Editorial by Luc Bas, IUCN European Newsletter October 2015

We’ve reached the halfway mark of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 and although we have made some progress, the mid-term review, conducted by the European Commission clearly shows that we must dramatically step up implementation efforts if we are to see tangible results by 2020.

Luc Bas, Director, EU Representative Office

While the EU has a strong regulatory framework for nature conservation – the Birds and Habitats Directives, it’s no wonder that implementation is a hot topic among governments and civil society these days. With more than three quarters of the important natural habitats currently in an unfavourable state, and according to IUCNs European Red List, 25% of assessed species threatened with extinction, it is clear that there is a disconnect somewhere along the way between what the Directives intend and what is implemented on the ground. The issue lays not in our lack of policies and regulations to protect nature, as they are fit for purpose, but in the way that Member States implement the legislation domestically. For example the designation of protected areas and their subsequent management is still not optimal and needs special attention.

Mainstreaming biodiversity conservation across all relevant sectoral policies – agriculture, fisheries, sustainable development, and trade, to name a few is key to delivering results and reaching the 2020 targets. For example, biodiversity ensures healthy ecosystems which provide long-term, healthy lands for farming; this means that we must end the provision of harmful subsidies to unsustainable farming methods. Biodiversity is also the basis for the fishery industry. Healthy marine habitats and balanced species profiles ensure the long-term viability of Europe’s fisheries; biodiversity is a key element of the Common Fisheries Policy, but enforcement is key in order to ensure that commercial fisheries adhere to Maximum Sustainable Yield thresholds.

Effective action hinges on understanding that biodiversity underlies our health, that of the planet, and of our economy. This will help to speed up effective implementation of EU nature regulation, as well as the recognition of biodiversity’s importance across all policy areas. This recognition will also ensure that we view the financing of nature as an investment, and not a cost, as it genuinely safeguards our prosperity.

IUCN will continue to support and accelerate this action by providing the necessary evidence and knowledge, such as the European Red List of Threatened Species, the European Red List of Ecosystems and the Green List of Protected Areas. Our broad membership delivers much of the actions required on the ground, helping us to walk-the-talk.

The mid-term review is a great opportunity to call all hands on deck to improve the status of biodiversity in Europe. We cannot linger here for too long. It’s important to understand our shortcomings, but then work hard to move forward and ensure that we get back on track for 2020.

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