In its State of the Environment Report 2015 just released, the European Environment Agency highlights improvements while pointing out that Europe is not on track to meet its environmental goals. More ambitious policies and actions are needed to address the challenges.
According to the report, while pollution has been reduced, ecosystem degradation threatens Europe’s economic output and well-being. Biodiversity continues to be eroded and Europe is not on track to meet its 2020 target of halting biodiversity loss. Marine and coastal biodiversity is a particular area of concern. Pressures include sea floor damage, pollution, invasive alien species and acidification. Climate change is expected to intensify pressures and impacts. But what about the situation in the EU Overseas’ entities which harbour over 70% of EU biodiversity and form, with their combined EEZs, the largest maritime territory in the world?
EU Outermost Regions (ORs) and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) are not included in the report although these entities, part of Europe’s territory for ORs or linked to a member country for OCTs, are associated with the European Union. They are not covered by a regional briefing like the Arctic, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. However, the European Environment Agency has previously issued a factsheet publication on the natural capital of EU Overseas entities.
This factsheet recognizes the importance of that natural capital in supporting the daily needs of local communities and their economies, as well as having a key role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. It points out that in many places, ecosystems and their services are highly vulnerable given existing pressures. For example, in Bonaire, the threat of an unmanaged sewage system could decrease the annual total economic value of ecosystem services from USD 105 million today to around USD 60 million in ten years and to less than USD 40 million in 30 years. Such information help decision-makers take measures to prevent damage to the natural capital local economies depend on.
Overseas entities are key in meeting EU and global biodiversity conservation targets. The expansion of the network of MPAs in these entities is significantly contributing to the global target of 10% of coastal and marine areas protected by 2020.
With one of the largest MPAs in the world declared in New Caledonia in 2014, with some overseas islands committed to reach the goal of 50% of energy from renewable sources by 2020, Overseas entities can be pilots for biodiversity conservation, energy transition, and nature-based solutions to climate change adaptation, as recognized during the Guadeloupe Conference in 2014.