EU biodiversity policy shake-up?

April 30, 2009

A European Commission conference in Athens this week called for a shake-up in EU biodiversity policy.

EU biodiversity legislation already impacts on the golf industry but the current influence is focused on golf clubs in priority areas designated by the EU Natura 2000 network and the EU Habitats and Birds Directives.  Golf Europa has reported on this influence at Doonbeg in Ireland.

The importance of EU biodiversity policy is set to spread throughout Europe.  As Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EU’s Environment Agency told the conference:

We must not focus all our efforts on preserving islands of biodiversity while losing nature everywhere else”.

The conference also called for a comprehensive set of EU policies for tackling Invasive Species including, where appropriate, new legislation.  At some golf clubs in Europe, Rhododendron ponticum is a highly valued golf course feature.  Will future EU biodiversity legislation force clubs to remove it?

Scientists acknowledge that biodiversity is in crisis around the world, and that too little is being done to protect it. Europe has a target date of 2010 for halting biodiversity loss in the EU, and while some progress has been made in halting the decline, the original target is unlikely to be met. The Athens conference examined ways of improving its performance. It was attended by leading scientists, politicians, economists and academics from all EU Member States.  It has prepared the ground for future development of EU biodiversity policy by agreeing an eight-point plan for nature protection:

  1. A vision of why biodiversity matters: the message of “why biodiversity matters” needs to be clear and made more prominent. EU institutions and national governments should agree a clear post-2010 target regarding biodiversity, which should be ambitious, measurable and clear and should include sectoral sub-targets that address the key challenges facing European biodiversity.
  2. A better understanding of where we are and what we need to do:  the conference recommended that biodiversity research should be made a higher priority.
  3. A fully functioning network of protected areas: the terrestrial part of the Natura 2000 network should be completed by 2010 and the marine part soon after. EU nature legislation should be enforced more effectively
  4. Protecting “ordinary” biodiversity in Europe:  the conference statement stresses that biodiversity policy should evolve towards the protection of entire ecosystems, not just high nature value protected areas, echoing the quote above from the EEA Director. The conference also called for a comprehensive set of EU policies for tackling Invasive Species including, where appropriate, new legislation and repeated calls for measures to protect Europe’s soils (see Golf Europa http://golfeuropa.co.uk/index.php?s=soil)
  5. Protecting global biodiversity: Europe’s “biodiversity footprint” in the rest of the world is large and is growing, and this needs to be addressed.
  6. Integration of biodiversity into other policy areas: review the impacts that EU policies, and EU funds, have on biodiversity, including biodiversity loss in third countries and promote policies that allow EU businesses to profit from protecting biodiversity.
  7. Funding: the actual level of financial resources allocated to nature protection remains relatively small. This needs to be addressed.
  8. Climate Change: we cannot solve biodiversity loss without addressing climate change and vice versa. We therefore need to look for the “triple win” of biodiversity that can actively contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation.

Conference link:  Biodiversity protection beyond 2010: priorities and options for future EU policy

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