Today, following multiple delays, the European Commission released its highly anticipated Biodiversity Strategy and Farm to Fork Strategy. These documents will map the main features of the EU’s biodiversity and food-related policies for the coming decade. They are key components of the European Green Deal and will also be a central element of the EU’s COVID-19 pandemic crisis recovery plan.
The simultaneous release of the two strategies is noteworthy in itself as intensive agriculture and fishing are the biggest drivers of the loss of biodiversity. With this move, the EU is acknowledging that destructive food systems must no longer be the norm in Europe. The strategies indicate that the Commission has also applied key lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic - a healthy planet is a precondition for a healthy human society, science must guide political choices, and a crisis must be acted on before it gets out of control.
The Commission has taken several radical leaps with the two strategies, and outlines goals which could in fact improve the state of nature in Europe:
- Increase nature protected areas on land and at sea by 30% each. A third of these areas will be strictly protected – meaning no human activity can take place
- Reduce pesticide use by 50% both in terms of quantity and toxicity
- Restore 10% of farmland with biodiversity elements such as hedgerows and flower strips to improve the sustainability of farming
- Introduce binding EU nature restoration targets to restore crucial large-scale ecosystems such as peatlands, wetlands, forests and marine ecosystems, which are all vital for biodiversity and climate mitigation and adaptation
- Minimise the practice of burning biomass such as trees to produce energy
With these strategies, the EU could actually become the global leader of fighting the climate and biodiversity crises. Without global transformative change, up to one million species are likely to go extinct
, and if global warming surpasses 1.5 °C, the very survival of humanity is at risk.
These two strategies could actually change the trajectory of our planetary crises. However, without the 27 Member States endorsing and implementing them, little will be accomplished.
BirdLife Cyprus’ Director, Martin Hellicar, said:
“The European Commission has presented today what should be the new normal that our planet desperately needs. They show that they are not only listening to the science, but they are acting on what it has been telling us for so long. But the proof is only in the pudding, and in order to achieve real change, national leaders must support these proposals and lead society out of the current climate and biodiversity crises that threaten our very existence. We urge Cyprus to show an exemplary attitude towards these Strategies”.