 2040 target, and making the EU's 2050 climate-neutrality target binding for each member state.

Analysis

China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US

China's pledge to become carbon neutral before 2060 is "good news" for Europe, but it sends a clear message to Washington ahead of the US election - in which climate change has become a significant aspect for voters.

News in Brief

  1. Belarus opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize
  2. Belgium's foreign minister in intensive care for Covid-19
  3. MEPs restrict CAP funding for bullfighting
  4. Coronavirus: Liège is 'the Lombardy of the second wave'
  5. UK to keep out EU nationals with criminal past
  6. Report: EU to restrict travel from Canada, Tunisia, Georgia
  7. Pope Francis supports same-sex civil unions
  8. EU Commission to increase use of open-source software

Opinion

Europe has forgotten the 'farm' in 'Farm to Fork'

US secretary of agriculture Sonny Perdue argues that the EU is taking an approach "more based on 'political science' than demonstrated agricultural science" in its new Farm to Fork strategy.

Green Deal

MEPs vow to fight lowering of bee-protection standards

MEPs warned on Thursday that they will once again object any proposal from the European Commission that lowers the bar for bees and other pollinators protection - since the process to renew EU bee guidance is still ongoing.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nato and EU silent on Turkey, despite Armenia's appeal
  2. EU tells UK to decide on Brexit as deal 'within reach'
  3. EU farming deal attacked by Green groups
  4. France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder
  5. All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter
  6. 'Big majority' of citizens want EU funds linked to rule of law
  7. EU declares war on Malta and Cyprus passport sales
  8. EU Commission's Libya stance undercut by internal report

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us